The Borzoi dog breed is a large-sized Russian breed belonging to the Hound group. It is also called the Russian wolfhound. In spite of its size, the breed is known for its elegant appearance and quiet nature. Borzois are counted as great housedogs because they are well-mannered and highly composed indoors. They are even shy around strangers. But the dog gets transformed the moment it spots a small animal outdoors. This fast runner will chase down the prey no matter what.
These large but sleek dogs originated in Russia a long time back. There are references to this breed in some literature from the Middle Ages. The elegance of this breed had endeared it to the Russian gentry of old.
These dogs were used for coursing hare in the early days. But the hunters needed a dog that could chase wolf, especially in winter. So this dog was crossbred with bearhounds and Russian sheepdogs specifically for a better coat and larger size. The dogs used to be deployed in a standard combination of one female to two males to chase a wolf. The three dogs would then take it down and wait for the master.
By the 19th century, the Borzoi breed in Russia had 7 variations. What we call Borzoi today has evolved from the type that was known as the Perchino. At the time of the Russian Revolution, Borzois were killed because of their association with the aristocracy. It would have led to the loss of this breed, but for the foresight of some kennel owners.
This breed had a very small presence outside the Russian territories as very few managed to get out of the country in the Soviet era. They reached the United States towards the end of the 19th century, and now mainly appear in dog shows.
These dogs are quite large in size, standing tall at 30 inches at the withers and weighing over a hundred pounds, but their flowing and slightly arching body gives the impression of elegance rather than intimidation. This Russian breed has some resemblance to the Afghan Hounds and other such breeds from Central Asia because they share some common lineage. They have a long body and a narrow, tapering head. Their flat and silky coat can be any color. The long fluffy tail is usually tucked in, except when the dog is on a sprint.
Borzois are highly intelligent, but they are not as obedient as some other intelligent breeds because they have a very independent nature. They are not interested in repetitive activities, and may show their disdain by not complying. Use of force, threats, and punishments does not work with this breed. They are very sensitive to the way they are treated, and can be extremely stubborn. However, they respond well to gentle guidance and clear communication by a patient handler.
Being sight hounds, they instinctively chase anything that runs away from them. Even though they can live amicably with other pets they know from puppyhood, they cannot be entirely trusted in this regard as sudden movement by the other animal may suddenly trigger the hound’s instincts.
These dogs are very affectionate to their families, but reserved with strangers. Rough behavior by children can cause the dog some discomfiture too. However, they are not very territorial, and cannot be expected to protect the property against human intruders. They are not very aggressive in nature, and they rarely bark.
Grooming and exercise
The long coat of Borzoi needs to be brushed thoroughly every other day as they are known to shed heavily.
Like all hounds, Borzoi also needs its daily quota of exercise and activities. The dog should be taken out on leash for long walks. It typically loves to run fast; and should be given opportunities to exercise its muscles. However, highly secure areas should be chose for off lead running as these dogs run very fast and get away quickly. They may even disregard busy road traffic during their sprint, endangering their own lives.
These dogs can tolerate cold to a great extent, but they suffer in heat. They are capable of living outdoors, but these gentle animals deserve to be inside with the family during the night.
Common health issues of Borzoi dog breed
The Borzoi dog breed is generally free from serious health problems. But gastric torsion or bloat is a potentially fatal medical emergency that this dog is prone to. Other less common disorders include hypothyroidism and heart troubles such as cardiac arrhythmias and cardiomyopathy. Even though progressive retinal atrophy is not seen in this dog breed, they are known to develop another eye condition referred to as Borzoi retinopathy. However, unlike PRA, this condition does not usually cause blindness. Regular eye, heart, and thyroid check-ups should be done. This breed has an average life expectancy of 10-12 years.