The Borzoi In Western Europe
By Ursula-Vera Trueb, Malleray [Switzerland]
Translated from "Der Windhundfreund"#131, February 1983 by Jean Vandongen
Germany, The Netherlands, England and France were the first countries of Western Europe to be interested in the Borzoi. Now and then, a few representatives of the breed had found their way to the West, the first imports going back to the 16th century. In most cases, they were royal presents or had been brought by merchants and travelers coming back from Russia. But it was only at the end of the 19th century that the breed met with rapidly increasing interest. Until then, the strange appearance of the Borzoi, plus its reputation of being a “killer”, had rather deterred people from getting in closer contact with this hound that seemed totally unfit for the West-European surroundings.
The fantastic stories and descriptions of the cross-country hunts of Russian noblemen scarcely helped to create a more likeable picture of the Borzoi, or induce people to acquire one of these hounds whose strength and fierceness allowed him to pin down a wolf. On the other hand, the “Russian Wolfdog” appeared so very different in comparison with other breeds originating in West-European countries, that it just didn’t fit into the picture!
In his book “Hunderassen” [“Dog Breeds”], the German expert Franz Kishler gives one of the first and most accurate descriptions of the Borzoi in canine literature in Western Europe. Of special interest are his comments about the disposition of the breed:
“The character of the Russian Wolfhound has little in common with that of other dogs. He does not know intimate attachment, everybody can pet him and he changes masters easily. Anyone can win him over with a bit of coaxing. At the same time, it is easy to irritate him and at the slightest vexation he snarls. It is a very proud animal and, regardless of its lean and shy looks, it will not accept the slightest rudeness. When excited, the whole body of the dog shivers and the heart beats irregularly. He does not like other dogs and is the first one to snarl in case of misunderstandings. He is very strong, despite his leanness. In a fight, he will always stretch his neck forward, catch hold of his opponent and shake him vigorously. If he throws a little dog in the air like this, he can shake it to death in a few seconds.”
This is all very well observed; the Borzoi is an independent, keen dog with iron nerves. Regarding his behavior towards the German dogs, we can assume that these early Borzoi that came to Germany were mostly so said “skotniki”, i.e. dogs unsuitable for the chase because, instead of running after fox and hare, they went for sheep and cattle. Such Borzoi have either been destroyed or given abroad; as ‘couch dogs’, they were considered still okay.
The breed had thus to overcome a great deal of reservation and wrong ideas rooted in the public opinion. But those who ventured to approach the Borzoi on a friendly basis were conquered not only by the shapely appearance but also by a certain charm peculiar to the breed, the ease with which this dog adapts himself in his new surrounding and conditions, not t speak of his remarkable understanding. Thus, little by little, the Borzoi became a treasured house and companion dog in Germany and surrounding countries. His popularity culminated during the years between the two World Wars.
We find the first important breeders outside Russia in Germany. There the Borzoi Club of Berlin was founded as early as 1892 with the aim “to promote the pure breeding and propagation of the Borzoi in Germany, his suitable care and upbringing, as well as a correct appreciation of his conformation, because large numbers of imports to Germany and England in 1890/91 have awakened a growing interest for the Borzoi [the ‘wavy coated Russian Greyhound’].
The first German Studbook for Borzois was edited in 1913. It covered 20 years of breeding activities and holds 500 entries as well as some most interesting pictures. Since most of the Western European Borzoi breeding is based on some outstanding representatives listed in this first Studbook, it is well worth it to remember the most important of them.
The most striking Borzoi registered before the 1st World War in Germany was Champion Tartar. He was a self golden, beautifully balanced male who was six times Best Borzoi in Show. His pedigree is most interesting in that the sire and dam sides go back to the following four lines:
· Udaf [Gagarin] – Udaf [Jomini] ex Golubka [Matshevarianov]
· Slodejka [Karajev] – Pobjedim [Karejev] ex Slodejka [Belkin]
· Podruga [Walzov] – Pilai [Bachtinski] ex Sirotka [Bachtinski]
· Ataman [Boldarev] – Swerkaj [Walzov] ex Pobjedka [Boldarev]
All these dogs came from acknowledged kennels and were representatives of a good, well bred type, as illustrated by Ch. Tartar and his snow white sister, Wilka. The same can be said of Ch. Tartar’s son, Tuman, born 1897, white with yellowish brown markings and black shadowing.
Another male we find on most pedigrees is the almost white Ardagan. He was whelped in 1893 and imported from Russia at the age of 2 years. There is unfortunately no good picture of this dog, but his pedigree is interesting. He, too, goes back to the above mentioned Udaf [Gagaring] and Slodjka [Karejev]. Ardagan was subsequently sold to the United States but fortunately he bred two bitches in Germany before leaving: Otlika, his sister [white with black markings] and Trojanka, by Ataman [Karejev] ex Sudarka [Gagarin]. These matings had the following results:
Ardagan ex Otlika [brother/sister mating] produced in 1895 the male Wuttki-Wuttki and the female Mylashka. The latter bred to Nachal-Wuttki [son of Wuttki-Wuttki ex Notshka-Wuttki] produced the black with white Kaisak and Primal, as well as the bright yellow marked Lovetz Ural. All three of these are part of the foundation stock of Dr. Wegener’s world famous Ural kennel.
Ardagan ex Trojamka produced – also in 1895 – the male Bytshok, who was subsequently bred to Elinka, by Sokol [Ozerov] ex Russalka]. From this mating came the female Dara, also owned by the Ural kennels.
In 1903, there was a mating between Nachal-Wuttki and Dara, which gave the following all champion litter:
· Ch. Rurik Ural white with wolf-grey markings
· Ch. Skaska Ural white with silver-grey markings
· Ch. Slodenka Ural white with grey markings
· Ch. Pobedka Ural white with grey markings
Ch. Rurik Ural left numerous progeny and can therefore be considered a pillar of subsequent German and European breeding.
From Russia came also Ch.Ataman [Ozerov], whelped in 1892, white with silver-grey markings. He represents the same type of Borzoi as Ch. Tartar, which is no wonder when one compares the pedigrees, the same names indicating common roots of good, well bred lines.
Last but not least, let us remember the Russian import Nagrashdaj II, born in 1891, white with light yellow markings. The only picture left of him shows a rather poor coated dog, but doubtlessly endowed with a sparkling temperament. His pedigree goes partly back to the same ncestors to be found behind the aforementioned Ataman, Ardagan and Ch. Tartar; the latter’s dam, Alexandra, as well as a bitch named Medusa, are litter sisters of Nagrashdaj II.
In genetics, it is a well known fact that the older and the more tightly bred a line is, the greater its dominance will be. Within the Borzoi breed there exists a great variety of types. If they are mixed and re-mixed without consideration, the offspring will be less and less racy, losing little by little the noble bearing so particular to a well bred animal. What remains is a nice dog in a blooming coat hiding more or less severe anatomical deviations from the standard description!
That the German-bred Borzois gained world wide fame is a result of Dr. Wegener’s efforts, his experience and foresight. Shortly before the outbreak of the 1st World War, he visited the Borzoi kennels Gatchina and Perchino in Russia. From his journeys he brought back the best dogs available … but not the best that he saw in the various kennels, as no hunter would ever part with his best hound! Their offspring were to bring the breed in Germany and other European countries to a point that has never been equaled since.
The first Borzoi imported from Russia by Dr. Wegener for his Ural kennel were the male Podar and a bitch named Tschessi, both from the Imperial Kennels in Gatchina. An old picture of the two sitting left and right of Mr. Wegener allows us to assume that Podar was a rather compact guy with perhaps a little broad skull, while Tschesci appears perfectly feminine with a lovely lean head and beautiful eyes.
Furthermore, Dr.Wegener imported the three last and probably most valuable Borzoi of the pre-war period: Ch. Asmodey, Iran and Ch. Ptitschka from Perchino. The following descriptions of these three dogs are taken from vol. VII-VIII of the Deutsche Windhund-Zuchtbuch:
“Ptitschka was the best Borzoi bitch I have ever seen; she combined strength, noble bearing and type to the peak of perfection. The picture that illustrates this article was taken in Hannover at a show where I was judging. It enhances all the good points of this bitch. The long, lean head has an excellent expression with very dark eyes and very small, correctly set ears. Neck, topline, forequarters, rear, depth of brisket, feet and tail carriage are first class, as well as the wonderful rich and soft coat, the deep red color of which gives a final touch of perfection to the whole.
“Ch. Asmodey is a male of thoroughbred appearance that has a very positive influence on Borzoi breeding in Germany. The general appearance of this dog is racy and typey to the brim of refinement, enhanced by the deep red, black tipped markings and his extremely long and silky coat with long silky hairs on each side of the ruff, and a highly typical expression. The head is long, chiseled and lean, the eyes are dark and sparkling; the ears are set high and, when the dog is attentive, they prick with the tip slightly tilting over. Forequarters on this dog are very good. I would have liked to see a little more depth of chest and a better angulated rear.
“Iran, judged by a scale of points, is not inferior to his kennelmate Asmodey, but he is no rival for the latter in the ring, because Asmodey is superior in type and coat. Iran is a excellent dog of racy appearance; his head is long, the layback of the shoulder, the topline, the forequarters, the rear and tail all are excellent; the coat was short, very dense and silky, white with red markings.”
Ch. Asmodey and Ch. Ptitschka bred together had a single litter of five consisting of Ch. Almadin, Ch. Asmodey, Ch. Arsinoe and Assunta, all carrying the Nikolskol name; their breeder was Mrs. Claire von Bessel. This A-Nikolsoi litter was to become the foundation of the whole Borzoi breeding during the years between the 1st and 2nd World War. These dogs were not only interesting by their appearance and by what they in turn produced, but also because they were descendants of Golub and Strela from which had been bred in Russia shortly before the famous A-Perchino litter.
Again we find similar origins in the bitches that were bred later to Ch. Asmodey. This might well be the key of the success the German Borzoi breeders met with during three decades. By mere luck and from the very beginning, the most precious of blood strains flowed together to form a gene pool on which the closely related blood of Ch. Asmodey and Ch. Ptitschka would have the effect of a catalizer, bringing an deal, ancient and desired type back to life. But it was the skill of those breeders who practiced a long time selection based on line- and inbreeding that finally brought the outstanding results which justified the fame of the German Borzoi breeding programs between the two World Wars.
Yet we must give justice to other imports as well, who were to play an important part in German Borzoi breeding, namely the dogs who went from England to the Ural kennel of Dr. Wegener, and the Alexandroff kennel of Mrs. E. Lackner in Augsburg. The most famous of these imports were Ch. Ramsden Ranger [white with dark grey markings], whelped in 1905, Ch. Ramsden Radiant [white and black] whelped in 1905, Ch. Ramsden Rainbow [white with yellowish brown markings[ whelped in 1907, and Underwood Tusha [white with bluish grey markings], whelped in 1906. If we take a close look at their pedigrees, we find that for a large part these Borzois are descendants from Udaf [Gagarin] and Slodejka [Karejev].
From Ch. Ramsden Ranger and Underwood Tusha, Mrs. Lackner bred Ch. Bedin [white with grey-black markings], Batrak [white with grey markings] and Ch. Troyanka Alexandroff [white and tan], three names that can be found in almost all pedigrees of even present day Borzoi. The Alexandroff Borzois were mostly of good size and substance with a rich, silky coat.
To be continued