Description & History

The origin of this aristocratic and graceful hound is not known, although it is believed that the breed has existed in Russia since the sixteenth century.

The Borzoi, a sight hound, is probably descended from greyhound types - the Saluki, the Afghan, and from hunting and herding dogs which must have existed in Russia from early times. The breed name is derived from the Russian words 'Borzaja Sobaka' which means 'a dog as fast as the wind'.

A tall dignified and elegant hound, the Borzoi was used by the Russian royal family and the nobility for hunting the wolf and for coursing hare, sable and fox. Great speed and power were necessary attributes for this hound, as the wolf was an awesome predator.

The Imperial kennels, which were founded in 1613, and the Grand Duke Nikolai's kennels at Perchino bred many fine hounds that were originally working animals. Their descendants were to become show champions. Hunting and coursing was carried out until the Revolution in 1917 when all hounds were slaughtered by the Bolsheviks.

Gradually the breed became a familiar sight in the homes of the aristocracy throughout Europe as they adapted to new roles as companions and show dogs.

Tsar Nicholas I presented a pair of Borzoi to Queen Victoria with the result that the breed soon became fashionable amongst British society. Edward VII and Queen Alexandra were given several of the breed by Tsar Alexander II when still the Prince and Princess of Wales. One of these dogs, called Alex, was a great favourite of the Queen. He was successfully exhibited on a number of occasions and was to become an undefeated champion.

Rosamund Walters.

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