CHAPTER XVII. THE BORZOI OR RUSSIAN WOLFHOUND
Of the many foreign varieties of the dog that have been introduced into this country within recent years, there is not one among the larger breeds that has made greater headway in the public favour than the Borzoi, or Russian Wolfhound. Nor is this to be wondered at. The most graceful and elegant of all breeds, combining symmetry with strength, the wearer of a lovely silky coat that a toy dog might envy, the length of head, possessed by no other breed—all go to make the Borzoi the favourite he has become.
He is essentially what our American cousins would call a “spectacular” dog. Given, for example, the best team of terriers and a fifth-rate team of Borzois, which attracts the more attention and admiration from the man in the street? Which does he turn again to look at? Not the terriers! Add to this that the Borzoi makes a capital house dog, is, as a rule, affectionate and a good companion, it is not to be wondered at that he has attained the dignified position in the canine world which he now holds.
In his native country the Borzoi is employed, as his English name implies, in hunting the wolf and also smaller game, including foxes and hares.
Several methods of hunting the larger game are adopted, one form being as follows. Wolves being reported to be present in the neighbourhood, the hunters set out on horseback, each holding in his left hand a leash of three Borzois, as nearly matched as possible in size, speed, and colour. Arrived at the scene of action, the chief huntsman stations the hunters at separate points every hundred yards or so round the wood. A pack of hounds is sent in to draw the quarry, and on the wolves breaking cover the nearest hunter slips his dogs. These endeavour to seize their prey by the neck, where they hold him until the hunter arrives, throws himself from his horse, and with his knife puts an end to the fray.
Another method is to advance across the open country at intervals of about two hundred yards, slipping the dogs at any game they may put up.
Trials are also held in Russia. These take place in a large railed enclosure, the wolves being brought in carts similar to our deer carts. In this case a brace of dogs is loosed on the wolf. The whole merit of the course is when the hounds can overtake the wolf and pin him to the ground, so that the keepers can secure him alive. It follows, therefore, that in this case also the hounds must be of equal speed, so that they reach the wolf simultaneously; one dog would, of course, be unable to hold him.
Naturally, the dogs have to be trained to the work, for which purpose the best wolves are taken alive and sent to the kennels, where the young dogs are taught to pin him in such a manner that he cannot turn and use his teeth. There seems to be no reason why the Borzoi should not be used for coursing in this country.
One of the first examples of the breed exhibited in England was owned by Messrs. Hill and Ashton, of Sheffield, about 1880, at which time good specimens were imported by the Rev. J. C. Macdona and Lady Emily Peel, whose Sandringham and Czar excited general admiration. It was then known as the Siberian Wolfhound. Some years later the Duchess of Newcastle obtained several fine dogs, and from this stock Her Grace founded the kennel which has since become so famous. Later still, Queen Alexandra received from the Czar a gift of a leash of these stately hounds, one of them being Alex, who quickly achieved honours as a champion.
The breed has become as fashionable in the United States as in Great Britain, and some excellent specimens are to be seen at the annual shows at Madison Square Gardens.
To take the points of the breed in detail, the description of the perfect Borzoi is as follows:—
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