1870 to 1917



The last Tsar, Nicholas II, was a first cousin once removed of Grand Duke Nikolai (known as Nikolasha), who owned and hunted from the Pershino Estate. Nicholas II's grandfather, Tsar Alexander II, was the brother of Grand Duke Nikolai's father. The simplified family tree below shows the relationship which is sometimes mistakenly referred to as one of nephew/(great)/uncle.

Grand Duke Nikolai and his brother Grand Duke Peter married the Montenegro sisters Princess Anastasia and Princess Milica. There were no children from the marriage of Grand Duke Nikolai.

Grand Duke Nikolai relationships


I am publishing this article in The Borzoi Encyclopedia to encourage better understanding of the function of a Borzoi and its development as a breed. It is for all to enjoy reading but no part of my contributions to The Borzoi Encyclopedia may be copied, downloaded, printed or used in any way without my prior express written consent.





Portrait of Grand Duke Nicholas Nicolayevich
(introduction page of the book "The PerchinoHunt)

Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolayevich Romanoff was born in St. Petersburg on November 27, 1856. Member of the Imperial family, he is the son of the Grand Duke Nicolai Nicolayevich (born in 1831), and the nephew of Alexander II (the liberating Tsar who abolished serfdom in 1861). He is also related to the last Tsar of Russia, a great-uncle of Nicholas II,  (1868-1918).

He is familiar to the Borzoi world for his breeding, the famous "Perchino" kennel. But hunting and breeding were for him mere a hobby. A man of very tall stature (1 m 98), intelligent, but known to be quite nervous, even choleric, he was above all a career soldier.

From the age of 20, he took part in the hostilities against the Turks and distinguished himself there. In 1884, at the age of 28, he was appointed commander of the Hussars Regiment of the Guard. Other important positions will follow each other between 1890 and 1905. During the First World War, he was appointed commander of the Russian armies in 1914-1915 and commander of the Caucasian front in 1915-1917. According to the narrators of the time, his popularity with the troops was great and "it was with a true mystical fervor that he was obeyed".

From his early youth, he is a passionate hunter. His first Borzoi is a black and white male named Oudar of the Voyekoff Hunt. Other Barzoïs were added over time to form a first crew of Barzoïs. All are characterized by their aggressiveness and a great grip of neck, that appreciates the Grand Duke who at this time only practices hunting wolves. When he is appointed Commanding Officer of the Hussars de la Garde Regiments, he no longer has enough time to devote himself to his hunt and renounces it. A large part of his dogs are then sold.

In 1887, he acquired the Perchino estate and installed the new founders of the breeding he had already begun to rebuild. While in his first hunt, the Grand Duke had focused all his attention on the aggressiveness of his greyhounds and chose his Borzois only on this criterion, thereby neglecting their aesthetics, he changed his selection mode from the time of Perchino, looking for a dog racy, well built, fast and consistent with the type of the Borzoi, with all the qualities of behavior that characterize the real Borzoi, that is to say, beauty, well constructed, passionate (fiery) and aggressive - essential elements in front of a game such as the wolf.

To achieve his goal, he did chose the best subjects of the best blood (breeding) of the time, and obtains, over the years (under the guidance of his kennel manager Dimitri Waltzolf), Borzois of great qualities both in beauty and hunting ... Perchino, by its splendor and its quality, is then the breeding "lighthouse" of Borzoi in Russia ...

During the Revolution, he retired to his property in Crimea in March 1917, then managed to escape the Bolsheviks by embarking in 1919 with his family and the people of his suite (including Artem Boldareff with family and the private secretary of his wife, Anastasia Nicolayevna ) on an English warship that takes them to Malta and then to Genua. But it is in France that he comes to take his definite refuge. He chosed to settle in the south of France, in Cap d'Antibes, but then moved to the Paris region to live in Choigny Castle (from 1923 to 1928). Sick, he returned to Cap d'Antibes with his brother Grand Duke Peter in October 1928 and died there on January 5, 1929 at the age of 72, due to pneumonia.



.During the First World War (period between 1914 and 1915).
Left picture: with his great-uncle, Tsar Nicholas II.
Right picture: stay in France, here with the Minister of War, Mr. Millerand


Exile and the last days.
Left picture: Villa Thénard in Cap d'Antibes (France) which he had bought and where he died.
Right picture: Funeral vigil of Grand Duke Nicholas.

Author : Danielle Laurent-Faure
Translation from french : Dan Persson

Translation to Russian: Elena Gerasimova
- Historical research on the Grand Duke Nicolas Nicolaievich "the Young", by Dominique-Patrick Faure
- "The Perchino Hunt", Dimitri Waltzolff


Very little distinguishes a borzoi from the year 1900 from a borzoi in the year 2000. When we look at other breeds we will almost always see alarming differences. Why is the borzoi so consistent in type over such a long period of time?

Old type borzoi (by artist N.Samokish) From the book "Tsar's Hunt in Russia", Nikolai Kutepov (1851 - 1907).

We owe this consistency and the high level of soundness to the Perchino hunt of Grand Duke Nicholas, Dimitri Walzoff and a small number of hunter/breeders surrounding Perchino. In the short period from about 1870 to 1915, by breeding a large number of borzois in all colors, including black each year and through scrupulous selection of only the fittest, they managed to establish the breed at a class of its own.

The borzoi has its roots in Russia. We have learned from articles, books and pictures that borzoi had existed in Russia for many generations. We have also learned that the name Borzoi in Russia had about the same meaning as Sighthound in the west. (In English, borzoi is often translated to Greyhound, whish gives a totally wrong association). Several different types of Borzoi existed, which would have a significant effect when the breed later was restored. Some of the hunting families like the Kareef's had bred borzoi and hunted since early 1800 and there are signs that the breed has existed several hundreds years back in time.

Gatchina 1841


Above is an example of very early (about 1835) borzoi given by the Imperial Hunt Gatchina to Duke de Nemours in France. The Duke bred from the Tzars dogs and one of the puppies was given to Prince Albert in Great Britain. A borzoi was a royal gift and in modern times, Boran, given by the Russian Prime Minister, Chrusjtjov to Lord and Lady Stenberg followed the tradition.

Note that the dog, unfortunately without a name, was said to be black and tan with only a small white spot on the chest. The description of the dog tells us that at Gatchina, as far back as 1830 bred self black sighthounds. "It was large, 3 feet high (perhaps to top of head) with LONG ears and a furry, foxlike  tail".

A borzoi? I don't think so, most certainly a type of sighthound (Crimean?) found in the vast land of Russia!

Black borzoi hunting
Black Borzoi hunting wolf. Painting by Nikolaï Egorovitch Svertchkov (Danielle Laurent-Faure)

Nearly every Russian nobleman had his estate with hounds and horses. Hunting with borzoi was a sport, an aesthetic experience that appealed to a class of local sovereigns. The noble land owners owned the land and everything on it including people, and wanted to distinguish them self from the other hunters. One way to do this was to breed borzoi easily recognised from others, by size, type or color.

It is said that the original "old" borzoi was light in color, white with spots of grey and yellow. The black and tans in particular were, by many, seen as not purebred.

In the years after 1861, when the serfs were set free and the landowners abandoned their estates, the breed was nearly wiped out and only a few hunters went on breeding and hunting with borzoi.

The pictures from the Martynov portfolio illustrate some of the varieties at the time when the restoration of the borzoi started (in 1870).

Pobedim (Kareef). Martynov portfolio

Pobedim (Kareef) we use as an example of the old type borzoi both regarding coat and color.

Maltchik (Scheremetyeff)

Maltchik (Scheremetyeff) can illustrate that even well known breeders in the old days used and bred from greyhound-like and saluki-like hounds.

Shutka (Kozlov) Martynov portfolio

Shutka (Kozlov) can illustrate the black borzoi which was not supposed to be found in the ancient, purebred Borzoi. (Won a big silver medal in 1880)

The sighthounds from different regions of Russia had different characteristics compared to the Russian Gustopsovoi Borzoi. This could be shape of head, set of ears, carriage of tail, hunting abilities and color. Can we suspect that English Greyhounds had an influence on the black color in borzois.

Crimean Sighthound
Eastern Sighthound (Gorskaya)

We know that borzoi of different colors were used by the breeders during the restoration of the breed but also that lighter colors were preferred.  Quite a few self colored was sent to the west and we can only wonder why.

Had the Russian breeders in mind keeping the best of the "old" type borzoi to themself and selling "surplus" dogs abroad or give to "small hunters"? Hunters who did not breed but kept borzoi and took part in hunting parties organized at the large estates.


Rogdai Perchino

From "The Perchino Hunt" by Dmitri Walzoff we can read about this: 

"In order to retain in the Perchino hounds, the conformation and field qualities which their owner has always wanted to see in them, particular attention has to be paid to the selection of breeding dogs and to the selection of puppies and their training. For keeping up the full strength of the packs, it might suffice to bring up twenty-five to thirty young hounds annually in order to replace those that become too old or which actually rendered unfit for hunting. In order to maintain the desired type of these thirty hounds, sixty, and sometimes eighty puppies have to be brought to maturity to meet the exacting requirements of a passionate keen hunter."

Andrus Kozlov, expert on borzoi history and with access to old material from earlier hidden archives including Perchino, wrote this:

"There were a lot of dogs in Perchino, new ones were born every year. Regularly a list was compiled of "defective" dogs and these dogs were sold or donated." 

Raketa Perchino. Belonged to the Grand Dukes "Special pack" (Andrus Kozlov collection)

From Raketa Perchino's first litter 6 out of 8 puppies were classed as "defective", not because of their color (Raketa belonged to the Grand Dukes own special pack) but meaning they simply were not good enough.

We don't know if the other major breeders had the same critical "selection" criterias as Perchino. We can, however assume, that during the breeds reconstruction after 1861, culling of puppies and selection of breeding material was carried out to a large extent. We can also be very certain that material kept for continued breeding was the best, both according to the "the old Gustopsovoi borzoi", but even more according to health and soundness.

However, the revolution must have changed all planning in that direction. The result being that borzoi were sent abroad without any discrimination at all. One can perhaps say that the worrying times in Russia just prior to the revolution resulted in a number of good borzoi sent to the west, but perhaps also a number of not very good ones, as well.

Quite a few of the borzois imported to the west where self colored in a variety of colors, including black. One of the more famous of these early black borzoi was Argos (Sokoloff) born as early as in1886 and first sold to Grand Duchess of Newcastle, then to Mr. Huntington in America, re-named with the spelling Argoss. Other influential early imports to America were Zyclon Perchino, a self brownish black and Yarki Perchino, a self grey. 

A very influential self black was Chack Bielaja. He was bred in Germany by Richard Dix of Bielaja kennel by a Russian imported self grey dog, Vigow (Ronne), bred in Kiev, then in Russia. All records of his pedigree are lost but, he is believed to have been born in 1908. When imported to Germany he was renamed Vigow von der Mauritzburg.

 Before further discussion on colors. Click here and have a look at this very simplified "color rule of thumbs".

There is a little mystery with Vigow, the father of Chack. He sired only one litter according to the studbook. Bred to Marza Steinach Bielaja (black and white), a litter of four (2+2) was the result. Three was black and white and one self grey. 

They were registered as black with white. From the studbook we can be see that only Chack was bred from .

Vigow (Ronne)
Vigow von der Moritzburg (br. Rönne)

The mother, Marza had a pedigree dominated by Russian imports, several black and whites but also at least one self gold. Vigow was reported to have been self grey or silver. He should therefore not have been able to produce self blacks; the answer to this is perhaps found in what Bonnie Dalzell writes about the dominant black. 

From this it is quite possible that Vigow von der Moritzburg in fact was a self chinchilla (silver) and therefore could produce the self black Chack Bilelaja who in turn produced several self blacks. As Marza Steinach Bielaja most probably was black and tan, it is most probably that he was a heterozygous Self black.

When looking at the picture of Chack Bielaja we can see a little white on the chest and on the left hind foot. There's no doubt that he was a Self Black as an adult dog, but on a picture at 4 and a half month he is in fact silver grey. Click on his name under the picture and read more. 

Chack Bielaja Self black.

We can wonder what his breeder Richard Dix saw in him and why he was such a popular stud dog. He sired more than 14 registered offspring in the studbook from 1913 to 1919. (See article on Chack Bielaja) 

He looks like a very young dog in the picture (22 months). The head looks fine and as the coat is short, we can imagine that the chest will be deep enough, but the front was not good. I am quite sure it must have been the color or the whole body marking the breeders wanted and not the front. It could also be they knew something about his sire Vigow that has been lost since then.

At this time there was a number of dogs imported from well known breeders in Russia including Perchino. We can only wonder what Richard Dix and the other breeders where looking for?

Chack offspring
A selection of Chack Bielaja related offspring spread over the world!

Chack was bred to four bitches, one the white and red Sascha von der Pegnitz to produce the white and red Slobian Bielaja. He was bred to Kaja Pascholl and produced a litter for the Hassia kennel of grey and fawns. When bred to Mara Pascholl it resulted in the Irish red Wolk Frisia Pascholl. It was when bred to the grey sable Isma Beresina that the self blacks Arras and Ajax, the Irish black and tan, Cresta, and the self grey Adamant - all vom Sachsenwald - were born.

Ajax von Sachsenwald (Chack Bielaja x Isma Beresina )

From the above list of 12 offspring from Chack Bielaja, all were bred from and many of their offspring were bred from, as well. Ajax and his son, Bessberk's Ajax, were both frequently used as stud dogs.

Another line goes from Chack Bilelaja through Arras vom Sachsenwald, to Divia Frisia Pascholl, to Atlan Pascholl to Meesko of Shay exported to Australia. However, the dominant black color seems to have been effectively lost so even the Australian born borzoi came out in other colors.

Bessberks Ajax
Bessberk's Ajax (Ajax vom Sachsenwald x Aliaska Nikolskoi)
A groupof  black borzoi at an exhibition in Paris1921 Unknown heritage (Dan Persson collection)

The offspring of Chack through both Arras vom Sachsenwald, Ajax vom Sachsenwald and Tchai Frisia Pascholl, led to the famous Vigow O'Valley Farm in one line and when adding one more line it led to America's number one Borzoi all time, the all white, Vigow of Romanoff.


Argoss (Sokoloff) (Sue Vasick collection)

After 1924 when Boldareff and the two brothers Sheremetieff wrote the new UICL standard for borzoi it was almost impossible to find a self black or an Irish marked tricolor borzoi in Europe for the next 30 years. That goes for all breeders, also those who used Chack Bielaja and his offspring. The respect for the Russian breeders must have been great to the extend of glorification and one can wonder were critical thinking and fear of consequences was hidden during this period.

vom Bergland
Note, all colors (except black) Click picture for info.

According to the "Rules of color" discussed earlier there must have been a great number of black and tan colored puppies born and tragically, during the 1930's, 40's, 50's and 60's, to avoid the "not wanted" colors to grow up, they were perhaps classed "defective" as we saw from Perchino. We must not forget that the two World Wars restricted breeding, especially in Europe.

Miss Murray, the famous English borzoi breeder and owner of the Fortrouge kennels, once told that she owned borzoi before the WW2, but could not keep them in London during the war and had them sent to Ireland for safekeeping. It's a miracle that so many even managed to breed with with the war going, almost around the house.

It is perhaps a bit surprising to know that in the years between 1940 and 1945 a number of Borzoi were still being born. These figures are approximately. 

The Sovjet union: 80  England: 575  Germany:763  Belgium: 27  France:19  Holland: 7  Australia: 64. USA: 590 for the same period. 

The most surprising in these figures are that in both England and Germany very large numbers of borzoi were bred, even if, as Margaret Davis says, "many breeders took the chance when the war was about to end in 1944 - 1945, to breed before the dogs became too old". 

One of the other dogs mentioned in the beginning of the article was  Argos (Sokoloff), a self black and tan or tricolor; it has been indicated that he was bred from in Russia before being sent to the Grand Duchess of Newcastle in England. From what is known, he was not used in England before he was sold to Mr. Huntington in America.

From the picture we can see that Argos had the typical markings of a black and tan on his cheeks. He also had white trimming.

The father of Argos, Ataman I (Boldareff), (there is a debate if he was a a grey sable or a black and tan) was born in 1885, and represents a line of the highest importance to the borzoi breed. 

The Duchess of Newcastle said on occasion that she did not always care for the borzoi sold to the west by Grand Duke Nicholas at Perchino (see above about the defective list), she would rather import from the same breeders where he got his dogs from. This chart shows this very clearly. She imported Ooslad and Argos, two of the best borzoi ever exported from Russia. We can say that the litters of Ataman I (Boldareff) make him one of the PILLARS the breed stands on.

Ataman I (Boldareff) the father of Argos (Sokoloff), Aspid (Walzoff), Raskida (Sokoloff) and Ooslad influenced borzoi in the whole world.











From Aspid (Walzoff) it leads to Golub Perchino and from Raskida (Sokoloff) to Strela Perchino. From Golub and Strela came litters of nearly perfection. All living borzoi have these dogs, leading back to Ataman I (Boldareff), several hundreds, perhaps thousands of times in their pedigrees.

Ooslad (Sokoloff), who went to England and became a Champion, sired four litters and thirteen of the pups are in the studbook. His son, Windle Earl, became the father of more than forty borzoi, Windle Queen nearly ten, Brincliffe Earl sired four and Circassian Queen became the mother of one

Margaret Davis found during her research of Russian bloodlines that Argos, before he was sold to England was bred to Milka Sorokthin and sired Alma (Sorokhtin, Argos II (Sorokhtin) and Nakhal (Sorokhtin). If this is correct it leads to the borzoi bred by the Nevezhin brothers in the 1950 and is still very much alive in modern Russian borzoi.

Argos (Sokoloff) was purchased from the Duchess of Newcastle by Mr Huntington in America and when registered with AKC he was renamed Argoss.

Argoss sired litters in America and he was also went to Canada and sired litters there. He is a very influential factor in the breed and can be found in many of the best known bloodlines. 20 of his offspring can be found in the studbook

Tsyclon II Perchino was renamed Zyclon of Pechina when registered in America by Joseph Thomas of the Valley Farm kennel. 

Zyclon of Perchina, self brown.(Sue Vasick collection)

Yarki Perchino was imported about the same time by Joseph Thomas and he was renamed, Yarki of Perchina.

The reason why the world famous Perchino borzoi could not keep their names when registered in America was because there already existed a kennel of that name owned by Miss Lois Kellogg..

Yarki of Perchina (Sue Vasick collection)

This article is about the black borzoi but apart from the first generations by the self black Chack Bielaja and the black and tan Argos we have almost only seen silver, grey, gold, red and shades of yellow. Some of these was self colored but hardly any were black. One question we can ask is, where did they go?

To understand what happened to the black color in borzoi in Europe we need to go back to the rule of genetics. In 1924 there existed a great number of borzoi descended directly from the best Russian bloodlines. We know that in Russia after 1870, borzoi were bred in black, red, and a variety of shades and markings from self blacks, silver, gold to all white. We also know that breeding from combinations of these colors, a number of puppies with black in some form will appear at least in the early years. The dominant blacks are the easiest to sort out and once gone, they will not show up. At least one parent needs to be dominant black to produce one. The black and tan is much harder to get rid of as the reds can produce black and tans. In the period from 1925 onward it's hard to find black and tans. There must have been quite a few born, but very few turn up in the studbooks.

Purists in all shades have always existed, so also in the small world of borzoi. In the 150 years since the restoration of the borzoi began in Russia there were people who wanted back the old Gustopsovoi borzoi but also the more pragmatic breeders that bred for type and soundness and didn't mind the darker colors.

Igor Solovjev was a scholar from the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute and a well known breeder and kynologist in Russia after WW 2. In 1970 he wrote an article dedicated to Jo Heller of Vorenoff kennels in support for her long fight for the black colored borzoi.

Igor Solovjev with a black and tan (tricolor)

He tells us how the Russian hunters wanted to breed dogs easily recognized from other hunts by color, shape, coat etc.

He writes about a kynolog, well known in the early years, L Sabanejev who described the colors in the borzoi. He mention the greys, whites, reds but also brown and blacks. He concludes that the lighter colors come from the northern type of hounds of Laika type while the darker colors comes from English greyhonds and Polish Chort hounds. The sables with the typical markings on the forehead "widows peak" was a sign of eastern hounds, while black and tan came from the Crimean sighthounds. 

Sabanejev out of this used the expressions Wanted and Unwanted colors. He seemingly became very occupied with his ideas that the old Gustopsovoi borzoi was a mix of eastern sighthounds and wolf-like northern hounds. What he did not realize was that in the northern hounds all colors could be found, including blacks.

Solovjev thinks that the highly respected Russian huntsman Matchevarianoff came closest to the truth, sayng that the borzoi comes in nearly any color from white to black and that he himself bred without discrimination.

Disputes on the color continued frequently to the time of the revolution but it was also a fact that at the exhibitions in Russia there was no discrimination of color. Blacks and black and tans received the highest prizes for quality alongside other colors. (see Shutka (Kozlov) winner of big silver medal), and Raketa from Grand Duke Nikolais special pack.)

When N Ermolov in 1888 wrote what we can call the first standard, it says of color: Today the borzoi comes in many colors and one should not be too particular on this.

Another well known breeder, S Ozeroff, was even more outspoken: "let the hunters who breed for fashion, today fawn, tomorrow grey, tell you that your (dark) borzois are no good and worthless. It is far more important to breed for harmony and agility than for a certain color".

Artem Boldareff. Author of the 1924 years standard.

When UICL the European Sighthound Society wanted to update the standard for borzoi, Mr. Artem Boldareff, Count Boris Cheremeteff and Count Dimitri Cheremeteff were asked to write the standard. They must have seen this as an opportunity. The reconstruction of the borzoi as they wanted could no longer be carried out in Russia, the breeders were gone. The standard they wrote could be seen as a tool to continue that work. (Click the picture to the right to see presentation of Boldareff. Click the text to see the standard from 1924 ).

Mr. Boldareff was very much criticized for the way colors were described and had to defend it several times.

It is also interesting that Nikolai Tchelichtseff, who stayed in Russia after the revolution and acted as an expert and adviser when breeding started again in 1922 to 1925. He advocated firmly for the light colored borzoi.

Igor Solovjev concludes in his article that the borzoi in Russia was developed through more than a hundred years and that other hounds had been used and bred to when needed.

"This mixture is why the borzoi is what it is with all its virtues and faults".

Where stands the black borzoi today? One could say that color is no longer being questioned, breeding for color is accepted but never was and never should be the purpose. 

As we have learned, some still think or believe that the lighter colors is a sign of "pure blood". The problem is that all living borzoi are related and the common denominators are not that many. If we limit the number of ancestors to borzoi produced in Russia from about 1870 to 1917 and bear in mind that in order to secure and stabilize the reconstructed borzoi, some heavy inbreeding was necessary. This and two World Wars which effectively reduced the gene pool means that all colors and in fact all types are there. The use of frozen semen has increased this to a degree where no type or no line of borzoi stands out genetically.

Over the years since after the first WW breeders have been under influence of ideas and fashion. In Europe this resulted in the elimination of the black and black and tan borzoi. 

Bacaret Milord of Matalona. Click picture for pedigree. Click here for offspring!

Happily these ideas were not as wide spread in Great Britain even if the Duchess of Newcastle said that she tolerated all colors but did not care so much for the blacks. For some reason we find many dark colored borzoi in England after WW2, even a growing number of self colored black, tan and whites (tricolored) but hardly any dominant blacks. The reason for this can not be genetics alone but do perhaps have something to do with personal preferences from the breeders.

In America did the dominating kennel, O'Valley farm of Mr Thomas purchased borzoi of different colors from Grand Duke Nicholas and other breeders in Russia as well as from Europe. It was perhaps the light colored that became best known also for the successor, Romanoff even if occasional blacks turned up like Black Belle of Romanoff who is still found through, among others, the Alpine kennel and it's successors!

Louis Murr, the owner of Romanoff kennels, bred a very interesting litter, linebred on the dominant black Chack Bielaja, resulting in, among others, Vigow of Romanoff, Otrava of Romanoff and Akuratni of Romanoff. All were light colored and are still very much present in the USA and in the whole world through the Majenkir, Tam-Boer, Barnaigh, Winjones and other well known kennels. 

Winjones Ataman
Winjones Ataman. Click picture for pedigree. Click here for offspring.

Akuratni of Romanoff was sold to the Barnaigh kennels in Scotland in about 1934. As said above, he was linebred on Chack Bielaja and when the famous Winjones Ataman was born 1946 he was in his turn, linebred on Akuratni of Romanoff. 

Black Falcon of Twin Elms (Sue Vasick collection) Click picture for pedigree.

Ataman's bloodlines were influential in his homeland England and also had an impact on some of the lines of black borzoi in the US and even in Australia.

With the variety of colors in the early American borzoi, including the self brown Zyclon of Perchina and self grey Yarki of Perchina we could expect offspring in all colors including blacks. There were blacks, especially in the early generations. One dog stands out, Black Falcon of Twin Elms from 1953. In his pedigree we see mainly "old" American bloodlines going back to O'Valley Farm and the Russian Perchino imports and the offspring of Chack Bielaja.

Sirhan Porchai (Sue Vasick collection) Click picture for pedigree, click here for offspring.

Via several black, tan and whites on Sunbarr, Malora and more imports from Europe came a number of high class tricolor borzoi from the Sirhan kennel of Audrey Benbow in Canada.

In Canada did the Kishniga Kennels of Richard Meen an John Reeve-Newson continue to breed very fine tricolor borzoi, much on the same lines as the Sirhan kennels.

Kristull Nickel of Rykha. (Sue Vasick collection)

Modern self blacks became more common in America, an example is, Kristull Nickel,  quite clearly a dominant black.

Background here is slightly confusing with a mix of imported European lines and the old American lines. 

Interesting is that many English borzoi imported to America leads back to Akuratni of Romanoff. When blended with existing American offspring of Vigow of Romanoff and Otrava of Romanoff the lines back to self black Chack Bielaja was multified.

In Europe, after a nearly 50 year period of various colors other than black, why do we suddenly see so many black borzoi, not only black, tan and white but also Dominant self black borzoi?

If we go back and take a look at the Rule of Thumb and the explanation Bonnie Dalzell gave us earlier we find the answer. There was no blacks, certainly no Dominant blacks, but there was greys, silver even self colored ones and the majority of reds in different shades as well as more or less whites. We were told that the Self Silver can hide the dominant black and that beneath the all white can be a colored dog. There is also a third way dominant black can be hidden, by a recessive gene which prevents the expression of any black in the coat and which results in cream or 'yellow' dogs. Modern DNA testing has shown that this gene, although very rare in the breed, does exist in Borzoi - where any of the self creams or golds in the past genetically dominant black? We also know that reds can produce black and tans.

It must have taken some courage to break the ban from 1924 and let out the black into the light. Margaret Davis tells that in the studbook for Belgium for the 1930's she did find a number of blacks, but it was not until late 1950's and early 1960's that blacks where seen in the showrings in Europe.

An all Champion group of Jo Hellers Vorenoff borzoi. Click picture for Interview with Jo Heller!

One of these breeders was Jo Heller with her black and tan, Vorenoff borzois.

We have seen dominant self blacks emerge as early as in the 1950's, in former Czechoslovakia. Borzoi that since have had an influence all over the world.

The Cold War and the Iron Curtain made it almost impossible for borzoi people in the west to communicate with breeders in Russia.

In Eastern Europe it was easier and there were breeders in East Germany and Czechoslovakia who managed to build kennels with a growing reputation even in the west. One of these was "aus der Taiga" in East Germany and another was "z Neustejna" kennels in Czechoslovakia. z Neustejna are of interest to this article for breeding selfcolored very dark borzoi, and from what this picture tells, even Self blacks.

Short information on the z Neustejna kennel


To illustrate how the borzoi from the Czech Republik became influential we can look at the picture of Biche z Larisova. She was bred in Czechia by J Pichovcova and owned by Urzula v Treub in Switzerland and became the first black borzoi to become an international champion and had influence in Europe, USA and in Russia.

Biche z Larizova. Click picture for pedigree. Click here for offspring.

The self colored borzoi i Czechia came from a mixture of Russian, old German and English bloodlines. 

The breeding of self black borzoi has continued in Czechia, building on the bloodlines mentioned here. The Sofena and the Majove Bohemia borzoi kennels continue a tradition based on domestic Czechian and old  European lines mixed with a few Russian imported dogs 

Calwarri z Neustejna Click picture for pedigree. Click here for offspring.

Calwarri z Neustejna is an excellent example of clever use of breeding material and was an eyeopener for breeders in the west. The picture show a self colored borzoi, perhaps he was black sable or maybe dark grey sable.

Gem Black Sofena

We can follow the bloodlines from Calwarri z Neusteijna to the self black Gem Black Sofena. From there it leads all the way to very strong lines of black borzoi in Czechia.

Neustejna and Sofena continued to breed occasional black borzoi. In about 1990 another breeder ecame active and has bred som excellent black borzois, the Majove kennels, later Majove Bohemia kennels.

It is interesting that in the Czech Republic with a growing "black borzoi culture", breeders combines the domestic black borzoi with imports from the American lines of dominant blacks.

Daimon Majove Bohemia

When we discuss black borzoi, we should remember that for most people a black dog, be it an Irish marked or a dominant self black, is a black dog. Breeders must learn about the genetics of their breed and use that knowledge to constantly improve their material. Others can look at a beautiful dog, see the shape of the head, the coat, the proportions, the color. The breeder must see beyond all that, examine the pedigree and see what the individual dog can add to the breed.

Examining the pedigrees of the selfcolored black borzoi in Europe we find two lines, Perchino and the one based on Chack Bielaja.

If we expand our view to the world we must incorperate a few other of the early Russian dogs. It is clear that some of the Perchino Borzoi carried black and tan, and some of the self-colored, especially the self grey (silver) were Dominant blacks, appearing silver because of the effect of the grizzle gene. We have also been told that even all-white dogs can carry the trait.

Black, tan and white borzoi has long been common in Australia, built on old British bloodlines. In later years imports have been made from both Europe and USA. Boronova Brastus is an example of a self black and tan leading back to the same Winjones Ataman mentioned above.

Study of the dogs genetics will perhaps give us better understanding and show us a clearer picture of what the borzoi really is. Perhaps a wolf in disguise? It can also give breeders in the future tools to use to continue to keep the breed healthy!

Present day science explains how the dominant black may have been inherited from the grey (silver), Vigow von der Moritzburg and the grey (silver) Yarki of Perchina via Chack Bielaja, Calwarri z Neustejna, to the Majove Bohemia in Europe and via the white Vigow and Akuratni of Romanoff to Black Falcon of Twin Elms and to Kristull Nickel of Rykha in the USA.

The only dominant black ancestor we with full certainty find in the early pedigrees is Chack Bielaja. This dog is present in the background of all modern borzoi and it seems that he's bloodlines blended well with the overall dominating Perchino bloodlines!

If you want to learn more about color genetics you can visit this page: The Coat Color Genetics of Borzoi

Today all colors are allowed, with the exception for liver. Colors are a personal choice and one should not be preferred over another. The genepool is narrow and should not be reduced even more by breeding only for certain colors.

Credit to Andrus Kozlov, Sue Vasick, Dan Persson, Leonore Abordo, Kerry Olsson, Danielle Stenkamp, Danielle Laurent-Faure!

Author, Arvid Andersen

Editor, Sue Vasick



Historic research by Margaret Davis!

Revision of the early American Borzoi history!

The American system of partial registration leaves so much of the early history out of the studbooks, Here are chronological lists for 4 of the earliest foundation breeders in America and Canada (Terra Cotta).  This information is collected from official AKC catalogues as well as studbooks and Gazette or newspaper articles to give the big picture.  By comparing all four breeders, it was possible to amend or update litter information and other exchanges of dogs between them.  A big jigsaw puzzle but some more pieces have been found. 

American & Canadian Champion Argoss

The well travelled Argos (Sokoloff) went from Russia to the Duchess of Newcastle in the UK in 1891. Was shown a few times before being sold to H W Huntington in the US in 1892 where he was renamed Argoss and was shown to American Champion and fame.  In 1894 he was sold to John Kent (Terra Cotta) in Canada who showed him to Canadian Champion and a Best in Show win.  In 1895 he was sold to H W Sharpless in the US again and shown at Westminster 1896 to win Best of Breed.  Along the way Am & Can Ch Argoss (Imp Russia) sired litters for Huntington, Kent and Sharpless plus others.  Although most of the lines from his many descendants died out by WW1, one of his Canadian daughters has descendants to the present day.


Paul Hacke - borzois

Henry Huntington - borzois

H W Sharpless - borzois

Terra Cotta kennels




Also known as Strela Pershinskoi okhoty.

Strela was a mighty producer of quality Borzoi for the Perchino kennel, with a good number of her offspring going on to produce for not only Perchino but other kennels as well.  She was the great-granddam and great-great granddam of the highly influential Ptitschka Perchino, who was exported to Germany to help found a dynasty there when bred to Asmodey Perchino.


Also know as Almaz Pershinskoi okhoty and Almas Perchino

Wolf hunting in Russia
Click the picture to see the film!







The estate of Prince Golitsyn in the Moscow region.

Shooting a winter hunt: hunters chase a wolf through a winter forest, dogs,hounds and a wolf.

Hunters drive up to the hunting house with trophies, take the wolves off the sleigh.



I am publishing these articles in The Borzoi Encyclopedia to encourage better understanding of the function of the Borzoi and its development as a breed. They are for all to enjoy reading but no part of my contributions to The Borzoi Encyclopedia may be copied, downloaded, printed or used in any way without my prior express written consent.

A direct descendant of Genghis Khan, Leo Tolstoy, the celebrated author of War and Peace, Anna Karenina and other novels, was born Count Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy in Yasnaya Polyana, the ancestral estate in Tula Oblast, Russia on 28 August 1828. Orphaned as a child, he was brought up by an aunt and his elder brothers. At the age of thirty-four he married the eighteen year old Sofia Andreevna Bers by whom he had thirteen children of which nine survived

Maja Cosic kindly provided the 1911 Sport im Bild article on Tolstoy, the writer, author and philosopher, and I am grateful to Adam Walker for his translation from the original German:

Tolstoy as Hunter by Prince D Obolenski

Tolstoy on horse


Count Leo N Tolstoy was in his younger years a passionate, proper Russian hunter with all of the prejudices and characteristics of such.  His preference was the exciting but potentially dangerous hunting of wolves, in which the quarry was cornered by dogs and then caught by the hunter. Tolstoy’s keenness to hunt sometimes caused conflict, and on several occasions there were nearly clashes over whose pack had first picked up the scent, and caught the prey.

Tolstoy loved showing his skills and dexterity hunting, and one episode remains vivid in my memory.

It was near Gurjeff [probably Atyrau, Kazakhstan, near the Caucasus, where the Circassians, i.e. Tscherkassky, came from?], at the property of Prince E. N. Tscherkassky. The dogs were searching for wolves in the woods.  Tolstoy stood with his two borzois behind a bog next to the wood.  Close to him was a smallholder from the neighbourhood, Kobylin, a headstrong gentleman; and then the Prince and the rest of the hunting party.

Suddenly, a big wolf appeared at the edge of the wood, ahead of the packhounds; Ruschalschik, renowned as a whipper-in at the time, had driven him out.  Ruschalschik emerged behind his pack, which had driven the predator into the open and in the direction of Tolstoy and the others. The wolf ran directly towards the bog, with the whip (who was exactly like Danilo in War and Peace) in pursuit.    But the bog was so marshy, that his horse got stuck.  Frantically, Ruschalschik shouted “Hey, he’s coming through!  Running right at you men!”

However improper the lively whip’s wording might have been, it turned out to be prophetic.  On the other side of the bog Kobylin and Tolstoy’s packs welcomed the wolf and brought it to a standstill, which happens very rarely.  Kobylin arrived first and got off his horse.  But then Tolstoy arrived and shouted: “Mine! It was my dogs that got him.  I’ll catch him.”

Perhaps Kobylin did not mind that much, because catching such an animal is not easy and not without danger. Tolstoy, wanting to show his skill, bent down from the saddle in the Circassian style, and tried to deal with the wolf from the saddle. But he failed; the horse reared up and took him away from the action.  And while Tolstoy calmed his horse and Kobylin composed himself, the wolf shook off the dogs which had been on him and swept away from them, disappearing. The whip’s prophecy was fulfilled; the men had let the beast get through.  Prince Tscherkasski, who was keen on thoroughbreds rather than dogs, searched the whole area in vain.  Tolstoy went home miserable and sullen.  

Tolstoy hunted especially often in the 1850s with Rajewski, with whose son he was close friends.  The most successful wolf hunts were on the properties of Princes Egon and Vladimir Tscherkassky in the region of Venyov and Kashira.  Many particularities of these hunts found their way into Tolstoy’s immortal War and Peace, and individual hunters can be identified from their depictions and characteristic speech.   After an especially successful hunt on the property of a neighbour of Prince Tscherkassky, P. M. Gleboff, an excited Tolstoy wrote a humorous sketch Faustine and Pauline, which he then read out that evening, making us all laugh.  What happened to the sketch, I don’t know; I have never come across it again.  Faustine and Pauline were two governesses of Herr Gleboff, who had been present as spectators at the hunt, and provided material for Tolstoy to turn into a gentle piece of comedy.

Who would have recognised the passionate hunter Tolstoy in his ascetical later years, the man we saw racing through fields and woods with the ever-present Milcah.  For many years on his hunts he took the grandmother, then the mother and finally the granddaughter Milcah.  This latter, whom I remember, was a beautiful black-flecked borzoi with something angelic [NB. or English – could be either in German!] about her.  She always ran without a belt and was very affectionate.

But Tolstoy was superstitious, like most hunters.  Once, Milcah run suddenly away from him towards me over some open ground.  No matter how energetically I tried to shoo her away, so stayed by my side.  Tolstoy became seriously concerned and said: “That has never happened before; surely something is going to happen to me.” 

Tolstoy once admitted that he was in the habit of praying if he went for a long period on a hunt without finding anything!

Externally, Tolstoy was also different from any other hunter.  His equipment was very distinctive.  His stirrups were made of wood, not metal; he had brought this custom back from Samara, from the hunters of the steppe.  And his preferred clothing was a hunting blouse.

He often compared hunting to war.  “In the same way that, on a hunt, everything depends on the skill and resourcefulness of the hunter, so does success in war depend critically on the resourcefulness of the general”, he would say.  “Everything may be planned perfectly, but if unforeseen events intervene, then everything can fall out of place, and complete failure results.”

On one such occasion Tolstoy explained why the Russian troops’ storming of the citadel at Kars in the Crimean War in 1855 under Mouravieff.  “Mouravieff had doubts about the positioning of his troops, and changed the plan a few hours before the assault, after listening to his chief of staff.  Thus came defeat.  If he had followed through on his original plan, then success would have been complete. But he did not believe in himself, and it all went wrong.  That’s how it is both when you’re waging war and when you’re hunting.”

I spoke with Tolstoy often when he was writing his historical novel War and Peace.  My forefathers had been on the 1812 campaign; my mother was a niece of Bibikoff, the adjutant of Kutusoff, who put down Pugacheff’s rebellion.  So I heard lots of details of that time first hand, and retold much of what Tolstoy said to others, and was rewarded by being allowed to be present at the first reading of War and Peace

I was also able to give him a few ideas for his novel Anna Karenina.  As a horseman and a great supporter of horse-racing, I explained to Tolstoy, for example, the milieu and details of the race in Krasnoye Selo, which is depicted so brilliantly in Anna Karenina.  Vronsky’s fall on Frou Frou is based on the accident which happened to Prince Galizyn, and Machotin in the novel strongly resembles A.D. Miljutin.

Tolstoy allowed me to introduce my friends to him without any formalities, which was a privilege I treated with care and used sparingly.  One single time he declined, when it was someone I regard very highly, our famous General Skobeleff.  At that time, Tolstoy spoke and wrote against the war, which he regarded as the greatest disaster.  That was probably why he felt that Skobeleff, who at that time lived and breathed the military, would be unsuitable for friendship.  So I had to give up on the idea of bringing the White General and the author of the Sebastopol stories together.

This event occurred to me again when I read about the famous painter Vereshchagin, whom Tolstoy had rudely called a boor, because he had declined his friendship.  Vereshchagin had recently published his memoirs, which in places contained some fairly harsh anecdotes, such as depicting how he told General Strukoff in the Turkish War to leave two Turks hanging.  Vereshchagin was convinced that these Turks were villains, but at the same time he needed subject matter for a painting.  This seemed so appalling to the highly sensitive Tolstoy, that he gave up on the idea of friendship with Vereshchagin.

I brought the former Russian transport minister Count Brobinsky to Yasnaya Polyana.  His interesting argument with Tolstoy is mirrored in Anna Karenina, where the husband, Karenin, renounced his high office.  Bobrinsky found his visit to Yasnaya Polyana thoroughly unedifying.

Finally, I will never forget an evening at the beginning of the 1870s where Tolstoy came to us in a state of agitation, and explained that he could not tolerate the conditions in Russia any longer, and wanted to emigrate to England.  The reason was that a shepherd in Yasnaya Polyana had been gored and killed by a wild bull, and Tolstoy was under investigation and threatened with house arrest.  The same investigating judge was said to have imprisoned an innocent peasant, and to have carried out an autopsy on the body of another which was in a neighbouring lady’s property.  We tried to calm Tolstoy and explain that a death inevitably caused the authorities to intervene and make a formal investigation.  But it took a long time to appease Tolstoy.  He then wrote a letter to his aunt, Countess A.K. Tolstoy, who was the lady-in-waiting and governess of the Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna.  The lady-in-waiting read the letter to the Emperor Alexander II, who was angry about the way justice was being administered in Russia, and spoke about the matter in harsh terms.

In later years Tolstoy was to reject the hunting way of life and further details can be found from following this link:http://tolstoy.ru/ 

Tolstoy's youngest daughter, Countess  Alexandra Lvovna Tolstoy, resided in the USA and this photograph was taken in 1978:



Above is Countess Tolstoy and Lena Tamboer's Ch Tigow of Tam-boer

Posted with the kind permission of Lena Tamboer.














































Deceased Borzoi Stars by Erich Zeiß, Berlin im January 1926

Asmodey Perchino with Dr. Else Wegener

Under the same heading, I described the old borzoi-winners of the years 1890 to 1910, some years ago. And this time I am concerned with the three thoroughbred borzois, which were imported by Dr. Arthur Wegener from Perchino, the kennels of the Grand Duke Nicolai Nikolajewitch in the year 1913. For that, this old meritorious breeder still deserves the thanks of the entire borzoi-world.

Ptitschka Perchino

Firstly I will mention Ch Ptitschka Perchino DWZ 513 since she was the best of them. Ptitschka was the best Borzoi bitch, I‘ve ever seen during my years of practice. She had a noble general appearance and embodied power and type in its purest form.

When I was judging at the show in Hanover, I made the attached photo. It shows all the advantages of that bitch. The long dry head has the best expression, very dark eyes and very small, properly worn ears. Neck, topline, front, rear, depth of chest, paws and set of tail are top-class. And her wonderful rich and soft coat underlined her general appearance with the uniform color and the nice red markings on the head. My only regret is that Ptitschka was not used for breeding more often.

Now I come to Ch Asmodey Perchino DWZ 508. This noble dog was a benefit for the German Borzoi breeding, although he had inherited his little faults also. That male had much type and an extremely racy general appearance. His red markings with the black hair tips, and his enormously long, silky and wavy hair with long silken tresses beneath his neck and the very typical head expression underlined his appearance significantly. The head was long, dry and narrow, the eyes dark and racy, the small fine ears high set and erect - with the tip slightly tilting forward (horses ear) - when he was alert. His front was very good, I would have wished him a little more depth of chest and better angulated hindquarters.

Ch Almadin Nikolskoi

In combination with Champion Ptitschka, Asmodey gave us the wonderful Ch Almadin Nikolskoi NRV 829 owned by Mr. van Berkhof, as well as Ch Asmodey Nikolskoi NRV 830, Ch Arsinoi, Aliaska and Assunta.

As the last of the three imports I come to Iran Perchino DWZ 507. Rated by points, Iran could compete with his kennel companion Asmodey, but not as a competitor in the show ring, since Asmodey was better in type and coat. Iran was an excellent dog with a racy general appearance, long head, very good shoulder, back, front, hindquarters and tail. His hair was short, very thick and silky soft, white with red markings. Unfortunately I haven’t heard anything about his off spring.

Iran Perchino


I conclude my discussion hoping that our Borzoi breeding will get fresh blood soon, it is urgently needed. In the following some offspring of Asmodey Perchino. From this 3 dogs he was used for breeding the most:

The following pictures show some of the offspring from first, second and third generations.









Generation 1
Frist generation: Podar von Baikal, Arsinoe Nikolskoi, Almadin Nikolskoi













Bessberk's Ajax




Generation 2
Third generation: Aninka Karenina, Suleika Frisia Pascholl, Anuschka von Tresko












Generation 3
Asmodey and Ptitschka Descendants (From the Mariental kls of E Groth in Germany)


























Click the picture to see the film (can be enlarged)


"Udav" Gayarin
























Takes on the wolf alone...















Mrs. A. Vlasto with her borzoi, Veda of Addlestone, Rolf of Addlestone, Rainbow of Addlestone, and Grand Duchess of Addlestone: winners of four 1sts, team, and dog and bitch championships, and brace prize won by Rainbow and Grand Duchess at Crufts - 1915.