Vitaliano Cattabiani Ferrari


A very informative article from Borzoi History

Thanks to Fausto Cavalieri who took the time to translate the article he had posted after some people asked if he would:
“Woe be you if you try to ask him to sell them!”This is the declaration of love of an elderly gentleman who has bred for decades, out of pure passion (and absolutely not to make money) the descendants of the extremely elegant sighthounds of the Tsars and the Russian nobility.
Today he has 17 adult animals and 8 puppies that live with him in a large country house.
He was still a student when he was flipping through an old illustrated book in the library, and he lost his head for this breed. Despite its rarity, he succeeded in procuring the first dog in 1957.
Fortunately, that first female, very high quality, intelligent and perfect, transmitted her qualities to the whole lineage. In the competitions the dogs regularly beat the other participants, with great happiness and pride for the owner.
To think that his great passion was born by chance, when he was studying in Parma at the Ducal Boarding School of Maria Luigia. Vitaliano Cattabiani Ferrari, a distinguished and mature gentleman who prefers not to reveal his age, tells us: “I was then a rather turbulent boy and often, to punish me, they forbade me to participate in afternoon recreation, but instead of staying closed in my room, I had managed to spend those hours alone in the library, among ancient and precious books. One day a French volume, full of photographs and drawings, came into my hands: it was about Borzois and their history. It was love at first sight, I fell in love with these splendid hounds and I still go crazy for them.”
We are in a vast residence with a garden on the hills overlooking Rimini. Mr. Cattabiani Ferrari does not want to talk about his family and the profession he has held for many years. He asks to be called simply a “Borzoi breeder,” the title in which he most recognizes himself. Currently, he lives with 17 adult hounds and eight puppies, not counting a good number of Yorkshire terriers and an infinite number of ducks, chickens, geese and angora bunnies.
“I like all the animals” he explains, smiling “but for the sighthounds I have a weakness. Back to the past, my interest in Borzoi, given the rarity of the breed, has long been confined to books and study. I learned that until the beginning of the 1900s, they were the typical dogs of Russian nobles, who used them to defend themselves against wolf attacks when they had to cross wild areas in a carriage. They were also used, because of their courage, for hunting. The Duchess Maria Luigia of Parma received one as a gift, that’s why when I was very young, I found that volume she left in the library. One of their authoritative admirers was the Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevic Romanov, cousin of the last Tsar, who owned the most beautiful specimens. Unfortunately, with the revolution of 1917, the innocent quadrupeds were killed together with the emperor’s family and the nobility, who were viewed by the people as a hated symbol of the aristocracy.” Only those few subjects that had been sold or given away before the fateful date, who arrived above all in France and the United States, were saved. Only in 1957, after having bred Harlequin Great Danes, Vitaliano Cattabiani Ferrari managed to obtain a borzoi on French soil.
“No” to the ambassador.
“She was a wonderful, intelligent and perfect bitch, 33 inches tall at the withers, her name was Chantal,” he remembers with emotion. “She won many competitions and I was lucky because she passed all her qualities to her descendants. I gave the name of breeding to this exceptional offspring and so my dogs are called “Borzoi di Rocca Barbara” from the place where I lived at the time. I later moved to Milan for work, but I did not leave my hounds and in turn, I housed them in my apartment. Finally, twenty years ago I came here, there are no more space problems and I live among my beloved animals”.
Mr. Cattabiani Ferrari points out that he considers them as children and therefore they are not for sale. “In almost half a century, I will have placed about thirty and always to friends, surrendering to their insistence” he assures me. “Even eighteen years ago I said no to the Soviet ambassador: he almost convinced me to let him bring some of them home but at the time of his departure the regret was too strong and I refused. In short, I keep these dogs with me because I love them, not for profit. I am happy to have them around, so slim, elegant, affectionate and to exhibit them in national and international dog shows, where they routinely beat their competition. I am happy to talk about Borzoi, unknown to most people, because I would like people to learn to appreciate it. There are 13 types of sighthound, this is not the fastest, but it is certainly the most beautiful. And my dogs, I guarantee it, they are the best in the world, even better than those of the Tsars”
*Vitaliano’s Borzois