“Azarte” The rage in a Borzoi, written by Artem K. Boldareff


A. K. Boldareff (right) outside the Woronzowa estate

Anyone who breeds dogs, not just for exhibition purposes, should familiarize themselves with the dog’s psychology. It is assumed that our breed can be referred to the category of dogs that are born, fighters, by nature angry and that they enjoy hurting their enemy. On the other hand, anyone who has had anything to do with Borzoi knows how lovable and charming they can be. Seen in their home environment, it is difficult to imagine them ready for attack and bloodthirsty hunting

If this article were written in Russian, it would be very easy to explain these contrasts in a single word, by saying that Borzoin during the hunt is driven by”Azarte”. Now I write in French and that language has no equivalent to this word. If you look in the dictionary, Azarte is translated as crazy or mad. It is a translation that one cannot be satisfied with. Rage or fierce anger fits better, but still doesn’t give the desired nuance, so I am forced to use the Russian word and  clear its contents.

When an individual is possessed by a passion, so strong that he forgets everything else and acts as if in a trance, we say in Russian that he has entered Azarte. The same applies to the Borzoi who catches a wolf and holds him in a “death grip”, thanks to his hunting passion. I doubt that dogs of other breeds can achieve the same degree of Azarte as the Borzoi. As for the races that are born fighters, they are driven less by Azarte than by innate rage, and they do not exclude a certain amount of calculation in their attack. It is up to the hunter to judge which Borzoi can perform the “death grip” and whether it can achieve the Azarte stage. This question  is by no means of purely academic interest, which the reader will soon understand.

If you observe the dogs, when they attack the wolf, you can explain their psychology. An example is often better than an explanation, however long and detailed it may be. Here I intend to tell you about two dogs that were part of my hunt, Lebede-Zlobny and Blistai. At the time I started, I owned Borzoi, which hunted wolves very well, but none of them could win any hunting competitions for me. Since this was my goal, I turned to Count Adlerberg who recommended me one of his dogs, which he himself had no use for due to its pedigree. This was Lebede, a dog, though small, full of substance. Lebede certainly had showed his appreciation for wolf, so I was very happy with my new acquisition. Although he had two major faults, he was ugly and slow. So ugly that I myself would not keep him at the hunt, but left it to one of my grooms, but kept him close to me, so that I could control him, when it was needed. At the first wolf hunt Lebede did brilliantly and won first prize for me. He attacked the wolf in an excellent manner. Spotting his prey, he galloped side by side for a few minutes, before he decided it was the right moment for an attack. He took a sudden leap and grabbed the wolf by the ear, but on the opposite side, which was a brilliant maneuver. All resistance from the wolf disappeared in an instant, a throw and a it was on its back with its head pressed to the ground, where Lebede held on in a “death grip”. Lebede loved to hunt wolves and did so in a very wise way, even until one day he behaved in a way that was as irrefutable as it was unexpected. On this particular day, I was out with purpose to train some young dogs, and Lebede was intended as reinforcement for them, in case the borzoi would not succeed in overcoming the wolf.

During the way to the place where he was to be posted, he suddenly started running around in circles, in the middle of the open field. The place was just empty, the wolf had not yet been driven out, but Lebede who believed that the wolf would turn out to be very lively and tore off the ring in his necklace. Now,when he was free he ran to the far side end of the field and began baring his teeth at an imaginary wolf. That would come later, a day when this admirable dog would  shrouded in shame. On one occasion, when a wolf was driven up, Lebede performed his usual league maneuver, but this time he didn’t have a chance. It was a hunt, late in the fall, and the rain that fell the night before had frozen into ice. When Lebede took his grip  by the ear, he slipped and fell and dropped its grip. When he came up, I was dumbfounded to see that he no longer attacked the wolf, but instead happily followed him with head and ears erect. The judge gave the signal to release dogs to reinforcement and as soon as the first of them came forward and threw himself upon the wolf, Lebede waited there and seized him by the ear and it was only with great difficulty that the hunter could loosen his hold.

Naturally, I won no prize that day, and what’s worse, I had lost my illusions about Lebede. It was clear that there was too much calculation in the nature of this devoted dog.

Several years later I owned a dog, called Blistai. Nor was he big (16 vershoks, ~70 cm). He looked pitiful, thin and without muscle and with some serious defects in function. The day I saw him attack a wolf, I was still prepared to forgive him all his faults. Just like Lebede, he possessed the “death grip” and when he caught up with the wolf, he stabbed it in the neck and refused to let go of his grip. This ill-built dog, useless in hunting hares, often passed the wolf, when he pursued it. The sight of wolf gave him a speed he normally did not possess.

The above example of dogs shows a distincintion in devotion, Lebede, hunter, and at the same time calculating villager nature and Blistais powered solely by Azarte, the greyhound character. Dogs of this breed are not merely “huntingdogs” but “hounds -coursinghounds”, he chases the wolf and in the process he is caught by Azarte, causing him to ignore the danger in the form of the wolf’s jaws.

Advice to breeders, Blistai, the small, ill-built dog with no muscles produced the fastest offspring I have ever seen and what’s more, judged by hunts, the fastest line in all of Russia. Also dogs of good size, sons 18 vershoks/79 cm, daughters 16-16 3/4 vershoks/70-74 cm.

Artem K. Boldareff

This article might be a bit out of date today, but it still gives a background to the nature and mind of our breed, it wasn’t ages ago that “Azarte” was one of the most valued traits

The article is illustrated with paintings of George Konstantinovitch von Meyer, Efim Tikhmenev &  Aleksey Kivshenko

There are also  three different links added to the name Artem Boldareff, giving more information.

 /Dan Persson


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Dan Persson