An outline of the history of the borzoi


An Outline of the History of the Borzoi

This article was written in 1891 by Baron G. A. Rosen and was published in the journal Russkii Okhotnik. This material was graciously provided by Dr. Jim Sillers, who had the work translated and the resulting paper presented at the 1997 BCOA National Specialty and at the International Borzoi Conference in October 1998. Thanks Dr. Jim!

In intending to write a historical essay on the borzoi, I must not fail to touch on the history of the dog in general.

In this outline the reader will not find a comprehensive and detailed description of various breeds of dogs. But wherever possible I shall strive to join all existing dogs into several separate groups that I believe were original and from which all others descended; I shall be guided by one hunter’s view of the subject, since, in my reasoning, the dog originally could have existed in a domestic state only in the hunting sense, and only later could have begun to benefit man in another sense.

First I shall treat the dog as a fossilized animal and say all that can be said about the prehistoric dog. I shall divide dogs into groups conforming to the proclivities and character of the animal.

The second section of the outline will occupy the period of historical existence of the borzoi (wolfhound1) in other European countries and among us [in Russia].

At the end I shall examine the present status of the borzoi among us and abroad. I must say, unfortunately, that the Russian section in regard to dogs is extremely meager, and that I have had to be guided largely by foreign sources and largely to endeavor to come up with ideas from my own conjectures. I allow the readers themselves to judge to what extent these conjectures are accurate, and I would be very grateful to them for any statements and corrections from them.

Perhaps some of them will come up with sources as yet unknown to me, in the form of old letters and memoirs; communication of these materials in print would of course contribute nothing other than good to the history of Russian dog breeding, and might shed new light on the subject of such interest to us, a subject in which, alas, almost nothing has been done to date.

The Prehistoric Period

By this heading I mean that time which we can judge only by the fossilized remains of dog bones.

Everything now known about this time pertains exclusively to Europe, since we do not yet have reports from other countries.

This entire period may be subdivided into two parts: the time before the arrival of the Aryan tribes in Europe, and the time since then.

Before the arrival of the Aryans, all that can be adduced about the existence of the dog reduces to the following.

Fossilized remains have been found everywhere, but in a very limited quantity with respect to individuals. Just four breeds of dog are known to this point:

  1. Canis ferus (the wild dog), with its variations called Canis familiaris;
  2. Two close varieties related to the wolf; Cano europaeus and Cano Edwardsianus (a breed close to them still exists in India and the Himalayas);
  3. The peat dog of the Swiss lakes;
  4. One of the two breeds found during digging of the new Ladoga Canal and called Canis polustris Ladoguensis.

All these dogs existed in Europe before the Arrival of the Aryans, as earlt as during the Stone Age. With the appearance of the Aryan peoples who brought bronzeware with them, one other breed probably bred by the Aryans appears among fossilized dog bones. It differs from local dogs in its larger height and borzoi-like exterior.

It cannot be assumed that Canis ferus was indeed a domestic dog as we see it now, and this is because most of the teeth found for this breed were pierced and probably served as decorations for primitive peoples. We know that all decorations, in this sense, were made solely from the teeth of wild animals that were the subject of the hunt. In later and later epochs, where there can be no doubt as to the domestication of the dog, the teeth of these wild animals do not turn up in pierced form, whereas the teeth of the bear, the wild boar, and others continued to serve as decorations.

All that I have said up to this point pertains to Canis ferusCano europaeus, and Cano Edwardsianus, but recently, in excavations during the digging of the new Ladoga Canal, Mr. Inostrantsev found the remains of dog bones of this locality during the Stone Age.

Everything pertaining to this find can be found in A. A. Inostratsev’s work Doistoricheskii Chelovek Kamennago Veka, Poborezh’ya Ladozhskago Ozera [Prehistoric Stone Age Man on the Shores of Lake Ladoga], revised by D. N. Anuchin. The information drawn from this work is as follows: during the digging of the new Ladoga Canal, bones of a prehistoric dog were found that belonged, according to the surmises of Mr. Anuchin, to 15 individuals. It may be assumed that these bones occupy in time a position between the so-called “Danish kitchen remains” and the “Swiss pile dwelling.” It turned out that a comparison of the Ladoga dog with the dog bones of the kitchen remains is all but impossible because of the extremely spoiled state of the latter.

The remains of the pile dwellings are superior material for comparison. From comparisons, it turned out in general that the dogs of the pile dwellings and Lake Ladoga have much in common, both in the structure of the skull and in height; they are apparently the same breed.

Rüthimeyer [Ryutimeier] finds that a comparison of the skeleton of the fossil dog of Western Europe with existing breeds forces us to surmise that it was most similar to hounds and sporting dogs.2 In addition to the hound and sporting dog, the fossil dog is close in skull structure to the dog of the Papua Archipelago and New Britain.

In addition to the breed described above, in the prehistoric period there was another type of dog identical to the others, but larger, called the “peat dog,” whose appearance incidentally dates to the very late Stone Age.

According to remarks by Mr. Anuchin, one of the dogs of Lake Ladoga, although similar to the dogs for the pile dwellings and the peat dog, is another kind of fossil dog in terms of certain features but had yet to appear in Western Europe. Mr. Anuchin says: “From all the data presented, one may conclude that one breed of dog on the shores of Ladoga during the Stone Age was extremely similar, and in all likelihood was closely related, to the Neolithic breed in Western Europe, and differed from it mainly in having somewhat greater height, a stronger constitution, a less bent profile, a large flare of the skull toward the rear, and a somewhat less pointy muzzle in front.”

One may conclude from the available data that in the Stone Age there existed throughout the entire are of Europe basically one breed of dog, with extremely minor variations. The features of this breed were: small height, fairly weak teeth, and, in all likelihood, close similarity to the modern sporting dog and hound.

With the advent of the Bronze Age and the arrival of the Aryans in Europe, an entirely different breed of dog appears. Mr. Anuchin talks about this more in his work: “In the Bronze Age we find another breed of dog, taller that all previous ones, and closely similar in skull structure to the large borzois of today. In general one may say that all hypotheses of scholars are conjectural because they do not have in hand the skulls of today’s purebred borzois. In all probability, the large borzoi-like dog of the Bronze Age appeared together with the Aryans who appeared in Europe at about this time and who brought it from Central Asia.”

But all breeds of Stone Age dogs probably belonged to the indigenous, primitive inhabitants of Europe, who had no need for the large borzoi, since they did not have herds and all the land then occupied was wooded.

In addition to the large dog of the Bronze Age, there is a sort of intermediate form from whose skull we may hypothesize that it descended from crossbreeding of the large breed of borzoi-like dog with a small breed that existed before it in Europe, which was similar to modern-day hounds and sporting dogs.

In the bones found at Lake Ladoga, although the same intermediate breed also is present, from the changes in the skull one can note that it retained a great similarity to the large borzoilike breed of the Bronze Age. This forces us to conjecture the greater predominance of the borzoilike dog over the local breed when they were crossbred with each other.

Later Mr. Anuchin says: “At the same time, one may conclude from all the foregoing data that the large ancient Ladoga breed of dog had a well-developed scent, was distinguished by strong gripping muscles, and was superbly adapted to fast running. In other words, this breed combined in itself all the main traits necessary for successful hunting of big game.

“It would be extremely desirable to trace the spread of these ancient Ladoga breeds in local districts of Russia, but the available materials unfortunately remain too meager to arrive at any positive conclusion in this regard.

“It is worth noting that in the Neolithic sediments of Central Russia, such as around the village of Volosov near Murom, all the bones of a domestic dog were found recently, despite the fact that many stone implements and bones of fish, fowl, elk, marten, badger, bear, wild boar, beaver, and other wild animals are found there.

“The boneyards of Perm’ also have failed to yield dog bones, despite the fact that masses of bones of elk, wolverine, bear, northern deer, and small predators were found there, as well as livestock, including cattle, horses, goats, and pigs.”

The absence of dog bones at the aforementioned sites also may be explained by the fact that these were sites where sacrifices were brought and the dog was not a sacrificial animal.

All that has been said thus far pertains to the very earliest times of appearance of the dog in Europe; the further we trace the finds of dog bones dating to the most recent epochs, the more universal the occurrence of the dogs becomes and the more diverse their breeds.

Mr. Bourguinia [Burginia] in France has found numerous remains of dogs in caves in the Alpes-Maritimes Department; of these bones, he recognized the following breeds:

  1. Dachshunds;
  2. Hounds;
  3. Sporting dogs;
  4. Shepherds;
  5. Two varieties of the borzoi.

In addition to these breeds, Bourguinia believes that the remains of other varieties of Great Danes also were present among the bones.

So this is all that we know thus far about the fossil dog, and all these data reduce to the following: for now we know of two breeds of primitive fossil dog (Bourguinia’s find may not be dated to this time): 1) the Stone Age dog, which is similar to the sporting dog or hound, and 2) the dog of the Bronze Age Aryans, large and quite similar to the borzoi.

Since the subject of my outline is the borzoi and since the primitive dog of the Stone Age generally has nothing in common with the borzoi, I shall endeavor exclusively to elaborate the question of the large borzoilike dog of the Bronze Age Aryans, believing it to be a relative of our borzoi.

In working on this question, I of course have no data other than the detailed description of this dog’s skull by Mr. Anuchin, and I therefore will have to present only my own conjectures and hypotheses.

We do not know, of course, whence originated the dog that the Aryans brought to Europe, and all the hypotheses of scholars regarding the origin of the dog in general also may apply here.

Recently they have begun to tend toward the view that the domestic dog descended from one or many breeds of wild dogs, but from which? And where are the remains of these dogs? Here indeed is a question! The view of some scholars on the origin of the dog still has not been fully estalished; many continue to adhere to an origin from the wolf, jackal, hyena, and fox; in my view, this notion does not have any basis, and I shall allow myself to repeat here what I have already written on this subject in a brief note published in Issue No. 14 of the magazine Russkii Okhotnik for 1890, under the title “A Few Words on the Origin of the Dog.”

I believe that everything that various scholars have had to say on this subject suffers from one-sidedness. Scholars view the dog through the eyes of scholars, and not hunter; it seems to me that herein lies their main error in the desire to learn whence the dog came.

To view this subject from the hunter’s standpoint would be more rational, especially since the first dogs could only have been used for hunting; and why this is so I shall say. In the beginning, the entire surface of the earth was in all likelihood covered with dense forests; there are genealogical data to this effect.

Primitive man in those days could not, of course, engage in any activity other than hunting, and the dog was unquestionably his best helper in this undertaking.

The question is: did man train some breed of animal to hunt, or did this breed already exist and man only train it and make use of tis habits and propensities, turning them to his advantage? These questions can be answered by an analysis of the character and propensities of the dog, on the one hand, and of those animals such as the wolf, fox, jackal, and hyena from which, according to some scholars, the dog descended in all its varieties, on the other hand – the scholars’ mistake lies precisely in their omitting, in this analysis, the character and propensities of both groups.

Any dog, whatever the breed and whatever size it may be, differs from other animals in its ferocity; it is the only animal that kills other animals solely for pleasure. This trait is more characterisitic than anything else. All other animals kill and attack other animals in just two cases: when they are driven to do so by hunger or self-defense. Furthermore, all other animals of the “dog” genus are distinguished by an extremely base character, and for the most part they are cowardly. The bravest of these, such as the wolf, never attackes alone and openly animals stronger than themselves. I am not speaking of the jackal, fox, and hyena – their cowardive and baseness have found their way into a local saying.

The dog, by contrast, often attacks animals much stronger than itself, and what is the main thing, it possesses, if one may use this expression, overt hunting proclivities. It never tries to resort to cleverness and always acts openly and honestly. Someone may say to us in reply that man developed all this in the dog, but I believe that man could hardly create a brave and honest creature from a craven and base animal! If all these traits had been instilled in the dog by man, then the very nature of the animal would have manifested itself somewhere without fail – for instance, in those breeds which have long serves only as a decoration or a whim and in which every effort is made to wipe out the hunting instincts, such as all breeds of lapdogs.

In fact, we often see how a small lapdog whose ancestors and which itself were raised in a room on small sofas, with pleasure smothers some canary or mouse that it has succeeded in catching; I believe that this is a direct sign of its basic character, and that it could not have been instilled in it from without.

The wolf, when sated, will not for any reason chase after another animal, no matter how tasty a morsel it might appear to be. To a dog, on the other hand, whether sated or hungry, it is all the same. Perhaps it cannot catch the pursued animal because its belly is too full, but it will without fail chase after it and, if it can catch it, will stifle it with the same ferocity, regardless whether it is full or hungry. One would hardly suppose that a dog constantly stuffed with coffee, chocolate, and biscuits would smother a canary or a mouse out of hunger; would it not be more likely to postulate in all these cases the hunting instinct rather than hunger?

An important confirmation of my ideas can be found in analysis of the habits of the shepherd dog. According to data available to us, the shepherd has existed almost as long as the original dog itself, but in it we see the same ferocious proclivities as in the hunting dog, although man has changed the dog’s character, training it to chase after only certain animals while at the same time guarding others.

In sporting dogs we see the same thing; man has already trained them to point and broken them of chasing and attacking wild game. All these results of training by man are noticeable only in those dogs under man’s constant watch; but remove a shepherd or sporting dog from man’s influence and leave it to its propensities, and it will undoubtedly revert to its natural, primitive habits. We can trace this easily in those sporting dogs and shepherds who are raised as yard dogs, without any supervision, and who are not given any training; all these dogs begin to chase animals, not only in subsequent generations but even in the first; the shepherd will choke lambs, and the sporting dog will lose its pointing ability and begin to chase wild game. From all my observations of dogs, I have reached the conviction that training has an effect only to a certain degree, and that the fundamental feature of the character of any dog – its ferocity – cannot be extirpated by any training or upbringing whatever.

From the foregoing one may assume that primitive man, who trained the first dogs, in no way bred them from the wolf, fox, jackal, or hyena, but encountered a preformed dog that already possessed hunting abilities to a superior degree. On encountering the dog, man could only turn it to his advantage and develop these abilities, but could not in any sense toy with the idea of creating for himself a hunting assistant in the form of a dog from a wolf or other animal, and of imparting to this animal the traits necessary for hunting. This last situation also could not have been because to create something one must have an idea of the object; how could man have created a dog never having seen one and having no concept of what a dog would be and of for what it would be suited?

As an argument for the descent of the dog from another animal, some scholars adduce the notion that a dog that has gone wild loses its ability to bark, but in reply to this one could say that there are whole breeds of nonbarking dogs, such as the tundra dog of northern Siberia, which never barks; the large Siberian hunting dog, which barks almost not at all; and finally our Russian long-haired borzoi, which also barks almost not at all. A dog does not have to run wild in order not to bark.

What even more strongly refutes the hypothesis that the dog descended from any other animal is the current existence of the very same animals from which it was supposed to have derived.

The wolf, fox, jackal, and hyena often live close to dogs, but they do not freely interbreed with each other and even if mongrels of these animals and dogs occur, under the influence of man and in a hunting sense they are never suitable; there is a loss of bravery, and only a tendency to shred to pieces livestock and poultry is retained.

Finally, if the dog could have derived from one of the animals mentioned in prehistory, why does the same thing not occur now too?

In Algeria, where a great many stray dogs live in full association with packs of hyenas and jackals, mongrels are not seen, although fights between them occur not infrequently.

At the present time, there are still places on earth where dogs live in a near-wild state, and it would be very interesting to obtain fossil remains from these places; unfortunately, excavations conducted thoroughly and skillfully have produced results only in Europe.

What excavations in other countries will give us in this regard we still don’t know; it should be assumed that the question of the origin of dogs will become clearer then than it is now; we need only find some fossilized form of an indisputable dog.

In light of all the foregoing, I conclude the modern dog unquestionably descended from the dog, and not from any other animal.

The Prehistoric Period II

Mr. Anuchin, in describing the dogs of the Bronze Age that Aryans brought to Europe, says: “At the same time, from all the data presented one may conclude that the large ancient Ladoga breed of dog had a well-developed scent, was distinguished by strong gripping muscles, and was superbly adapted to fast running.” Mr. Anuchin does not draw any other conclusions, probably because there is nothing else to add. From the foregoing words of our scholar, we hunters can say, almost with certainty, that the breed in question was closely similar to our borzoi.

Now the question arises: which of the two breeds of fossilized dogs was older? We also find the answer to this question in the words of Mr. Anuchin, who adds that in addition to the bones of the large dog of Lake Ladoga, bones of a sort of intermediate breed were found which is similar to the native European dog of the Stone Age and similar to the sporting dog or hound, but with the difference that the type of large dog of the Aryans with a borzoi-like exterior predominates in the intermediate form.

We see from the results of modern dog breeding that a breed, once firmly and long established, always predominates in the descendants of crosses with a native dog, and it is clear from this that the breed of the borzoilike dog of the Aryans, as predominating in the cross with the native dog, unquestionably was older and was more firmly established than the breed of Stone Age dogs in Europe.

And for this reason we may conclude that the borzoi is the oldest of all known breeds of dogs on earth.

Once we reach this conclusion, we also may conclude that all existing breeds of dogs, together with various modifications, descended from the borzoi. We now shall see how accurate this statement is.

The distinguishing features of any borzoi break down into two groups. One group pertains to the physical build of the animal, while the other is entirely moral. From the first glance at any dog we may say that this animal is by nature adapted for running; in the borzoi this adaptation is pronounced much more sharply than in other dogs, by the severely dropped ribs and the so-called “tucked loins.” Despite this difference, however, we still can note that tucked loins exist more or less in any dog. Here, of course, I am not taking lapdogs into account. But in fact we see that any dog is indeed very capable of powerful, prolonged running; even the heaviest of them, such as the bulldog, run superbly under certain training conditions.

As for the moral aspect, it is observed unconditionally in any dog, and comprises the proclivity to chase and catch anything that runs; once again, this tendency is developed more strongly in the borzoi than in other dogs.

The features just described, which are more or less inherent in all dogs in general, merely confirm my opinion of the origin of all dogs from one breed of borzois.

How this was accomplished is hard to say, even if it is entirely impossible, but it seems to me that one can establish to some extent a certain hierarchy in the origin of one breed from another.

Before undertaking to do so, let me try to surmise what the dog of borzoilike form that belonged to the Aryans was.

Since at that time a large portion of the earth was covered with forest, one cannot suppose that it had the elegant and light forms that we see in the modern borzoi. The words of Mr. Anuchin to the effect that it had good scent and strongly developed gripping muscles force us to hypothesize a coarse dog capable of tracking an animal through the then dense forests, and of engagin in battle with it; since it had fairly good speed, this was fairly easy for it to do. It should be added that in those days man probably did not hunt fast-running animals such as the hare, but pursued larger game such as elk, deer, bear, and so forth. Consequently, the dog had to have not the speed of the modern borzoi but simply a fast gait, indefatigability, and strength. In general, the type of this dog as the forebear of all existing dogs should not have had any pronounced features of constitution, but more likely was to some extent similar to a large, borzoilike mongrel.

It is a great pity that there are no data as to what kind of ears this breed had: prick or hanging ears? For my part, I am inclined toward the view that the ears were semihanging – and here is why: I spoke previously about the predominance in crossbreeds of the forms of the breed that is older; in the present case one can apply the same principle. We know of a long-existing breed of borzois with hanging ears: these include all the eastern dogs; when these borzois are crossed with borzois and in general with other dogs with prick ears, the hanging shape of the ear is conveyed to the offspring more strongly than any other features; from this one can conclude that the hanging ear of the eastern borzoi is an unquestionable feature of antiquity and of established blood. This hanging ear moreover persists in crossbreeds, which in borzoi breeds with which the blood of the eastern borzoi has been mixed even once, dogs are produced with hanging ears after time intervals of 40 or 50 years, despite the fact that all subsequent studs had prick ears; this persistency of the feature only confirms my opinion of the hanging ears of the primitive dog. How do I imagine the primitive dog? It was probably a very large, mongrellike borzoi, with a coarse, muscular head, a short muzzle, semi-hanging ears, highly developed thick ribs, and not especially large loins.

Having concluded with this, we shall now try to divide existing dog breeds into groups.

While recognizing the dog only as a hunting animal, I believe it possible to subdivide all dogs into two large groups, namely: 1) gazehounds (sighthounds), and 2) scenthounds.

All dogs with poorly developed scent that are capable of taking an animal solely by speed of pursuit or physical strength in battle will belong to the first group.

The second group will include those dogs whose scent is well developed and which can take an animal either by wearing it out or by cunning.

In establishing these two groups, I do not take into account lapdogs and mongrels without any definite breeding.

Lapdogs are not taken into consideration because they do not constitute any separate breed but are simply caricatures or miniatures of all large breeds.

Mongrels cannot be taken into consideration because they constitute a mixture of all possible breeds.

I include among gazehounds of the first group:

  1. Borzois in all their varieties;
  2. Mastiffs;
  3. All varieties of Great Danes;
  4. Bulldogs;
  5. Shepherds;
  6. All varieties of huskies and working dogs of the northern countries;
  7. Danes and Dalmatians;
  8. Terriers of all kinds.

The second group will include:

  1. Scenthounds of all varieties;
  2. Sporting dogs of all kinds;
  3. Saint Bernards;
  4. Newfoundlands;
  5. Mountain dogs.

If one examines closely the division that I propose, all existing breeds will find a place in one of these two groups.

There are also a number of breeds that descended from a crossbreeding of members of one group with members of the other; but this nonetheless cannot destroy the basic types described above.

At first blush it may seem strange that I have placed in the same category two such opposed dogs as the borzoi and the mastiff or bulldog, but I believe that there can be no doubt as to the kinship of these dogs. Of course, one cannot suppose that the mastiff descended from the borzoi in a short time interval and is not the product of the very recent existence of man as the creator of the breed.

During the hunt for large game, the first people probably were struck by the ability of the borzoi, which by chance was born with a shorter muzzle, to hold an animal more strongly and for a longer period of time. As a result, in skirmishes with larger animals that could not run fast, they began to try to breed dogs with a shorter and more powerful muzzle. By selecting more and more massive dogs with stronger jaws as studs and bitces, they arrived at the mastiff, and from it they produced the bulldog.

Someone might object to me that primitive man was hardly so developed that he could conduct breeding; I do not postulate this, but think that breeding was done without any preconceived notion of breeding some variety or breed of dog; it all took place of its own accord, stemming solely from the hunter’s experience and pressing need, and no theory was at work there.

It should be noted here that in general primitive man, a closely similar type to which we see in existing savages, was a fairly refined expert in the training and breeding of varieties of various animals; nearly all current livestock arrived in this state not in recent times but in the prehistoric period of man’s existence.

As I base my hypotheses on this, the selection of studs and bitches in the breeding of dogs with various features that are fairly well suited for hunting such diverse animals as the deer or bear does not seem strange; a lighter dog was required for the former and a more massive and powerful one for the latter.

To what extent the ancients were more capable than we are in the domestication of wild animals, we see in the existence of domesticated lions, which are used in war and even in hunting, as many writers attest.

How the hound was formed from the borzoi is, in my view of the subject, perfectly clear. Among primitive dogs, dogs both large and small probably were expressed, and among these latter, dogs less fast and faster occurred. Out of these latter, both smaller and not so fast, the hound formed with time. The hound, having no possibility of catching an animal, began to bay out of meanness, and little by little conferred on itself this habit during the hunt. Originally, it probably bayed only in the case where the animal was stopping or moving in view.

With time, its scent developed more and more and the ability to hunt by voice along a trail took root.

One should not think that the primitive hunter overlooked this phenomenon without noticing it and turning it to his advantage in tracking down a wounded, hiding animal. Hence the ability to smell and speak in a dog, albeit not a hound, but a dog that was already turning in a sense into a hound, grew stronger in each generation and finally yielded the Russian hound of old, then the Kostroma hound, and finally all other hounds, from the ancient, now fossilized badger hound (dachshund) and the modern French hounds with their enormous ears.

If one takes two extremes from the second group of dogs, they will seem less strange, as the origin of the other breeds from the hound is obvious, and there would be no point in going on about this.

In conclusion, I would like to say a few words about the extreme ability of the whole race of dogs to be altered with extraordinary facility. One could hardly find another animal that adapts so easily to climate, way of life, and food as the dog, from the dog of the northern countries, covered with a thick and warm coat, to the Chinese hairless.

Since, for instance, adaptation to climate occurs quickly, I have had occasion to observe it for myself on long-haired borzois that I took to the Caucasus, to the banks of the Kuban’ River; the hair on the dogs became much thinner in the very first year, and in the very first generation of progeny it lost its thickness even more. If this could happen in the short time interval of 2 years, one can easily imagine what a difference centuries would make in this regard.

The question that needs to be clarified is the more or less prick-type ear of different dogs, despite the fact that according to all data one may hypothesize the primitive dog with semihanging ears, as I endeavored to prove above.

We unquestionably see the prick ear only in one kind of dog, namely dogs of the Far North. In general, the prick ear demonstrates alertness and attention; any dog whose attention is roused pricks up its ears, from which we may conclude that the more often and constantly a dog must listen attentively, the more its ears must prick up; the extreme limit will permanently and completely be a prick ear.

In addition to hearing, we may note in the dog other abilities that serve to recognize terrain, such as scent and recognition of places already known to the dog.

In the Far North, where the terrain is all but impassable and utterly uniform, the severe cold hinders recognition by scent, one ability remains for a dog to orient itself – and that is hearing. This is why it seems to me that an entirely prick ear appeared in this breed; to what extent my hypothesis is correct I don’t know, but it seems to me that it is the only possible one in this case, and this phenomenon can hardly be explained in any other way.

In describing the appearance of the primitive dog and postulating for it a semihanging ear, I do not think that it was so characteristic as the ear of the hound, the sporting dog, and the eastern borzoi. The ear, like any other organ, is capable of change, and in the primitive breed it probably was more a hanging ear than a prick ear, and differed greatly from the ear of the modern eastern borzoi, which, as I stated above, so strongly passes on this feature to its offspring, in crossbreeds with other breeds of dogs that have a semiprick ear.

A fact that somewhat clouds the picture is the appearance of prick ears in some breeds of wild dogs in warm countries, such as the Dingo of New Zealand, but in this case the Dingo may not, I believe, be considered a domestic animal but only an animal that belongs to the “dog” genus on a par with the wild dog of the Cape of Good Hope and the dogs of the American plains.

The wolf, jackal, hyena, and fox all belong to the “dog” genus and all have prick ears.

Some modern breeds have the same prick ear, but in this case one must strictly apprehend the time of appearance of a known breed of dogs. There are breeds developed of late and there are breeds that undoubtedly date to deep antiquity which do not have prick ears.

Dog breeding has not reached a level of development and skill such that new breeds arise not of necessity or application to some practical purpose, but simply as a whim of idle fantasy, which creates in its own image a known type, often unsuitable for anything, and then from this type the dog breeder begins to work in a known direction and with forethought creates an animal conforming to the envisioned type.

I cannot look on the subject from this standpoint, and must first ask myself, which breeds of dog do I recognize as the oldest? The find by Mr. Bourguinia gives us the answer. In France, at a place called Clapier, 3 kilometers north of Saint Césaire, near Grasse, in an unknown cave that Bourguinia called “Grotte Camatte,” he found a complete collection of Canis. Out of the pile of bones, he was able to identify dogs of the following breeds:

  1. The badger hound (dachshund) Canis vertagus;
  2. The hound Canis gallicus;
  3. The sporting dog Canis avicularis;
  4. The sheepdog Canis domesticus;
  5. Two types of borzois, one of which was Canis graius and the other, a taller kind, for which he could not make a comparison (probably the large borzoi of Lake Ladoga, which was still unknown at that time).

Finally, he also gathered at the same place bones of the chien-loup (wolfhound), as it is called in France (Canis pomeranus); that these bones belonged to Canis pomeranus is doubtful. In addition to the breeds mentioned, he also found there numerous bones that belonged to various kinds of Great Danes (mastiffs).

One can see in what we have just said that the breeds of dogs in the final period of prehistory were not distinguished by their numbers, and that the breeds found by Bourguinia may be considered the oldest, if not on earth then at least in Europe. The following order emerges:

  1. The borzoi, mastiff, and sheepdog;
  2. The hound, dachshund, and sporting dog.

I have changed the order somewhat, because Bourguinia arranged them in the order in which the bones were found and not by the hierarchical seniority of the breeds.

Analyzing the ears of these breeds, we see that the borzoi, sheepdog, and mastiff, which I place in the first group, all have a semihanging ear, or at least an ear capable of pricking up sharply while listening, and that these breeds may be considered the oldest of the breeds of dog.

I would add one thought to my various notions about the origin of the different breeds of dog from the borzoi. In the improvement or modification of various traits of the hunting dog, the number and variety of animal chased by them play an enormous role; in this case practice has an enormous influence.

Primitive man lived in a constant war with the various large animals around him; this struggle was obviously a daily affair, developed hunting abilities in dogs, and at the same time strongly affected the alteration of the external forms of dogs and their hunting abilities and techniques in the chase of wild animals.

To judge by the present status of hunting dogs among native peoples, they must have belonged not to individuals but to whole villages. In this regard, the status of the hunting dog among the natives in Cambodia is quite characteristic. There, dogs do not have nicknames and in response to a traveler’s question of a native, “What is your dog’s name?,” he replied with surprise, “He’s called ‘dog’.” They all live in the human community, and accompany the first native on the hunt; it should be assumed that in the days of the primitive inhabitant of the land, in exactly the same way the dog was only an assistant and not a servant to the hunter. In recent times, hunting dogs in Sparta by law could not belong to individuals but belonged to a whole city or settlement, and everyone had the right to use them.

The Historical Period I

The first historical reports that we have date to Egyptian, Assyrian, and Persian monuments on which pictures of dogs used in those days for hunting were made fairly well.

In general one cannot say that hunting of fast-running animals was in full swing. Nearly all pictures of hunts show us big animals such as the lion, tiger, bear, wild ass, and so forth. We think we see on Egyptian statues pictures of a dog reminiscent of the borzoi, but a somehow strange borzoi: almost without loins, with enormous prick ears and an upright tail fully bent into a loop onto the back; the dog was smooth-haired.

To judge by the Assyrian and Persian monuments, one ought not to think that the borzois were in full swing there; all pictures of hunts show skirmishes with lions and in general with large animals, and the dogs involved in these skirmishes have nothing in common with borzois, but are reminiscent of crude coursing dogs, something like Great Danes or mastiffs; in antiquity these dogs were brought from India and called “Indian coursing dogs,” which Xenophon mentions in his writings about hunting.

According to the first written data, we see a mention of the dog as early as in the Bible [and] in the books Veda and Zend Avesta, where the dog is man’s companion and friend, a completely domesticated animal.

The first detailed report on hunting that has come down to us was written by Xenophon; he was the first to give us some integral view capable of giving us an understanding of hunting in ancient Greece. But once again he says nothing about hunting with borzois, and the borzoi dog apparently was unknown to ancient Greeks for a very long time, although all of Xenophon’s writings about hunting pertain to rabbit hunting. That hunting with borzois did not exist in those times is clearly visible from the following words of this ancient writer: “The dog rarely surpasses it [the hare] in leg speed, and if the hare is caught, this occurs by chance and not out of the design of its body, because of all animals having a size identical to it, none compares with it in running.” Before this, he says that a good dog on the trail of a hare should spin its tail, and having driven the hare from its lair, the dog should chase it with its bark; this directly indicates a hound and not a borzoi.

Describing deer hunting, Xenophon mentions Indian dogs, saying: “For deer Indian dogs are needed; these dogs are strong, tall, fast afoot, and not without fervor, and with these traits they are able to work”; but here too we are not dealing with borzois, for later, in describing the hunt, he says that these dogs are able to catch a doe but not an adult. Not much speed is needed to catch a suckling!

In boar hunting, [Xenophon] mentions Indian, Cretan, Lockrisian, and Laconian dogs, but here too there is nothing about borzois, since hunting using these animals was not practiced without nets, traps, and snares.

In general, one may note that in those days nets, snares, and traps played the primary role in the hunt, and dogs were used only to find the animal and, with the help of a person, they drove it into the nets.

Coursing dogs, with a borzoilike appearance, which were known in antiquity, were used only as being able to enter into battle with an animal when the animal, tired by the chase, was coming to a stop.

The best dogs were obtained from Epeirus and were called “molosses”; information on them that has come down to us is as follows: this dog was of enormous height, and in appearance was quite similar to the “allanes”3 used in tracking down wild boars in Western Europe in the Middle Ages. They had a prick ear and long feathering, chiefly on the shoulders and neck, in a sort of lion’s mane; it may be conjectured that this was a large sheepdog, since the portrait just described by me closely approaches our Russian sheepdog, which exists throughout southern Russia; in any event, this dog was a coursing dog and not a borzoi.

To what extent coursing with borzois was little practiced by and nearly unknown to the ancients is clear from the work of Ariane, who cautions modern hunters in their manner to take an animal by cunning, using nets and traps, and not by open force; he openly says that all these traps and nets only prove the unfitness of dogs and that, if one has good Gaulish borzois, one does not have to use either nets or snares, since no animal can escape their speed.

In the Roman Empire we see that hunters had dogs – Gaulish, German, and Scottish; they all were renowned for their speed and, to judge by the descriptions, were true borzois.

In all likelihood their type was quite similar to bearded Scottish deerhounds and Irish wolfhounds, but had nothing in common with our long-haired Russian borzoi. In general, under the Roman emperors the breeds of dogs were quite diverse, since the power and majesty of the empire allowed them to be brought from everywhere. All these breeds interbred, and one cannot say that the Romans had any breed that they developed and adapted for local hunting in Italy. To judge by all available data, the ancients did not have good hunting dogs.

In the late stages of the empire, hunting finally disappeared and was considered too tiring an activity for the effete patricians; it was replaced by simple chasing of various animals in the circus, and not hunting dogs but coursing dogs of various breeds were used. Here what was important was not their hunting traits but simple strength, height, and the ability to fight with large predators released into the arenas.

We find the first clear indication of borzois in a description of the hunt among the Gauls by the Roman writer Ariane; according to him, the Gauls conducted the hunt just as we do; an “island”4was surrounded with packs of borzois, which were unleashed on an animal chased by hounds.

Ariane calls these borzois “vertragi,” and praises their speed. According to him, these were very beautiful dogs, among which some were single-color and others skewbald; they later were called “veltres leparari,” or “harehounds.”

They evidently were used only to course hares, as writers of the day were noted for their accuracy, such as Ariane, do not mention the coursing of any animals other than hares.

More detailed information on the borzois of the Romans is not available, although one letter by the Roman prefect Simmach of 364 A.D. has come down to us. In it he thanks his brother Flavius for sending him some Scottish dogs (“canes scotici”), which he exhibited in coursing at the circus and which frightened the public with their size; but to what breed these dogs belonged and to what they were similar are unknown. One may only conjecture that they were Irish wolfhounds, which are known for their size.

The Germans, good hunters, had roughly the same borzois as the Gauls; we can assess their dogs on the basis of Frank laws that set fines for theft or killing of various dogs. A fine of about 1000 rubles in our money was paid for stealing or killing a borzoi; among the Burgundians, moreover, the thief had publicly to give the stolen dog a kiss under the tail.

Although this does not give us any idea of the appearance of the borzoi, it does prove how highly it was esteemed among these peoples.

Among the Franks we find properly organized packs of hounds, but hunting was fully developed only under Charlemagne, who, according to the ancient chronicles, had countless packs of dogs: hounds, borzois, and Great Danes for fighting bear, bison, and elk.

As far as we can judge by available data, all large borzois of Charlemagne belonged to the bearded group and came from Ireland. The chronicler Saint Gill, an old monk, writes the following of the strength and ferocity of these dogs: “In reciprocation to the ambassador of Baghdad from Arun-Alrashid, who brought to Aachen an elephant for the emperor, Charlemagne sent him borzois. Having learned from ambassadors that these indomitable animals enter into battle with any beast, the next day the caliph went hunting for lion, taking with him the Franks who had arrived with their dogs. The dogs fearlessly chased the lion and seized it so fiercely that the Franks had to come galloping up and take it with their swords.” Of course, I cannot vouch how accurate these reports are, but it should be assumed that the dogs probably were large and vicious. As we approach the Middle Ages, the varieties of borzois in the West becoming increasingly defined and clarified; at length, it is clear, we may note there were three kinds of borzois:

  1. A large bearded dog used in hunting wolves and big game in general;
  2. The smooth-haired borzoi, which is entirely similar to the modern one and which was used for hunting of hare; and
  3. The Italian greyhound, which was kept more by ladies and used in coursing rabbits.

In general, in the Middle Ages the dog is first in the life of the court of the day; only falcons could compete with them.

In all works on hunting of that period, the borzoi is mentioned as a house dog that was allowed to climb everywhere, even onto its master’s bed. In some poems one can see that ladies complained of their husbands’ borzois; upon their return from the hunt, dirty dogs crawled onto the furniture and beds, soiling both. Borzois were adorned with expensive collars made of gold and silver; special covers were sewn for them from the most costly materials embroidered in gold. Poets wrote verse in their honor, praising their speed and beauty.

Just how beloved dogs in general and borzois in particular were at that time can be seen from contemporaneous descriptions of the life of the noblemen of the day.

We know that Saint Louis ordered that his dogs be beaten to forewarn him thereby of his mother’s arrival when he was in the room of Queen Margarita. The king’s pack usually slept on his bed. This proves how close these animals were to their masters. Dogs were considered the very best gift.

Louis the Eleventh agreed to release from imprisonment the noble German knight Wolfgang von Payagein only if he could receive borzois of the Bossu breed, and Wolfgang long refused to pay this ransom, preferring to sit in captivity rather than to part with some of his borzois.

Not only men loved their borzois to this degree: ladies had their own hunts and their own beloved borzois who lived with them. For instance, the mother of Francisco the First always had her pack of eight borzois with her.

At the start of the 16th century the hunt in Western Europe took a different direction; big game such as the bison, bear, elk, and so forth vanished, and deer, the wild goat, the wild boar, the wolf, fox, and hare remained; hunting with borzois also is falling into decline and only stylized riding with hounds remains.

Moving from west to east, I shall remain silent about Russia for the time being, as I shall consider the Russian borzoi separately, and I shall turn directly to Asia, about which we have the reports of Marco Polo and reports in translations of the Chinese writings of the monk Ioakinea.

In 1286 the Venetian nobleman Marco Polo journeyed through Tataria and other countries of the East; the reports he made on dogs and hunting among eastern peoples are practically the only ones that we have, and they all relate to the court of the great Kubla Khan, who ruled nearly all of Asia and a large part of Russia at that time.

The reports communicated by Marco Polo contain one strange item, namely utterly complete silence about borzois; the description of the hunts of the great Khan mentions hounds, mastiffs, and bulldogs, even lions and lynxes used like borzois, but borzois proper are not mentioned, although one must not suppose that they did not exist in Khan’s hunt, which was famous for the splendor and abundance of game animals and fowl.

The reports of the monk Ioakinea mention, in the description of Chibin Province, that that country bred large dogs, and the following is reported later in the description of Chesha of the East: “Chinese tropps penetrated into western Turkestan, and then borzoi hounds, among other things, appeared at the court.”

As one can see, all these reports are direly inadequate, and one cannot decide directly to which breed the aforementioned dogs belonged.

One can only surmise that they all belonged to the eastern breed of the borzoi.

One should not think at all that te same kind of long-haired dog that have existed at some time in the east; everything indicates this: the vast steppe spaces, the wide development of the hunt with game fowl and cheetahs – all these factors indicate that hunting with borzois was conducted there in the same way as now, i.e., from horseback.

The breed of eastern borzois is extremely persistent, occurs throughout all of Asia, and in all likelihood has existed a very long time; one can say almost affirmatively that in ancient times it was similar to modern dogs.

The hunts of the eastern rulers were distinguished by their majesty and were for the most part directed toward big game, as we see from the descriptions by Marco Polo, which talk about hunts for bear, lion, wild donkeys, and so forth, but there is nothing about hunting for wolf, fox, and hare; if such game was pursued, it was with golden eagles and not borzois.

Today we do not see that among native peoples hunting with borzois is conducted other than from horseback or that borzois are kept in large quantity. Some peoples, such as the Turkmens, highly treasure their dogs but do not keep many of them. A Turkmen will travel 200 or 300 versts5 to mate his bitch with a famous male, but keep three or four dogs while of course strictly safeguarding their pure breeding. All these dogs are distinguished by their speed and small size, but they are not ferocious; in general, their purebred appearance is quite apparent to the eye.

Whence the eastern borzoi acquired the characteristic ear “under cloaks,” as they say, is hard to decide, but one may conjecture that it increased and hung because of lack of practice in hearing, and indeed: hearing is not especially well developed in all eastern borzois in comparison with vision, which is distinguished by sharp-sightedness and, so to speak, by the ability quickly to find game.

In Zapiski Okhotnika Vostochnoi Sibiri [Memoirs of a Hunter of Eastern Siberia], Mr. Cherksov talks about Mongolian dogs that have nothing in common, in terms of appearance, with the eastern borzoi but which possess great speed, ferocity, and strength; these dogs belong to northern China and our Southeastern Siberia; I shall not discuss it now, since it will fall under the special group of the Siberian dog.

African borzois, the “salukis,” differ from the eastern borzoi in their enormous height and semihanging ears. In paintings Goras Vernet gives us a superb idea of this breed; it is quite similar to the common thick-haired breed, but is distinguished by its ferocity and height.

This breed is very highly esteemed among the Arabs and is used for hunting gazelles, hare, and wild boar, which thoroughly proves both its speed and its ferocity, although the Arabs also hunt on horseback.

As I stated above, in all likelihood the “saluki” is not of East Asian origin but more likely of European origin, and entered Africa through Spain, during the Mauritanian dominion – an assertion also proven by the fact that the best of these dogs are bred in Morocco, and in general in countries to the west on the northern shore of Africa. These dogs are so valuable that in former times African sovereigns sent them only to the Spanish and French courts, as royal gifts and only in limited numbers.

We have no reports at all on coursing in other countries of the world, and in all likelihood it never existed there, since we know nothing of the borzois of America and Australia, which do not exist there, and probably never have existed. In general, Asia is the cradle of the borzoi, as it also is of all mankind.

The Historical Period II

The closer we come to the present, the more the role of the borzoi diminishes in the West, and stylized riding with hounds and rifle hunting with various breeds of sporting dogs begin to predominate. This becomes understandable if one takes into account population growth and the subdivision of land ownership.

I mentioned above borzoi breeds in the West. In the Middle Ages there were three breeds: the large bearded variety, the English wolfhound, and the greyhound. The large bearded variety is beginning to disappear more and more, and is used only in wolf hunting and only then with the aid of large coursing dogs grouped under the name “allanes,” which does not argue in support of the ferocity and speed of borzois, far inferior in qualities to our Russian long-haired borzoi.

Among all peoples at this time the first palm in hunting should be given of course to the French, with respect to both the quality and number of breeds of hunting dogs and with respect to their extraordinary training. Hunting literature has existed in France since time immemorial and is striking in its diversity. In it we find works in prose and verse; even kings did not balk at working with their dogs and wrote whole treatises about hunting.

From the 16th to the late 18th centuries, hunting in France stood at its highest level of perfection. Everyone engaged in hunting, from the king down to the lowest nobleman; even the clergy took part, and all participated not as mere amusement but as a serious matter.

On the basis of all the foregoing, I shall adopt France as the present model for the hunting world in the West. Everything done there also was done in the rest of Europe, but with the difference that in France everything pertaining to hunting and dogs was done better than in other countries.

Someone might say to me that I am too much taken by the French as hunters and that I am forgetting the English. To this I would reply: the English as hunters are incomparably inferior to the French; they are perhaps more skillful dog breeders, but in no way are they hunters; all breeds of English dogs are no more than French breeds modified, and most of them came to England with the Normans, once again from France. Some of them, such as the hounds, have been ruined rather than improved by the English, having lost the magnificent voices of their French forebears.

We are given a better picture of hunting in France in these three centuries by Baron Noarman in his work History of Hunting in France, where he writes: “The 16th century in France begins under the reign of a hunter king who is a big dog-lover; Louis XII writes in his own hand a biography of his dog ‘Riole,’ which served him, truth be told, for 30 years.

“Francis I had detailed knowledge of and remembered the traits of every dog in his pack, and personally called by name those with which he wished to go hunting. He built a magnificent kennel at Fontainebleau. He and his son, Henry II, personally engaged in breeding to improve the breed.”

The work on hunting by Charles IX proves to what extent he engaged in the upkeep and raising of dogs.

Henry III had about 2000 dogs.

Henry IV also personally observed his dogs, which can be seen from his extensive correspondence with various noblemen.

Louis XIII slept with his dogs.

Louis XIV, although he did not work with his dogs, nonetheless loved them very much and hunted constantly.

Louis XV personally kept a list of his dogs, and personally kept diaries during hunts, working on this much more than on affairs of state.

While kings spent this much time on and so enjoyed hunting and dogs, the nobility spent even more time on them, both out of their personal taste for hunting and out of imitation of the court.

The French hunting literature, which began in approximately 1394, continues to the present, and offers a broad, detailed picture of everything concerning hunting and various breeds of dogs and game fowl. One can see from these sources that all kinds of dog breeds from Europe, Asia, and Africa were brought to France. Beginning in the reign of Charlemagne we encounter in France Indian, Russian, Tatar, and other dogs.

All that could be had in this regard was had. For example, Saint Louis, on returning from his imprisonment, brought with himself a pack of eastern hounds closely similar to our Russian hounds of old. Charlemagne obtained dogs from Denmark, Russia, and what was then the Far East, from Caliph Alrashid, from Baghdad.

Analyzing the role played by the borzoi dog in the West during the Middle Ages, we will note readily that it never held the same place as among us in Russia; in the West it served more as an auxiliary animal in coursing with hounds, by the stylized method, especially the large bearded borzoi used in coursing of wolf and wild boar.

In describing medieval borzois, I shall allow myself to quote verbatim, in translation, all that Baron Noarman writes aout them in his book: “No single breed of dog was used in the Middle Ages for such diverse purposes as the borzoi.”

They were used to hunt all kinds of animals, from deer to rabbit, even in falcon hunting, when the falcons knowcked down large birds such as cranes, herons, or great bustards (Otis tarda), borzois were released to assist them. “The large borzois designated to fight wild boar, the wolf, and other large animals were called ‘pack borzois’ (‘levriers d’estric’), ‘lateral borzois’ (‘levriers de flane’), and ‘greeting borzois’ (‘levriers de fête’).

“The first of these were released to chase after the animal as soon as it emerged onto the edge area. Lateral borzois were released laterally and greeting borzois were released head-on. The largest and strongest always were chosen as greeting borzois. Heavy, mongrel house dogs were used more for hunting of wild boar.

“Large pack borzois were mostly long-haired, and were gray, black, or red in color. They were not considered to be so beautiful as the smooth-haired dogs, but they were more persistent and easily tolerated cold, wet weather.

“These dogs were supposed to have a head longer than wide, large eyes full of fire, a long neck – a sign of speed, a long shoulder, a wide peak, strong and muscular ribs, a straight pastern, a lean and wiry leg, a small paw, and hard nails.”

The best of the pack dogs were obtained from Brittany, Ireland, Scotland, and northern Europe.

The Irish wolfhound was considered the best and largest throughout all of Europe. Goldschmidt says that he saw many of these dogs, the largest of which was 4 feet tall (27 1/2 vershoks6) and was equal in height to a yearling calf.

The borzois of Sir Betam, which were not forbidden to enter the dining hall, extended their heads over the shoulders of those sitting at the table.

To judge by some skulls found in Ireland, the dogs to which these skulls belonged could have been from 36 to 40 English inches (about 21 vershoks) at the point of the shoulder. In Ireland, where wolves disappeared in the 18th century, these dogs were called “wolf-dogs.” They were covered with stiff feathering in small curls, mostly iron-gray in color. This marvelous breed, quite rare in the last century, has been lost entirely of late.

Scottish deerhounds were similar to the Irish ones, differing only in having a smaller height and weaker extremeties.

Hare hounds always were considered the noblest. They all were smooth-haired, short, and lighter in appearance. Their colors were various: there were black dogs, dark mottled dogs, and white dogs, but the white ones were preferred over all others.

Gas de la Bigne describes for us in a poem the short-haired hare hound:

A muzzle like that of a wolf,
Ribs of a lion, neck of a swan,
A falcon’s eye,
White in color,
Ears like those of a snake,
Lie on the head;
The shoulder of a wild goat,
The sides of a wild doe,
Nails of a deer, tail of a rat,
Hare’s haunches and a “cat’s paw.”

Gaston Feb, who only transposed into prose the poetry of Gas, adds that “a good borzoi should have a long head, somewhat thickish and similar to the head of a pike; good canines and good teeth that do not push past each other, i.e., that are not in an overshot bite; straight pasterns, unbent, as on a bull, and the space between thighs with a good clearance.

These elegant beasts were inseparable pets of the nobility and noble ladies of the Middle Ages. Adorned with magnificent collars and heraldic cloth, they slept with their masters on their beds and accompanied them in all their movements and on their journeys. The Berryan nobility, which consisted of a society of knights with the goal of mutual love and support, adopted as its emblem the image of a borzoi whose collar bore the inscription: “All as one” (“tous un!”). The dogs of Brittany, Picardie, and Champagne and dogs imported from England, Spain, Portugal, and the East were considered best for hare coursing.

Mainly in the 14th and 15th centuries Gaston Feb, The Hunting Books of Herzogs d’Orleans, and Philippe de Comin praise Brittany dogs, with which they hunted for hare in the same way as with “pack dogs.” Haubert’s work of 1599, Hare Hunting With Borzois, highly praises the borzois of Picardie and Champagne, which “glide like the wind.”

In the hunting books of Henry IV, hare hounds are shown to have been imported from Champagne, and since then they have constantly gone by this name in the royal hunts.

Selyankur says: “In France the best borzois come from Champagne and Picardie, provinces that abound in open fields where the hares are faster than elsewhere, and make it necessary to keep more purebred dogs of extraordinary speed and strength.”

English wolfhounds became famous in the 14th century. In the memoirs of Frewasar, the duke of Lancaster sent as a present to the king of Portugal six English wolfhounds “suitable for any game.” Louis XI received the same gift from Lord Hosting and Marshal Vielville from Lord Dudley in 1550.

Selyankur notes that the English surpass other hunters in the breeding and raising of wolfhounds and other dogs.

Spanish and Portugese borzois also were highly esteemed; there were two varieties of the latter: one variety, used for hunting on the plains, was considered the fastest in Europe; the other variety, for hunting in moutainous terrain, was distinguished by a shorter body and was sharper and faster on short runs.

Under Louis XII and Louis XIV, borzois became rare in France, so that they were purchased for royal hunts in Constantinople and other eastern countries.

A letter from the Marseille consul Pierre Bon to Charles IX mentions that the Algerian king had sent him horses, barbarian mares, lions, bears, and dark mottled borzois. These borzois probably were the famous “salukis,” which breed is held sacred by the Arabs and with which they hunt jackals, gazelles, and antelopes.

Selyankur says that the borzois also include greyhounds, which are used to course rabbits.

They were called greyhounds only in France and Italy, which is in all likelihood their homeland. In England they are called “Italian greyhounds.”

In southern France yet another variety of borzois was used in the recent era. It is believed that this variety came from interbreeding of borzois with hounds, and it is called the “charnegre borzoi,” but it is something midway between borzois and hounds and may not be considered a true borzoi.

From 1844 hunting with borzois was finally banned in France, and this variety of these noble animals disappeared almost entirely there.

Speaking of the borzois of Western Europe, I must not fail to mention some coursing dogs of that time, since they were quite similar to borzois in both appearance and function.

As I stated above, these dogs were called “alanes,” had a borzoilike appearance, and smooth hair but nearly the head of a bulldog, and were used for hunting bear, wild boar, and wolf; in the last case they were used together with borzois. The alanes were distinguished by their strength, height, and ferocity, so that they had to be kept constantly in muzzles except on the hunt. Their dirty-white hair color, small yellow eyes, and rosy nose do not force us to conjecture borzois, bu probably something quite close to modern bull terriers, except of enormous height – about 21 vershoks at the point of the shoulder.7

If we look closely at hunting with borzois in the West, we are struck by the minor role that there befell the borzoi compared with its role among us in Russia. In the West all attention is focused on hounds, and indeed the training of hounds reaches there the extreme required in strict stylized riding. Without such training, the hunter would almost always return with empty saddlebags.

But the long-haired dog, as it was practiced among us in Russia, did not exist in the West and could not even have existed with those types of borzois that the hunters there had.

Hare hunting with borzois was carried out on horseback with short-haired borzois not of the size that ours are. Foxes were not hunted at all; even hounds that hunted fox well were considered flawed and not to have fine scent.

I shall not undertake to describe the wolfdogs of that day, but I shall better describe a method of wolf coursing that gives a vivid idea of their speed and ferocity.

Howl-hunting8 and coursing of a whole family of wolves was not known. Young wolves usually were hunted with hounds, while adults first were surrounded by means of a “steamed dog” (“limier”), then the “island” was encircled either by a cordon or with nets, leaving only one place where the animal was directed toward the borzois.

When all was ready, the pack was unleashed on the animal’s trail, and the cordon began to cry, trying to direct the wolf toward the packs. There usually were four packs of three dogs each: as soon as the wolf bounded out of the “island,” one pack took up the chase; then one pack came from each of the two sides, and finally the fourth pack was released head-on. But it often was the case that even against 12 dogs the wolf escaped unharmed, as male dogs refused to take female wolves in heat; as a result, an effort was made to have several ferocious bitches in the packs. Many works on wolf hunting advise not to include in packs other than the first pack, the pack unleashed on the chase, borzois or the aforementioned allanes, or a crossbreed between them and borzois, in the belief that in this case the first pack has only to slow the animal a bit in order to give time to catch up to the coursing Great Danes, which were already making short work of the wolf better than the borzois.

It seems to me that the description of wolf hunting just given clearly proves the insubstantial character of the borzois of that time. They obviously possessed neither speed nor ferocity. Hunting a single wolf required so many preparations and entailed so many difficulties and costs. At least 12 borzois were needed to take a single animal; if they had had real borzois, they would not have needed anything like that many.

How far this hunt is from the dashing hunt that we have using real, fast, ferocious dogs, when the pack rushes forth on sight and the in-field borzoi handlers skillfully receive the full-grown wolf out from under one or two packs of borzois! What movement and what a rich take in comparison with Western hunters!

There is a whole throng of people and packs of dogs triumphally return home after tracking down a single wolf! Among us, in contrast, the hunt returns home having taken a whole pack, including full-grown wolves, yearlings, and newborn pups!

One need not keep either Great Danes or alanes; our dashing long-haired giants do it all, and so crack the hare in the chest that its paws just hop to and fro, and will take a full-grown wolf without a hitch, and even if the animal is larger, such as a bear or elk, they will show it no quarter!

What is surprising is this complete inability to “howl-hunt” wolves in the West, even though wolves were in great abundance there in the 16th and 17th centuries.

More than once the government had to take steps to eradicate them, because of the threat to the safety of not only livestock but humans as well.

Special governmental hunters called “capitaines lauvetiers” were established in France in the 17th and 18th centuries. They were given the duty of ridding the state of wolves by all possible methods; but despite this, wolf hunting in the form practiced then and now here in Russia is mentioned nowhere.

Where we should give full credit to Western hunters in general and to the French in particular is their surprising training of hounds.

Separate packs were kept for each animal; packs for hare did not chase any other animal, but only that for which they were kept.

An animal, once roused, was not abandoned by the dogs, even if exactly the same animals turned up right before their eyes. They only chased the first animal, and dogs who strayed from the trail, once adopted, were systematically culled from the packs and, their other good traits not withstanding, were not allowed to breed.

The Historical Period in Russia

Turning to the historical period of existence of the borzoi and of the hunt using the borzoi in Russia, I am struck by the extreme paucity of sources in this regard. The information that we have is so slim and so poor in content that it is almost impossible to extract anything clear and positive from it.

The long-haired dog obviously has never been considered a serious matter among us and has almost no literature devoted to it.

Our czars who were considered excellent hunters are all but unknown, unless one counts Vladimir Monomakh, Aleksei Mikhailovich, Peter the Second, and Elizabeth Petrovna.

Vladimir Monomakh also wrote a few words about hunting, which have come down to us in his will. Aleksei Mikhailovich, who left us his book Ulozheniya Sokol’nich’ya Puti [The Codes of Falconry], only deals with hunting with game fowl. It is with good reason that we have come up with a hunting saying: “A czar’s falcon hunt, a baron’s long-haired dog,” and that our czars and grand knights and grand dukes never engaged in falcon hunting.

It seems to me that in this case the religious beliefs of our forebears regarding the dog played a big part; the dog, the “stinking cur,” was always considered an unclean, outcast animal that boyars and princes did not admit to their chambers. Consequently, we have no special saints who are patrons of dogs and hunting, such as Saint Humbert in the West, and a dog that runs by chance into a church is considered to have desecrated it. Even now the common man has some prejudice against people who live with dogs at kennels, considering them to be unclean and to be profaned by their job.

Understandably, of late all these views on the dog have ben expressed even more sharply, especially with regard to such persons as our grand dukes and czars.

Consequently, in view of the almost complete illiteracy of our ancestors, the absence of written records of our hunting is not surprising either.

Wealthy boyars, although literate, considered it demeaning to themselves to write anything about dogs. Given our vast distances and their complete illiteracy, the common gentry hunted in their own domains, conducting this activity by tradition, and did not need any memoirs or works in this regard.

Thus, those few written data that we have pertain to the most recent period of the borzoi’s existence.

I am convinced that in many old noble families valuable documents concerning hunting with borzois will be found; but it should be said, unfortunately, that we have a more careless and indifferent attitude toward various family archives than anywhere else.

In this case, the correspondence of some two friends or relatives communicating to each other their hunting thoughts and innovations may be more interesting and valuable than entire modern works in regard to the forms that the long-haired borzoi should have.

But enough of this; let us try to penetrate the darkness that surrounds us on all sides as soon as we try to press into the past of Russian coursing.

Before turning to written sources, let us see to what ancient Russia was similar, and which animals lived there. From modern sources, we already see that a large part, or more accurately almost all, of European Russia was covered with impassable, dense forests.

What was there in more distant times?

Then there probably was almost no place free of forest, and Russia in no way differed from impassable Eastern Siberia.

In the historical period we still find the following in Russia: bison, elk, deer, urus, wild boar, bear, and wolverine.

There were many of these animals, and they were hunted everywhere; we do not know the exact truth, of course, but we can only hypothesize that hunting was conducted by roughly the same methods, excluding of course firearms, as today in Eastern Siberia, but with the difference that the abundance of animals was incomparably greater than in the best area of this part of Asia.

Did the inhabitants of the historical epoch have the borzoi? Probably so, and I suppose it was the same borzoilike form that was cited by the Aryans and whose remains have been described by Mr. Anuchin.

We would not err, of course, if we said that that borzoi was the direct relative of our long-haired borzoi. I shall go beyond that and say that even now we can see a similar type of this dog in the large, borzoilike dog of the Siberian natives, from which the long-haired borzoi must have formed.

One of our young travelers, N. L. Gondatti, was so kind as to give me a complete and detailed description of this breed of dog, which he had occasion to observe during his journey to the Samoyed people, in Northwestern Siberia, in 1885.

Apart from the usual reports to be found in any description, my personal acquaintance with Mr. Gondatti afforded me the opportunity to ask him several purely hunting questions, from the answers to which I came even more to the conclusion that the large working dog of Siberia is a relative of our long-haired borzoi.

Let us examine it from two sides; first I shall describe in detail its external appearance, and then the purely hunting features of the borzoi dog.

N.L. Gondatti describes it as follows: the dog is very large, and arshin9 or more at the point of shoulder, and is covered with thick feathering of various colors, gray-brown predominating. The color of the muzzle is always darker than the rest of the head; the feathering on the neck forms a collar and in general is in two forms over the entire body: thick and warm everywhere, forming a decorative feathering, lighter than the other color on the neck and sides, and the carraige on the tail, which the dog never bends into a circle but always holds up, except when it is in an excited state – then it slightly raises the tail and holds it almost horizontally.

The head is wedge-shaped and covered with short, smooth hair; the eyes are large, dark, and bulgy; the ears are small, semiprick, with bent ends. The body is short and massive, is reminiscent of the wolf, and has a belly; the chest is broad; there is a small peak; the neck is short and thick. The forelegs are perfectly straight and wideset; the hindlegs are not bow-shaped but short; the dog stands on its nails and claws when it walks across a hard surface.

These dogs possess some speed and have “bounce” for catching an animal. Their scent is little developed, and if they have to track an animal, they do so more by sight. Upon seeing the animal, they silently jump it with great ferocity and hold onto it firmly; they never bark while attacking, and indeed in general bark almost none at all; some are kept on a leash because of their ferocity. When they do occasionally bark, they do so with a short, broken bark, like that of the borzoi.

These dogs are used only in the forest terrain of Siberia, and are not found in the northern tundras. When this dog becomes unusable for hunting, it serves the natives as a draft animal. The same breed occurs throughout all of Siberia, both Western and Eastern.

Mr. Cherkasov, in his Zapiski Okhotnika Vostochnoi Sibiri, says nothing new and only leads us to believe that various dogs are found: some are suitable for one game animal, and others for some other animal; referring to a special variety of Siberian dog, he says: “In general, Siberian dogs are very spirited and strong, especially the current Mongolian breed, or as they say here, the ‘Mungal dog’ (here the ‘squeezers’ of China, but on the other side of the Arguni and Onona rivers they generally are called ‘munguls’). The dogs of the Mongolian breed are extremely tall, strong, and shaggy; they usually are black, and thus are reminiscent of Newfoundlands. Many of them will alone attack wolves and put them down without difficulty.”

It is a pity that Cherkasov is not a hound hunter; his words in his description of the dogs therefore are somewhat inconsistent; he says that the dogs are of different breeds, but does not give us a detailed description of these breeds. Speaking of the Mongolian dog, one may suspect that it is indeed a real native dog, and although he compares it to the Newfoundland, but at the same time he speaks of its ability to strangle a wolf, which must first be caught, and the Newfoundland cannot do that.

This means that the native dog must have speed, and good speed at that, to catch and strangle a wolf alone.

In describing hunting of various animals, Cherkasov mentions several times the speed of the native dogs. For instance, in a fox hunt he says: “If the place is clean and the fox is taken while eating, or better yet at the lair, Sobolka, my experienced, slight dog, will certainly kill it in short order, especially if the master hastens to cut off the fox’s path and hence does not allow it to evade the dog to the side.” Further describing the hunting of foxes with dogs, he mentions cases of which any dog hunter will speak: the same drives, the same deception of a young dog by the tail – the “pipe.” All this proves just one thing: that the dog described by Cherkasov is capable of catching as well as a borzoi.

Describing a rabbit hunt, he says: “In the Transbaikal area there is no rabbit hunting by dogs; of course, I wouldn’t call it a long-haired dog if, rarely, working dogs are thrown out after a hare and tear apart the poor thing as thoroughly as borzois would.” But is this really not coursing? Apart from the foregoing, according to the very same Mr. Cherkasov, all animals, whether it be wolf, fox, hare, elk, Manchurian deer, roebucks, common deer, or wild boar, can be caught easily by a working dog; but all these animals have good speed and it is nothing at all for a hound, a sporting dog, or a guard dog to catch them. Even a borzoi must have good legs to do anything.

Further evidence of the speed of the working dog is that all hunts are done on horseback and not on foot, which would be more convenient in dense forest, without any roads or footpaths.

Marco Polo mentions that same dogs on his journeys, in a description of the northern countries and the method of customary travel there: “They trained to pull these sleds,” he says, “special animals which are similar to dogs and which could even be given this name, although they are the size of an ass. They are very strong and have grown used to pulling sleds.”

Marco Polo obviously did not see these dogs, and heard exaggerated tales about them, of course, but the dogs of which he speaks undoubtedly were large and powerful.

Mr. Cherkasov also mentions a wild dog living on the Amur, but he does not give any information about what kind of dog it was; it would be extremely interesting to learn the details as to what kind of animal this was and whether it had anything in common with the native working dog.

It seems to me that something positive can be derived from the foregoing: that the Siberian working dog differs almost not a whit from the the hunting borzoi in external appearance or other purely hunting traits. It is much cruder than the borzoi, does not possess its elegance, but the essence, the foundation, is the same. If one takes account of the time and the dog’s ability to change in external forms, the kinship of the working Siberian dog and the long-haired borzoi becomes obvious.

Even the very character of the hunt, which is believed to have been identical in ancient Russia with hunting in Eastern, or totally forested, Siberia, does not allow us to admit other forms.

It is understandable that subsequently, when such animals as the bison, aurochs, and wild boar or the bear began to be encountered less often and hunting became something of a diversion rather than a profession or a means of existence, the shape and traits of dogs had to change. Lighter and faster dogs but dogs that were not heavy or massive and were suitable for hunting large game came into demand.

Having attentively read the hunting memoirs of Mr. Cherkasov, you experience the positive notion that among the native dogs there are faster ones and less fast ones. This alone speaks to the possibility that, through selection, a very fast dog can be created from a local working dog, especially since, in the words of N. L. Gondatti, this dog has “bounce” – this inestimable distinguishing trait inherent only in one breed of borzois on eart: the Russian long-haired borzoi. “Bounce,” I believe, must be developed precisely from coursing, or in general from the pursuit of game in forested terrain with clearings, primarily before open-field terrain. A dog, on entering an open space and seeing the game before it, instinctively rushed toward, trying to take it at precisely the moment when trees and brush could not interfere. Hence, “bounce” developed more and more as forests were cleared.

Even now we encounter in wooded terrain not continuous fields but clearings plowed up throughout the whole forest. In the primitive state of Russia, all fields probably were nothing but plowed clearings, and the huntsmen of that day could only hunt in these places by pursuing game through the forest, or by lying in wait for it when it appeared in open space.

Mr. Cherkasov mentions in his memoirs the scent of the working dog, while N. L. Gondatti says that its scent is little developed. For my part, I am inclined more to the view of Mr. Gondatti, on the following grounds: first, a dog pursuing big game does not need to possess great scent, and secondly, the method of taking the game does not require strong scent, since the game is quickly caught by the dog and is overcome not by fatigue but by speed.

Scent in itself intensifies or grows weaker through practice, and the presence of some scent in the working dog of Siberia does not break down my hypothesis of the origin of the working borzoi from it.

I have often had occasion to encounter borzois with scent who could seek out hares on a trail. Try giving the first borzoi that comes your way a strip of woods or a pasture, and in short order it will learn to track hares by scent. I recall that I had two borzois that, on their own, hunted constantly in the woods and a large forest as long as I did not lie in wait for them and did not block their way. One of them even chased a hare while barking, but at the same time the other one lay in wait to the side, trying to catch the game somewhere on a clearing or a road; then the one that was hunting appeared, and the friend amicably shared their take. It is understandable that working dogs must have some scent, otherwise they could not orient themselves in the woods, and, what is the main thing, could not recognize with what kind of game they would be dealing, but one cannot assume a scent equal to that of a hound.

It is a pity that all reports on working dogs of Siberia come down to us not from huntsmen, but rather from rifle hunters or simply from travelers who do not pay any attention to those aspects of the character of dogs that are of the most interest for comparing native breeds with borzois.

It would be interesting to verify, for instance, their speed and ferocity, and even changes in external forms, as the woods give way to more open terrain and steppes in Southern Siberia. There is no doubt that the forms and character of bounding of dogs should change, but for now this remains a surmise, no more.

In analyzing the hunting qualities of the Siberian dog, one must forgive its many sins from the standpoint of the huntsman.

The native is unable to have various dogs in hunting for various animals, and his dog must track all game and even fowl, from the bear to the woodgrouse of hazelgrouse. Only practice and nothing more can give it such abilities. That the natives make some selection in their dogs can be seen from the words of N. L. Gondatti, who directly states that only dogs unsuitable for hunting are used in harness; hence, dogs suitable and unsuitable for hunting are born in the same breed, and from this some selection is made during breeding.

In the writings of the same Mr. Cherkasov, we find reports that breeds are better and worse, that some hunters are renowned for their dogs for many versts around, and sell the pups from their bitches to other hunters for good money even before they are born, in the mother’s womb. How high the value of a good bitch runs we can see in one tale by Mr. Cherkasov, where he recalls two hunting brothers who wished to part company after their father’s death. Among other property, there was a famous bitch that the brothers valued at five hundred rubles and they began to cast lots to see who would get her. Five hundred rubles is a lot of money to a peasant who lives solely on his hunting.

If we look back a bit, we will be struck by the difference between our long-haired borzoi and the Western bearded borzoi. Why our long-haired borzoi has now made its way to the West, having incomparably better hunting abilities than the bearded borzoi, is utterly inexplicable. We see from all the foregoing how much the Western borzoi is decisively inferior in every regard to the Russian long-haired borzoi, but why the bearded borzoi did not have the same qualities as the long-haired borzoi I shall not try to explain, although in the remote past Germany and France probably were covered with the same kind of forests as Russia and Siberia.

Describing Gaulish borzois, Ariane, mentioned by “Xenophon the Younger,” extols their speed, saying: “The Gauls engage in hunting not out of profit but out of passion; they do not use nets, since the speed of their dogs suffices to catch game.” Then he talks of Gaulish borzois, likening them to the wind. These obviously were extremely fast dogs, but as to whether they were bearded borzois or some other variety we have no reports, since none of the Roman writers gives us a detailed description of the external appearance of this breed of borzois; we do not even know whether they were long-haired (shaggy) or smooth-haired.

The Historical Period in Russia II

Now let us turn to written documents on hunting with borzois and hounds in Russia; they are divided into two parts: the first part is reports by foreign writers, and the second includes reports and works on hunting by Russian and Polish writers.

The first written report that we have of hunting in Russia is the will of Vladimir Manonakh to his children. In it he advises them not to ignore hunting, but the will does not contain any mention not only of borzois but also of any dogs whatsoever. As we may note, Vladimir Manomakh focused more on such big game as the bison, elk, bear, and so forth, where borzoi dogs could not be used.

We learn from some recent writers that coursing gained some structure under the great Prince Vasilii IV, but on what basis this is said and which sources were used are not indicated.

Foreign writers on Russia do not delve into any details in any of their works, but say only that hunting was carried out with the aid of borzois, without describing in detail the appearance of these borzois.

For us, of course, there can be no doubt that borzois existed and were used for hunting, but it would be of interest to know what features these dogs had, and the foreign writers do not explain this point.

In old Polish hunting books of the 14th century we find just one statement, namely: it is stated in a description of wolf hunting that to course this animal one must not use short-haired Polish borzois, but “Slovenian dogs,” which are noted for their size and strength. The Poles probably abtained these dogs from Russia, with which there were permanent relations. This is all that one can draw from foreign sources.

We have the first detailed work on the long-haired dog in the book Code [Regul] of Coursing. This Book of Hunting Code of the 6th Day of August 1635. A Work of the Riga German the Stolnik10Krest’yanin (Christian) Al’gerdovish Son of Fonlessin, Delivered to Czar Aleksei Mikhailovich, Autocrat of All Russia.

This book, originally written in German and translated into Russian by Arkadii Stankevich, a Smolensk member of the Polish gentry, is an extremely valuable document for the history of coursing in Russia. We learn from it that at that time coursing and the breeds of borzois were fully defined and clear in the mind of contemporaneous hunters.

Although the book was quite brief, it is fairly clear that the long-haired borzois of that time were the same as now: there were good ones and bad ones; the description of conformation points reads: “I must show you a well-conformed dog, to be selected for the following points: first, a lean, longish head without a bend; the muzzle should be equal to the head in length; no overshot bite, bulgy eyes; the back sloping; forelegs straight, without pretension; the hindlegs the same, but a long, cresent-shaped tail; feathering long and hanging.” Later, going into detail, he says that if the dog has a rather small bend in the muzzle, this does not take away, as long as the eyes are bulgy, even with a thickish muzzle that does not, however, have an overshot bite. From this we see what importance hunters of the day attached to a dog’s eyes.

Then we read that apart from straightness the forelegs should have elbows turned outward; ribs below the elbows; nails short and thick on both fore- and hindlegs, so that they “tap like a boot”; the forelegs, like the hindlegs, lean; “I shall not describe the back, sloping or tentlike.”

In the male the ribs and thigh muscles should be thick, loose-hanging in the loin; lines fine and taut; the female has longish thigh muscles, strong kidneys, round and thick underleg areas, an acute occiput bent somewhat toward the bottom; in the male the occiput should be raised somewhat toward the top; a coarse beard11. The width of the rump is such that four fingers can be laid freely on it; the ribs are low and hanging but thick: “For all these points, the male should have a powerful chest that thrusts forward, while the female should be more powerful in the body. I say not only this because these dogs are fast, but I boldly state that is the aforementioned other dogs do not have these points, they can hardly be called fast dogs or hunters; from them one rarely gets fervid ones, or quick ones; this first point is described as to on what basis stately and dashing ones can be chosen.”

Looking into this description of the borzoi, one could say that it would be impossible to depict and describe better the truly remarkable, powerful conformation, whose distinguishing features are a lean head and muzzle, bulgy eyes, thick, dense ribs descending below the elbows, and straight, lean leag with strong thigh muscles.

The respected Pyotr Mikhailovich Machevarianov, in his Zapiski Psovago Okhotnikia Simbirskoi Gubernii [Memoirs of a Huntsman of Simbirsk Province], in a description of the Russian long-haired borzoi, strikingly said the same thing as the book in question, although the deceased, whom I knew personally, did not have it in hand.

Indeed, the dog just described must have been both fast and strong in a fight with a wolf.

In order to confirm my opinion of the existence of borzois in that distant time as poor as the ones we see now, I draw the reader’s attention to chapters 13, 14, 15, and 16 of the same Code of Coursing.

It is clear from these chapters that the same faults in the points of borzoi dogs were encountered both under Czar Aleksei Mikhailovich and now; some had legs gone askew, some with bent legs, and so forth.

As for management of the breed, at that time, as we learn from the same Code, the same sloppy hunters as now were around. This is clear from Chapter 21, which states in part: “If a hunter knows his own dogs, then he does not mix their breed with others; if yours are fast, you must know their bloodlines, the breeding; keep these, but if there are none of this kind, don’t be distressed; if hunters with no common sense see a fast dog somewhere, they will praise it no end; without even learning of what breed it is, they will begin to do their utmost in front of each other to sell their bitch or male, and later will boast among themselves that they acquired fast dogs; but how they will feed a dog of an unknown nature for a whole year [they don’t know] and nothing will come of this venture.” It is clear from this that at that time we Russian hunters suffered the same fault as now.

To what extent the dog breeds in Russia were pure before is hard to say, but in view of our proximity to the Tatars on the one hand and to Poland on the other, one may say almost with certainty that the hunters who were neighbors to these two nationalities of course bred their long-haired dogs with eastern and short-haired dogs. With distance into the interior of Russia, the long-haired dog was unquestionably more purebred, and there probably were places to which neither the eastern nor the short-haired borzoi penetrated; it seems to me that one cannot say that there were absolutely no interbreedings.

To judge by locale, these interbreedings were even born of necessity in some cases, especially with eastern borzois, since even then there were many hunters who traveled about in steppe localities where a long-haired dog was unsuitable.

Of late, specifically in the reign of Anna Ioannovna, we see vividly that interbreedings in borzoi dogs existed and were carried out with eastern and short-haired dogs.

We have come by the correspondence among Volynskii, Saltykov, and Naumov; these letters were printed in the Zhurnal Okhoty [Hunting Journal], published by Min in December 1859, under the title “Hunting Letters From the Last Century.”

These letters are interesting in many regards. For instance, they directly speak of the breeding of bearded dogs, as well as English and Polish smooth-haired dogs.

There is also mention of interbreedings in these letters. For instance, Saltykov asks Volynskii to send him a bearded bitch for mating with the short-haired male of the Polish ambassador Count Zawisz, and Volynskii then writes Saltykov about the bitch “Tatarka,” evidently a Crimean.

All these reports still do not mean that the breed of long-haired dogs was interbred at all; nor could it have been interbred in the central forest terrain, where without it coursing was inconceivable. How such hunting was accomplished at that time we can see from two sources: the aforementionedCode of Coursing, and the memoirs of Bolotov.

Chapter 3 of the Code clearly states that hunting was carried out in the woods. [The hunters] lined up with the dogs alongside a small detached forest and tried to drive the animal along roads or clearings, moving behind the hounds. In this kind of hunt, long-haired borzois were needed, of course.

Describing coursing in the forests of Pskov Province, Bolotov says that they hunted in a clearing in the woods where he had nearly hurt himself on a stump. Of course, at that time Russia was in many placed covered with solid forest, and it was impossible to hunt except on roads, in clearings, and in short strips of trees that connect larger forests. What was needed here was a quick long-haired borzoi with its lightning-like bound.

In general, in these sources we see that the long-haired dog predominated in kennels of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The Code, for instance, nowhere mentions any borzois other than the long-haired ones.

Short-haired, Crimean, and bearded dogs and, from them, purebreds can be seen at the start of the 19th century and the end of the 18th.

In addition to the aforementioned 18th-century sources there are two other books that specially interpret coursing: O Poryadochnom Soderzhanii Psovoi Okhoty Borzykh i Bonchikh Sobak 1765-go[Proper Maintenance of Coursing With Borzois and Hounds in 1765] and Psovaya Okhota 1775-go[Coursing in 1775], but they contain nothing special; and the Code is still both better and more valuable as material than these two works.

Then the hunting literature is silent until the late 1840s, when we encounter a number of hunting books, to wit: Kniga Dlya Okhotnikov do Zverinoi, Ptichei i Rynboi Lovli, Takzhe do Ruzheinoi Strel’by[A Book for Hunters of Wild Game, Game Fowl, and Game Fish, and also on Rifle Hunting] (Levshin, Moscow, 1910), Yeger’ Psovyi Okhotnik i Strelok [The Hunter, Huntsman, and Rifleman] (Moscow, 1838), Karmannaya Knizhka Russkago Barina Okhotnika [The Pocket Booklet of the Russian Gentleman Hunter] (Moscow, 1840), and Psovaya Okhota [Coursing] (N. Ruett, St. Petersburg, 1846). In all these works we already encounter a division of the borzois used in Russia: long-haired, short-haired, bearded, and purebred; hence, interbreedings were being carried out more and more widely. At this time especially many Polish short-haired dogs came into Russian hunting. Upon returning home, a great many officers who served in Poland brought with them Polish borzois, from which most of our purebred dogs descended.

Around this time officers also began to import eastern dogs from the Caucasus, as Reutt states directly in his Psovaya Okhota. The long-haired dog began to lose its pure breeding more and more. At this time whole hunts of mixed dogs appeared; these are mentioned by Machevarianov in theZhurnal Okhota, No. 3, March 1875, [and] in Zapiski Starago Okhotnika [Memoirs of an Old Hunter], p. 37, where he says: “I would remind old hunters of the borzoi dogs famous for their mettle, which descended from interbreeding of long-haired borzois with the highland12 borzois and which belongs to Ye. N. Timashev, Aye. Al. Stolypin, A. I. Krivkov, Gg. Zhikharev, and many others.”

In general, the 1840s and 1850s brought a great deal of outside blood into Russian hunts.

The Lesnoi Zhurnal i Zhurnal Konnozavodstva i Okhoty [Forest Journal and Journal of Horse Breeding and Hunting] commenced publication in 1841. Here is all that appeared in print over the entire time up until the publication of Min’s Zhurnal Okhoty in 1959, which did not last long. None of these sources other than Min’s Zhurnal Okhoty is of any particular interest, and none reports anything at all.

At the same time, Driyanskii’s Zapiski Melkotravchatago [Memoirs of a Flunky13] came into print – this book is just as remarkable for the details of its description of borzois as the Regul Psovoi Okhoty.

The Zapiski Melkotravchatago gives a detailed description of the long-haired dogs of Aleksei Nikolaevich Kareev, which are known to all; the dogs are known for both their speed and their ferocity. From this description we see once again that the purebred long-haired borzoi was preserved in the same form as described in the Code and that it did not change from 1635 to 1850. For clarity I shall give a description of some dogs of Kareev’s breed. Driyanskii, speaking of the male named “Karai,” says: “He was a bit breamlike, but with a steep peak and on true legs, a lean head; bulgy eyes; a fine muzzle.” That he described Karai as somewhat breamlike does not mean that Kareev’s dogs were in general breamlike, as he stipulates straightaway that Karai had not yet matured and was in his first autumn.

Later, though there is no description of the points of the dogs, from their feats one can judge their powerful constitution and their speed, since they were used to course full-grown wolves as a single pack and steppe hare in the Khonerskii steppes. A non-purebred and less-than-powerful dog would never do this, especially since the dogs in question were not distinguished by particularly great size.

At the point in the memoirs where young borzois are described, it is stated that eight-month-old pups were 30 vershoks in size, but from the age of 8 months a dog will not grow much.

One may say in general that the long-haired dogs of old were not distinguished by enormous size, for Volynskii, in one of his previously mentioned letters to Saltykov, speaks of a male owned by Count Zawisz and is surprised at its height – 19 vershoks. This size is truly large, but from the tone with which Volynskii writes we may assume that he was very surprised by this indeed.

This exact definition of height serves as a weighty argument and proves that our borzois of old were the same in regard to height as now, i.e., they were from an arshin to 17 or 17 1/2 vershoks at the point of the shoulder.

A new era for coursing sets in with the establishment of the “Imperial Hunting Society” and its journal. The most valuable contribution at this time was made by the Zapiski Psovago Okhotnika Simbirskoi Gubernii of P. M. Machevarianov.

In addition to the notes of Machevarianov in the Zhurnal Okhoty Imperatorskago Obshchestva[Hunting Journal of the Imperial Society], a host of articles appeared on the points of the thick-haired and long-haired borzois. All these articles may be divided into two categories: the first includes all descriptions of the dogs of old, long-haired dogs bred by old hunters or by young ones following the words of the oldtimers. These descriptions mostly date to the 1830s and 1840s.

The second category includes all articles of a political character by comparatively young hunters, and there is nothing to analyze in them, since they deal with modern borzois.

In the first category of articles it is noteworthy that in most cases the hunters of old, in describing the points of the long-haired dog, almost agree. Just two of them (Stupishin and Vysheslavtsev) deviate more than the others from the general trend.

All others disagree over such trifles that there is almost no difference; this proves the identical nature of the long-haired dog, with few exceptions, throughout the whole of Russia. This is understandable: any oldtimer knew only his own breed and the breeds of his immediate neighbors. The lack of means of communication, dog shows, and journals prevented them from becoming acquainted with more distant dogs; hence the difference, albeit small, in their statements.

One must not accept that long-haired dogs were similar to one another down to the smallest detail throughout the whole of Russia. Although in those times there were hutches for captured Russian hares in Moscow, distant hunters could not use them for comparison.

This one-sidedness is clearly evident in Machevarianov, a hunter quite remote from Moscow. He mentions dogs in his memoirs: those of Tregubov, Pleshcheev, Sushchev, but says nothing of those of Kareev, Khrapovitskii, Bereznikov, Pavlov, Nazimov, Dubenskii, and others of which he either had not heard at all or had heard vaguely.

In a description of the Russian long-haired dog in general, Machevarianov once again is in disagreement with the Code and with Driyanskii – a fact that is quite significant in determining the points of this breed.

In general, out of the sources I have mentioned, Regul Psovoi Okhoty, Zapiski Melkotravchatgo by Driyanskii, and Zapiski Psovago Okhotnika Simbirskoi Gubernii by P. M. Machevarianov can serve as the cornerstone for describing the points of the Russian long-haired dog.

From these three works we can form some idea of the long-haired borzoi, from 1635 to the first half of the 19th century. The appearance of this dog will be as follows: a height of about 17 vershoks for the male and 16 for the female; long, wavy feathering of various colors; lean head, with a muzzle equal to the head, fine and lean; eyes abulge, dark, with dark eyelashes; small ears, lying flush on the occiput and high-placed; broad back, with a peak in the male and in they body for the female; straight forelegs and hindlegs, with well-developed thigh muscles; thick ribs, dense, below the elbows; long tail in the shape of the crescent moon. That is roughly what all three of these books agree on. All in all, the dog was keen-sighted, powerful, and fast.

Here, it seems to me, I should mention the so-called thick-haired dog, but I hesitate to say anything about it, since we have no direct, historical statements regarding those points that it possessed according to its modern defenders. In this case, I shall refer once again to the Regul Psovoi Okhoty, in which there would be better grounds to search for some information, as the oldest monument of hunting. But the description of the borzoi dog contained therein is nowise similar to that which some modern huntsmen, with Stupishin and Vysheslavtsev at the fore, take as the thick-haired dog.

Nor does the Code contain even a hint of breamlike ribs reminiscnet of a crucian carp, a short pastern, and a hanging tail.

In contrast, it says of the ribs that they should be thick and the tail should be in the shape of the crescent moon, and says nothing about the pastern.

According to the concepts of modern defenders of the thickly long-haired dogs, when could this dog have existed if not in 1635?

All this somehow does not sit well, and would it not be fairer to consider this thick-haired dog to have belonged exclusively to Stupishin and Vysheslavtsev and not to most Russian hunters of old?

The Present Status of the Borzoi Abroad and Here in Russia

The long-haired dog as we understand it in Russia no longer exists anywhere other than here. In all other European countries it is even prohibited by law. It could not be otherwise; in Russia there is only free space, the vast oen spaces, the Slavic good humor, which does not forbid us to trample winter crops and skip through meadows.

Abroad, the dreadful division of real estate, household ownership rather than public ownership by the peasants, make this hunting impossible; even game is becoming a rarity there.

The inhabited localities of Russia, such as Poland and the Ostsee Provinces, come close to the Western states in terms of coursing, although coursing with borzois is not banned there, but there is a tax on the dogs of 15 rubles per head per year, which would come to a pretty penny if one takes into account the number of borzois that exist on complete hunts in Russia. In Poland some hunters still keep several borzois each, but only go afield on horseback, and then only near home, in their own fields, since there it would be inconceivable to make crossings of and to course on someone else’s land.

In the west there is no coursing, as I stated previously; if dogs are kept, they are kept as house dogs that serve only as decoration and whim.

The only place where borzois have a chance to run free is in England, but that is not hunting, only coursing of captured hares for betting and presentation of awards and prizes to the swiftest dogs. There a borzoi may be compared more to a racehorse than to an animal used for hunting. I repeat, there is only Russia where a huntsman can still amuse his spirit.

We may note that of late coursing has revived among us here in Russia in comparison with the 1860s and the early 1870s, when, following the emancipation of the peasantry, the hunts went down by the hundreds.

The emancipation of the peasantry created an enormous revolution in regard to coursing and to borzois. Prior to emancipation, it was the rare landowner who did not have hunting, and everyone kept borzois – if not the masters, then the people. After the emancipation of the peasantry, dogs remained only in the possession of true hunters, for whom it was harder to part with their beloved pets than it was for ordinary hunters.

Under serfdom, hunts were held more out of vanity and idleness than out of passion. Dog breeds were managed somehow, and in most cases the masters gave this activity to their hound-masters. It may be said positively that at that time, the more elegant and the larger the hunt, the worse the dogs. Of course, there also were good dogs, but they were the exception, and the overall level nonetheless remained poor. The barin (a member of the landowner gentry) chose the best of them for his pack, but the people went out with whatever came their way. Full attention in such hunts was paid to the uniform coloring of the horses and to the riders’ habits. At departure, such a hunt presented a pretty picture to the eyes indeed. Businesslike, seriou hunts were never distinguished by the quantity of the dogs but by their quality, and in the field, of course, they held sway over enormous purebred hunts.

Thus, what did the emancipation of the serfs bring our coursing – harm or good?

I believe it brought good: in that it forced us to view this activity more seriously and to engage in it more efficiently than we had done before. At the present time, most hunters engage in hunting out of passion, and not out of vanity and whim alone. One misfortune is that we can never agree to something positive in defining the points of a borzoi dog, and perhaps we never shall. Why is this so?

All the modern literature in this regard errs in one regard: the desire to push all existing dogs under one type, one breed. Any of us who has dogs would deflect the question, treating with an utter lack of tolerance the dogs of other hunters. From this derives a babel that is hard to imagine.

One fellow recognizes only the thick-haired dog of old, another the Machevarianov dogs, a third the Kareev dogs, a fourth recognizes none of them, considering a good dog to be only one that catches or ferociously takes a wolf, and so forth. Everyone refers to England and the English, setting them as examples for our hunters; the rating of dogs at dog shows has been set up to the English taste.

In the West certain types of borzois have existed since antiquity, of which only the short-haired borzoi, called the English wolfhound, now remains. Its type is so firmly set in the minds of hunters that we would not think of arguing over the points of dogs, and we would not even dream of disputing the length of a pastern or more or less barrel-shaped ribs. As early as in the 15th century the type of dog in the West was defined quite clearly and firmly; all this occurred solely as a result of the existence of hunting literature, which we did not have.

In order to free us of the existing confusion, I must renounce imitation of the English and set to work with my own mind. Don’t we have one, after all? And can we no longer get along without foreign teachers – we who have such a marvelous dog as our long-haired borzoi?

Our forebears knew how to maintain and keep this marvelous breed without the aid of the English point system and without manuals, but we cannot; we need teachers and manuals.

But why? It all comes from our lack of tolerance for each other, from our unconcern and carelessness; if three hunters get together, there will be three views of the points of a borzoi; each would praise his own dogs and censure the others.

Some of the veteran huntsmen have caused some harm to young hunters through their praise of the thick-haired dogs of old, and in general of dogs of the past, and through their faulting of modern hunts.

This praise often was inconsistent in character in descriptions of the points and qualities of dogs. In general, in many cases things took a turn such that it was as if, in times past, there existed no other dogs other than purebred, thick-haired giants, real beauties that one could come across at practically every step and in whatever quantity needed. Young hunters, hearing these stories, became convinced that in times past there were no poor dogs, without making the effort to reflect and understand that nothing of the kind could have existed.

Both before and now there were and are undoubtedly good and bad dogs, there were long-haired, short-haired, Crimean, and bearded dogs, and they all were interbred by the very same hunting veterans who cry about the pure-bloodedness and breeding of the borzois of old. I can confirm my opinion with written evidence from years past. Our dogs were the same as remained, and only after satisfying ourselves of this and by trying to improve breeding will we be able to place what we have on solid footing and properly conduct the business of Russian dog breeding without giving in to some ideals that did not exist. We have rich material, and it is nowise inferior to that which our forebears had. Where one senses a deficiency is in the abundance of hares, the proving ground of any borzoi.

Our oldtimers could have tested us better and improved the speed of their dogs through constant coursing.

Understandably, the more often a borzoi gallops, the more benefit there is for it, and our forebears coursed in the fall, in part of the winter, and in the spring. A dog had constant practice, and what practice! – throught the fall it could display its speed and strength when it could chase ar least 10 or 15 hares a day. When hunters set out, no one thought about whether there would be enough game for the dogs: there were as many hares as one could wish. No manuals and no hunts of captured game will improve speed if, apart from them, the dog does not have sufficient practice afield from generation to generation.

Intensified coursing of wolves, ignoring hares, has drawn modern dog breeders into an enormous mistake in the breeding of studs, and this mistake has of course resulted in a loss of the dogs’ speed in favor of their ferocity.

Some young hunters err mainly through their impatience in dog breeding. Maintaining a breed, which anyone would like to do, is hardly easy an undertaking as many imagine. One needs a great deal of patience, observation, experience, and mainly caution in this endeavor. The breeds that we know were bred and improved for decades. The breeders did their work carefully, sorting their dogs, and never dreamed of improving the breed in 3 or 4 years, but did their work unhurriedly. Many businesslike hunters did not take their dogs, especially males, on a long trip before the age of 2; nor were females put on the leash before reaching full development.

We now have a ferocity prize for males in their first autumn. In order for a year-old to course for wolf, he must first be broken in, i.e., he must go afield in the fall when, strictly speaking, this should not happen in a real, businesslike hunt.

Only by strictly observing dogs personally is it possible to breed something sensible. A female should not be put on a leash before its full maturity, before it displays its good field merits and before it has had more than three litters. The male should not be worked on the hunt in his first fall, so that it is always wise and happy and does not feel fatigued. Old and very young males should not be used to produce pups, but should be released for breeding after they are first well-tested in the field. Many pups should not be left under the bitch, but only that number which it can feed without harm to the pups.

Now I shall ask our dog breeders openly to tell me whether all the foregoing rules are observed on many hunts. These rules were not invented by me, but by our hunting authorities, who have demonstrated in fact what a dog breeder can accomplish if they are observed. If one observes all the above, it is impossible to do anything at all in a short time interval.

Recently our hunters raised the cry that the English had outgalloped our long-haired dogs; but who was at fault here? No one other than ourselves! One ought not to doubt that the breed of Russian long-haired dogs is faster in principle than English short-haired wolfhounds, not to mention Scottish deerhounds. But no one wants to draw attention to the fact that the breeding stock for our English borzois was conscripted from England and that these dogs, being shorter, grow up faster than our long-haired dogs. Moreover, the English do not chase ferocity to the detriment of speed, but the same cannot be said of us! I am firmly convinced that a purebred short-haired dog always will outgallop the English wolfhound and, if we conduct our business unhurriedly and without being fascinated with ferocity, our dogs always would outgallop and outcatch the English dogs. Our breeding ability has not yet been lost, but patience and still more patience are needed, and nothing can be done straightaway.

Our dog shows always have brought and continue to bring good to Russian dog breeding, but only to some extent. For hunters who have the opportunity to visit Moscow, it is of course pleasant and useful to get acquainted and talk, but for others little good comes of the shows. Society is not at fault here, of course, and one could hardly blame the vastness of our homeland.

Reading the pages of Russian hunting journals, one is struck by the attention with which our huntsmen treat everything related to dog shows, competitions, and various disputes over the points of the borzoi. One can see how much everyone wants to achieve something and to agree, but why then have people been writing for many years, arguing, without reaching any conclusion? Why is this? God alone knows. Many hunters want the Imperial Society to separate dog breeds for dog shows into thick-haired, long-haired, and purebred long-haired dogs, but I know not whether that division would lead to anything in dog breeding. Hardly!

From my hunting practice and frequent listening to various conversations and arguments, I have drawn the conclusion that our hunters say one thing but do something else in their hunts. That is, anyone manages a breed of dogs without holding to one of the types mentioned above, and does so however circumstances allow and however he likes. Of course, there are exceptions where the dog breeders holds to precisely what he propounds. But where are they not? Therefore, I think that dividing the breeds would hardly lead us anywhere.

Hunters must not be ordered to hold to various points in a borzoi dog, and anyone will continue to do what he always has done heretofore. There is time for everything. Previously, our fathers became fascinated with speed and some of them shrank dogs down to miniature size. We by contrast have become fascinated with ferocity and have bred giants with a death grip but we have damaged their speed. It is very hard indeed to combine these two traits in one, and it is impossible to say how long it will take to do so.

The organization of speed competitions and the fact that the English have outgalloped our long-haired dogs have sobered us, with respect to ferocity, and the very fact of the victory of the English will force our dog breeders to match ferocity to speed in future generations. This lesson will not pass us by without benefit.

I do not want to say thereby that a borzoi does not need ferocity, but in my view it is more pleasant to take a full-grown wolf from under six fast dogs than from under one dull one, no matter what its dashing ferocity, especially since the ferocity of borzois can be developed very quickly, at least more quickly than speed. The whole matter lies in constant practice and, what is the main thing, in the hunters – the dogs of a venturesome, bold borzoi keeper are more and more ferocious with each go.

Ultimately one still can say that coursing is flourishing here in Russia compared with what we had 20 years ago. Huntsmen, thanks to the “Imperial Society for Breeding of Hunting and Working Animals,” have ceased to skulk, to be ashamed, as it were, of their passion. They have understood that there are still a good many of them in Russia, and that they may openly and directly declare that they belong to the ranks of huntsmen, that all the previous reprimands of huntsmen as rowdies, drunks, and in general restless people have no place. I remember what joy and what festive people hunters encountered and met at the first dog shows in Moscow; everyone was saying: “Oh yes, there are still many of us and our line is still not entirely lost.”

Arguments over the points of dogs began at the very first shows. But despite these disputes and conversations, frankly speaking, which have no basis, the cause of coursing is moving increasingly to solid ground with every passing year. Of course, a great deal more time will be needed for us to come up with something general, sensible, and integral; but a start has been made, and thanks for that. Coursing has become one of our rights, and with each year the number of hunts increases.

Many young hunters have appeared who are passionately devoted to their avocation and who treat the subject seriously.

Although the economic situation of our landholders in recent years has prevented them from making big outlays on their passion, this situation is temporary, and when it passes the field will expand even more; the number of dogs bought serves as a good yardstick in this regard. About 7 or 8 years ago the trade in borzoi dogs was moving along quite smartly; this proves that there was a demand for the dogs, which incidentally exists even now, but it has decreased only because of the aforementioned economic difficulty. In general, the quality of our borzoi in its external forms has improved most recently, despite all the blunders in showing. This is easy to prove in that most dogs at dog shows are good dogs, despite the fact that nearly all of them sell; hence they are not in themselves the best exemplars, as those remain at home and hunters do not bring them to the dog shows.

I believe that it is an important sign of the improvement of dog breeding when the rejects of our hunts are so good that they receive awards and win over buyers.

Recently many new hunts with dogs have started up, and in nearly every province we can find two or three hunting businesses; of course, not all of them have flawless dogs, but what can you do? – you can’t achieve anything right out of the box. One must hope that the passion for this noble amusement will not die out among us, as long as Russia still has our vast fields and hares, foxes, and wolves bound across them.

One thing that we might yet wish for our young hunters is that they not become overly interested in anything foreign, that they strictly adhere to things Russian, and that they improve our marvelous breed of Russian borzois, like which there is no other on earth and never will be, only through rigorous breeding.

The passion for coursing isinnate in every Russian and is passed along in the blood from generation to generation. Ask any hunter and huntsmen will be found in his forebears without fail.

The present generation of comparatively young hunters, no matter what they may say, must convey constant profound gratitude to those veterans of coursing who, despite the general devastation after the destruction of serfdom, have preserved for us our fast and ferocious beauties.

Honor and glory to these hunters who, sitting in their corners, in different parts of Russia, have patiently weathered the storm and not parted with their beloved animals. The work of true hunters is only to continue and improve that which they have inherited from the oldtimers. It is now easier to do this since we have had hunting literature, dog shows, and railroads.


1 Translator’s note: The term “borzoi” as applied to non-Russian dogs, should be construed to mean a tall, lean dog with a long muzzle and tail. At most occurences of the word, the generic translation “borzoi” is used in this book, but in some passages the term “wolfhound” or “hound” is dictated by context.

2 Translator’s note: The Russian word “lyagavye” (“legavye” in modern Russian) is here translated as “sporting dogs.”

3 In the Russian text, two spellings are used for this breed: “allane” and “alane.” Since no available French reference gives either spelling, the translation mirrors the spelling in Russian.

4Translator’s note: An “island,” as used here, is an isolated small forest.

5Translator’s note: One verst is approximately 3500 feet, or 1.06 kilometers.

6Translator’s note: One vershok is about 1.75 inches, or 4.4 centimeters

7Translator’s note: The Russian phrase translated here as “at the point of the shoulder” is “v naklone,” which in modern Russian literally means “at the slope.” The translation used here is inferred from context.

8Translator’s note: “Howl-hunting” is a coined translation for a type of hunting in which one or more dogs give out a wolf-howl to attract wolves for the hunt.

9 Translator’s note: One arshin is approximately 28 inches or 71 centimeters.

10 Translator’s note: A “stolnik” was a courtier rank below “boyar” (baron).

11 Translator’s note: “Beard” is a speculative translation of the old Russian “voshchechek,” which does not appear in any available reference.

12 Translator’s note: “Highland” in this context specifically refers to the Caucasus Mountains.

13 Translator’s note: In this context, “flunky” may refer to the individual’s official position or may be a nickname.


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Arvid Andersen