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Group: Hounds
Breed Family: Borzoi

The Borzoi is a sight hound which had been bred by the aristocracy in Russia for hundreds of years before it was first imported to England. In pre-revolution Russia, ownership of the Borzoi had been the privilege of The Imperial Court and the Grand Dukes. Tsar Nicholas II, for instance, himself kept fourteen men to train the Hounds, and it was not unusual for his kennels to house forty to sixty adult dogs, with as many puppies.

The Borzoi was used to hunt wolves, and in a show of lavish expenditure rivaled only by the eighteenth century kings of France, the Russian royal hunting parties would often set off to hunt in a train of as many as forty cars. People, horses, dogs, tents kitchens, and carriages, etc. were all transported to a location where wolves might be found to pursue. There would be as many as 100 Borzois in the hunting party with an equal number of Foxhounds, and as many attendants. The Borzoi, known prior to 1936 as the Russian Wolfhound, had a relatively short history in England, first being mentioned in English literature around 1812. The eminent historian Stonehenge, for instance, in 1859 commented: "I am not aware of this breed having been imported into this country, nor of a correct portrait having been painted; so my readers must depend upon description alone."

The first example of the breed to be exhibited at a dog show was Katae, shown at Birmingham in 1863 by The Duchess of Manchester. Eight years later, at the Crystal palace, there was an entire class for the breed. The Prince of Wales showed Molodetz at Laycock's Yard, Islington, shortly thereafter.

It was The Duchess of Newcastle, a prominent dog fancier who had several breeds including Wire Fox Terriers, who became known for her support of the Borzoi, and in 1890 she imported a dog named Spain. She owned many important dogs, and in 1892 bought Ouslasd, Kaissack and Malodka from Mr. Blees, who had imported them from Russia. It is interesting to note that because the Russian Royal Family was directly related to the English Royal Family, there were a considerable number of dogs imported from Russia, and in one instance at least, the Russian Royal Family exhibited dogs in England as well. In 1892, for instance, The Imperial Kennels entered a team of Borzois, some of which were owned by the Tzar and some by the Grand Duke Nicholas.

In 1873 lovers of the breed established The Imperial Association to preserve the old type of Borzoi, and it is this type, which was imported to England by Queen Alexandra. It was her Borzoi, a well as others imported from Russia, which resulted in a renewed interest in the breed, insuring their popularity among the socially prominent. Breeding kennels of Borzoi were eventually established in France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany as well as elsewhere.


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