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Resembling a Greyhound with long hair, the Borzoi is an athletic, graceful and elegant dog with considerable stamina. In Russian, the name Borzoi literally translates as 'fast'.
Thought to be related to Saluki type dogs, the Borzoi as a breed originates in Russia, but its ancestors had made a transitional journey through the East, including Afghanistan and Mongolia as far back as the 9th and 10th centuries. It is also thought that other sight hounds, exported from the West, had a paw in their genetic makeup, increasing their height and weight considerably.
The aim of the Borzoi as a breed is thought to have been one which was a swift endurance runner with the size, weight and confidence to bring down large game such as boar, wolves and even bears. It also needed to be hardy enough to withstand the bitterly cold and harsh winters which prevail in Russia, making a longer and warm coat an absolute necessity. In his1912 book, 'Observations on Borzoi', Mr. Joseph B. Thomas, suggests that early Borzois type dogs may even have been crossed with wolves to obtain the physical traits of strength and the longer hair.
Borzois remained highly regarded in noble circles, being a favourite amongst the Tsars of Russia, but by the 1917 Revolution, hunting went out of fashion and many Borzoi dogs, with their association with nobility, were killed. A few enthusiasts and lovers of the breed were able to keep the breed intact however, and after the World Wars, they began to flourish again. By the late 1940's a solider named Constentin Esmont made a detailed record of all the Borzoi dogs he found in Cossack village. On the strength of what he found, he lobbied the Soviet Government to make an effort to reintroduce the Borzoi as a hunting dog to aid villagers in their daily lives. This was a successful undertaking and regulated breeding of the Borzoi was introduced to maintain standards of this breed.
Average height to withers: Females between 2730 inches and males between 31-34 inches.
Average weight: Male Borzois can reach up to 45kg in weight, with females considerably less.
The Borzoi is a tall, lean, elegant and graceful dog and much tougher than it looks! Resembling a Greyhound with long hair, the delicate head is long and narrow with small ears that lay flat against the head. An exceptionally large Borzoi may look coarse and more cumbersome than its lighter counterpart.
The breed has a deep ribcage to allow for the large lungs and heart. It has a soft, fluid shape to it with the top line rising gracefully over the loin to provide flexibility for the characteristic 'double gallop' of sight hounds. The tail is long and well-feathered and often is tucked between the legs when the dog stands.
This breed is well-muscled and well balanced so when in full flight, its movements are like quicksilver - fluid, effective and flowing. It is a nimble dog, able to turn and flip at will, making it a formidable opponent to dangerous quarry.
Borzoi coat can vary from long and silky to coarse and curly. Any colour or pattern may be found, but white with spots is most common.
For all its hunting ancestry, the Borzoi is a gentle, loving companion and a quiet and well-behaved member of a family and will demand attention and affection from its owners. It is not unusual for a Borzoi to try to creep into the lap of its owner for hugs if feeling left out! While the size of this dog cannot make it a lap dog, it will try but is usually content to curl into a tight ball and sleep in a cosy bed.
The calm nature and sweet temperament make Borzoi well-suited as a PAT or therapy dog, hospices, schools, nursing homes and hospitals. Some Borzoi can be shy or even aloof, although proper socialisation for puppies can help prevent this. The breed is good with children if raised with them, although caution is necessary with toddlers. However, this is not a dog to run around and play games with children as he is swift and will not be caught once it has the prize. When pups, Borzoi dogs may display their natural instinct of coursing and hunting with their littermates - chasing and seizing by the neck to hold their 'quarry' down to immobilise it, not kill it. They retain this instinct all of their lives and while the Borzoi enjoys the company of other dogs, (and usually does best if they are not the only dog in the household), the breed is not always good with cats or smaller breed of dog and if raised with them they may be OK with them. The owner should always exercise caution when smaller animals are around. Because of the size and speed of this dog, the owners must teach basic obedience and commands, but it does not respond well to harsh training techniques and loud voices therefore the owner must be patient. Not always cited as being the most intelligent of dog breeds, the Borzoi is in fact a relatively intelligent dog as while it may struggle with learning obedience commands, it has considerable problem solving abilities, including mischievous ones such as opening doors, bins and fridges!
Life expectancy for this breed is generally between 10-12 years of age. The Borzoi is generally a very healthy dog, but like many dogs with deep chests, it can be prone to Bloat. Bloat is a medical emergency that can cause horrible pain and proves fatal in an estimated 40% of all cases. It is a gastric dilation of the stomach caused by an unusual accumulation of gas/liquid. This can be dangerous enough in its own right, but sometimes it leads to a second stage called volvulus, which is a stomach twisting or torsion. This shuts the stomach off from the rest of the body and prevents any of the accumulated gas or fluid within to escape. The stomach continues to expand, setting off a catastrophic series of events that in most cases can only be averted with emergency surgery. To minimise the chances of Bloat, this dog should be fed at least an hour before or after exercise with its water provided on a raised platform.
This breed will require a safe and fenced area in which to run as if it spies something it considers to be 'game' it will be off! Like its Greyhound and Saluki cousins, it does not require excessive amounts of exercise and can be a lounge lizard if it wants to be. It does have a requirement for a soft and well padded bed due to its prominent bones and soft skin covering. If it is forced to sleep on a hard surface, bed sores will occur. The coat should be brushed at least twice a week, but a quick brush daily is optimal. The Borzoi can also be prone to gum and teeth infections so regular dental checks and brushing may be required.