One of the most powerful of the sighthounds, the affectionate Borzoi requires plenty of exercise, early socialization, and a loving family to be a well-adjusted pet.
In Czarist Russia, the aristocratic Borzoi (BOR-zoy) was bred by Russian royalty to run down wolves across miles of open terrain while huntsmen followed on horseback. Bred by the aristocracy for hundreds of years, these dogs were originally known as Russian Wolfhounds.
After the Russian Revolution, the days of the nobility were over and many Borzoi were killed for their association with the monarchy. Nearly wiped out, the fate of the breed was left in the hands of foreign royalty who had received Borzoi as gifts, as well as a handful of Borzoi kennels. Sometimes considered too much dog for the average household, the Borzoi has enjoyed modest popularity as a pet. But, the breed has consistently been more popular as a show or coursing dog.
Exercise and the Borzoi
It is important to understand that the Borzoi has a need for speed several times a week. The name Borzoi comes from the Russian word ‘borzii’ which means swift. Outside and off-leash in a safely enclosed area, these easy-going, friendly dogs explode into a powerful gallop. Involvement in lure coursing is a good alternative and outlet for the full-speed galloping behaviors that are hardwired into the Borzoi.
Small children and Borzoi puppies do not coexist well together. The young Borzoi romps and jumps, knocking over people and possessions. The temptation to chase and nip running children is also a risk with young Borzoi as is their sensitivity to loud voices and quick movements that children can’t help making. Borzoi may react with lightning reflexes if grabbed unexpectedly or startled.
The Borzoi is a sweet dog that is polite but reserved with strangers. Self-aware and proud, they are extremely loyal to their family and affectionate with people they know well. But, they are emotionally sensitive to stress, like the Saluki, and can become sick or develop neurotic behaviors if the people in their home are having problems.
Most people do not realize how fast and agile sighthounds are – or how strong their instincts are to chase and seize small running animals. Bred to chase and catch game, many will pursue the neighbor’s cat or small dog. Their lightening snap can kill a small animal in a second. So, Borzoi should be supervised with small non-canine pets such as cats or rabbits.
Borzoi Physical Characteristics
Their silky coats, long or medium length, are either flat, wavy, or curly. Brushing the coat two or three times weekly helps with shedding as these dogs are seasonally heavy shedders. Borzoi are considered a giant breed, with an average height of 28” to 32” depending on gender. The average weight is between 60 and 105 pounds.
Training a Borzoi
Borzoi are independent thinkers as well as stubborn, strong-willed, and manipulative. However, they are very intelligent and capable learners. Borzoi seem to work best with short but frequent positive training sessions. Because of their independence, housebreaking is challenging. Expect four to six months of consistent crate training.
Standoffish by nature, providing enough socialization for a Borzoi is important. They require extensive exposure to people and to unusual sights and sounds. Otherwise, their natural caution can become shyness or aggression, which are difficult to live with.
Borzoi are especially sensitive to anesthesia and other toxins. Since they are not a popular breed, therefore not over bred, their health problems few. Their extremely deep chest means a predisposition to bloat and torsion, and there is an extremely low incidence of hip and shoulder dysplasia. The life expectancy of a Borzoi is 12 to 14 years.