The Perchino Hunt



Danielle Laurent-Faure has supplied this excellent article.

Opposite: somewhat caricatural portrait of the Grand Duke Nicolas Nicolaïevich. The caption in Russian is as follows:
“His Imperial Highness the Grand Prince Nicolas Nicolaïevich, on one of his hunting horses at Perchino, during a wolf test (sadki) to test the borzois in the capture of the beast. May 1914.”

In 1887, the Grand Duke Nicolas Nicolaievitch acquired the property of Perchino located west of the city of Tula, about 200 km from Moscow. Perchino was at that time a dilapidated stately home which the Grand Duke of course endeavored to have restored and embellished, to make it worthy of becoming the hunting meeting place befitting his rank.

The kennels are built for Borzois intended for hunting, at the same time as the property is rehabilitated, and the grounds, previously dispersed, repurchased. The Grand Duke transferred his hunting there, which he had previously begun to reconstitute in the autumn of 1887. Constituted at the beginning of around 60 borzois, this hunt would later reach 125 to 130 adult borzois.

View of the Perchino palace with the circular track used for the presentation of all the dogs by svora.


The Perchino property, in addition to being a luxurious hunting lodge worthy of the social rank of its illustrious owner, is a cattle farm. Not only dogs are raised there, but also horses, cattle, pigs and poultry of various kinds.




The herd of Swiss cows, nurseries of the puppies

Let us return to the goal pursued by the Grand Duke: “In order to establish his hunt (which took place towards the end of the 1880s), his Imperial Highness applied himself to searching in all the renowned kennels of the time for dogs which seemed to him to unite the qualities necessary to serve for the “regeneration” of the old type of borzoi. It was indeed a question of “regeneration” because for many years the old type of borzoi had been so completely lost that, to get an exact idea of it, the Grand Duke had to resort to the stories and descriptions made by our veterans of borzoi hunting, who, in their youth, had known these dogs and hunted with them“. (General Appearance in the Borzoi – Artem Boldareff, May 1911).

In 1889, the Society for Improving the Field Qualities of Hunting Dogs was founded in St. Petersburg under the chairmanship of the Grand Duke. The society organizes speed and aggressiveness tests for all Borzois. The Grand Duke supports this activity and participates in these events with his Borzois. Just as he will participate in hunting dog shows in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, or abroad (for example in Cruft – London in 1892, Paris in 1895).

In “Hunting and Fishing” we can read this anecdote: 1912 – organized by the Moscow Hunting Society, 13th international dog show in Moscow, 83 borzois including subjects from the Perchino breeding… “The Grand Duke’s borzois, placed on special benches, festooned in the colors of His Imperial Highness, with the servants in uniform, formed another “highlight” (note: from the show), attracting crowds of visitors. From what I learn, Perchino would not have sent his very first subjects whose existence is too precious to expose them to the always possible risks of a dog show“. (Report H. Sodenkamp, December 1912).

In Perchino, the adult borzois (without taking into account the kennels dedicated to mothers and puppies) are divided into 9 kennels and the dogs are gathered there according to their coat. The colors range from dark brindle to white (there were rarely black borzois in Perchino).

House of the hunting administrator and yard for the dogs of the “personal” svora. In the foreground the borzoi females, in the background the borzoi males.

“The dogs making up the hunters’ leashes are divided into eight groups, each housed in a separate kennel. Two hunters and a kennel boy, attendants in the care of the group’s dogs, lived in a dwelling adjoining the kennel; thus, they have their pupils constantly under their eyes, a precaution which is not superfluous, given the pugnacious nature of certain individuals. All these kennels are in direct communication with a large grassy courtyard surrounded by a wire fence, where the different groups are introduced in turn and can take their antics under the watchful eye of the staff for two hours in a row, this daily.
Dogs are classified into groups according to the color of their hair. So there is a group made up of gray dogs, another of brown dogs, a third of white dogs with yellow spots, and so on.
Some distance from the eight kennels of which I have spoken is the one where the borzois of His Imperial Highness’ private leash are kept. It is divided into two parts, one for dogs, the other for bitches. The leash is made up of nearly 30 individuals, chosen personally by the Grand Duke from among the best examples of hunting; thus they present, so to speak, its quintessence.
These dogs come from almost all groups, all coats are more or less represented. However, there are always at least three of them with similar coats, which allows his Highness to keep dogs of the same color on a leash, at the time of the hunt, supreme elegance of the borzois hunter, but to which, alas! very few modern hunters can aspire.
Apart from Borzois, the Grand Duke owns a few branded examples of English Greyhounds, which he likes to compete in hare races. He also takes them on the hunt, loving to compare the speed of his borzois with theirs. Moreover, we do not raise any at Perchino, His Highness contenting himself with bringing some from England if necessary”. (Historical overview of borzois hunting – Artem Boldareff, April 1912)

Every year in the autumn during his stay in Perchino, the Grand Duke draws up the list of projections to be carried out, always using breeders who have proven themselves in hunting.

Dogs are carefully groomed and kept in condition depending on the time of year. They also went out hunting alternately. The Grand Duke wants to own a personal hunt made up of beautiful, fast and aggressive Borzois.

Gathering for the hunt

Naturally, the subjects which do not give sufficient satisfaction or are no longer useful are available for sale. Borzois of various qualities can be obtained at Perchino (it’s all a question of price) and a breeding brochure is provided on request.

“Perchino receives every year a considerable influx of Borzois enthusiasts who come to attend the public sales (note = auction) of the month of May-June as well as the preliminary public races of Borzois We are therefore far from sales exclusively granted for reasons of courtesy or special favor. It is only natural that a large farm like that of Perchino sells what it does not want to keep. This is done in all breedings, even when they belong to crowned heads like the late Queen Victoria, King Edward VII or S.A.I. the Grand Duke Nicholas“. (H. Sodemkamp, January 1904).

Letter with the header: “Perchino land and hunting department of his Imperial Highness Grand Duke Nicolas Nicolaïevich” addressed to a Mr. Cassius (France). Mail typed in Russian and handwritten in French

Sample proposal…

Letter on the header: “Perchino land and hunting department of his Imperial Highness Grand Duke Nicolas Nicolaïevich” addressed to a Mr. Cassius (France).
Mail typed in Russian and handwritten in French.

In response to your letter I have the honor to inform you that if you wish to have photos of the dogs (borzoy) these will cost you frs 1000 / thousand francs. As you have a serious intention of buying a dog, it will be much better for you to come personally to choose one to your liking. Such a dog that you wish to buy will cost you from 5,000 to 10,000 francs.
Accept, Sir, the assurance of my devotion.
The property manager.


Moment of relaxation: General Dimitri Waltzoff, in front of his easel. Next to him the Grand Duke Nicholas Nicolaevich (the 3rd person slightly behind is unknown) (Dmitry Shehavtsov collection)

The reputation of Perchino breeding, perfectly deserved, is due to the know-how and science of breeding of the Grand Duke Nicolas Nicolaïevich, qualities recognized and respected by all. He has this essential “intuition” which allows him to guess a good breeder in a dog that any other might consider mediocre. He also knows how to surround himself with competent men, such as his kennel director, General Dimitri Waltzoff, a breeder himself and a judge appreciated by Borzois. Note that, unlike other breeders, the Grand Duke did not seek to create his own family, there was no real “Perchino” type. He was rather a collector, and thanks to judicious choices, he was able to bring together the best dogs from the best bloodlines.

“The Borzois of Perchino, descendants of ancestors with different types, naturally presented not a single type, but several, inheriting their appearance sometimes from one ancestral line, sometimes from another; and that was not to displease their breeder. Contrary to the majority of Russian hunters who wanted above all to form a team of Borzois created from the same mold, the Grand Duke Nicolas Nicolaievitch appreciated all the good types (really good) and kept them in his breeding, not applying only to improve them“. (The greyhound column – Artem Boldareff, February 1923).

Example of the use of different “old bloods”. Pedigree of Rasbros Perchino born on 18.05.1903, first imported into France by Mrs. Deluce and then sold in Germany to Mrs. Sievert (D.W.Z. N° 153)

Perchino’s fame quickly spread beyond the borders of Russia. Some breeders or canine personalities of the time want to see Perchino. Thus, the Thomas brothers (“O’Valley Farm”) made the trip from the USA in 1903 then 1904 and 1911, Dr Arthur Wegener (“Ural”), from Germany, in 1906 then 1913, M. G. Van Muylem (“de Ziezeghem”) from Belgium in 1907, and Mr. Alexandre Pellisson from France, twice in 1913.

All return enthusiastic about what they have been able to see and will write stories about it which will be published in the gazettes or in the form of a book (except Mr. Van Muylem).

From the end of the 1800s, “Perchino” or from the Perchino kennel were imported into many countries.

Some imports will be major because of their later influence (Bistri Perchino – 1903 by the Thomas brothers; Asmodey Perchino and Ptitschka Perchino – 1913 by Dr. Wegener).

But we can also note, citing only subjects produced at Perchino:
– in Germany: Iran Perchino (imported in 1913) by Dr. Wegener.
– in Austria: Udaletz Perchino and Tscharodeika Perchino.
– in Belgium: Poulka Perchino; Ugar Perchino (imported in 1907) by M. Van Muylem.
– in France: Stchegol Perchino (born in 1898) by Mr. Charles Cuvelier; Rasbros Perchino by Mme Deluce, Lihodey Perchino and Bataiy Perchino imported in 1913 by M. Pellisson; Karai X Perchino (born in 1910) and Yabeda II Perchino (born in 1913), imported in 1914 by Mme la Comtesse Greffulhe; Tsharounia Perchino by Mr. Paul Roy, Zennaïa II Perchino by Mr. Henry Teissonnière.
– in Romania: Matas Perchino (born in 1912) and Astra Perchino (born in 1913), imported in June 1914.
– in Serbia: Hvat Perchino (born in 1910), Vichr Perchino (born in 1911), Razluka Perchino (born in 1913), imported in 1914.
– in the USA: Nenagladny Perchino, Nayada Perchino and Schalost Perchino (imported in 1904), Zyclon Perchino and Yarki Perchino (imported in 1911), again by the Thomas brothers.

A few Borzois at Perchino… Left photo: black brindle female dog, born in Perchino in 1909 Middle photo: Blestka born in 1909, type of dog appreciated by the Grand Duke Right photo: Korotaï and Armavir 1st (born in 1900)

But, in 1913, this page in the history of the Borzoi was, after 26 years, about to close… 1914, the beginning of the First World War… The Grand Duke was appointed Generalissimo of the Army and of the sea of Russia on August 2, 1914… Relieved of his functions on August 24, 1915, he took the direction of the army of the Caucasus… Then he took refuge with his close relations in his property of Crimea in March 1917 (in Tchaer in the surroundings of Yalta) and finally the final departure for exile in March 1919… There is no documentation found on this period, but it can be assumed that the Grand Duke, in this crucial period of Russian history, hardly had the time to continue to indulge his passion for hunting and borzois, and to supervise the management of Perchino. However, it is certain that Perchino continued to exist until 1917 .

Let Andrus Koslov speak: “The Perchino hunt existed until about the end of 1917. The Perchino archives specify, on March 13, 1917: 175 greyhounds (95 adult borzois, 80 puppies and 5 greyhounds) to which are added hounds (harriers, with puppies), for a total of 282 dogs. However, in 1917, the ability to feed the dogs became difficult. Moreover, they could no longer be used for hunting and were rarely trained.
In the course of 1917, all the dogs were sold or given away. On October 26, the Perchino hunt was officially declared liquidated by the decree “On the lands”. On December 5, the hunt had only one borzoi. In the 1920s, the Perchino property hosted the state stables.
However, the palace, with the hunting trophies, as well as the furniture, crockery, paintings illustrating the hunting scenes have been preserved. In 1919, the palace became the “Museum of hunting and the life of hunters”.
In 1926, the museum was closed, the objects in it were transferred to the Museum of Art and History of the city of Tula. Then the building was gradually abandoned. Subsequently, the authorities ordered it to be dismantled in order to recover the bricks, and the irrecoverable pieces of walls were thrown into the river. Today, only the foundations remain of Perchino…”

Perchino, the name of Grand Duke Nicolas Nicolaïevich Romanoff, have remained linked to the history of the Borzoi, to its prestigious aura… And the Borzois of Perchino are still present in most of the distant ancestors of a large part of the current Borzois.


Appendix I – composition of the Perchino pack at its peak:
– 100 hounds
– 130 borzois in condition to hunt
– 15 Greyhounds
– 20 more borzois in condition to hunt
– 100 puppies per year (60 borzoi puppies and 40 running puppies, to permanently maintain the hunting livestock)
In all 365 dogs.
To which must be added: 87 horsepower (saddle and carriage); 78 employees (to operate the whole to varying degrees).

Annex II – Small clarification:
In Perchino, many dogs bore the same name. So, regarding major imports (see above), Zyclon Perchino was actually Zyclon II Perchino, Iran was Iran III, Asmodey was Asmodey II. And Ptischka, Ptitschka I.

Author: Danielle Laurent-Faure

– magazines “Hunting and Fishing”
– “The Hunt of Perchino” (1887-1912) by Dimitri Waltzoff
– Notes and remarks Andrus Koslov
– Brochure on the Tula City Archives (Polozov and Nemov, 2010). CommunicationsAndrus Koslov



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