I see a lot of talk about Breeding to Standard and working dogs.. I love this article in fact i include this in my package that go's home with my pups. As it states sometimes when you change a dog's purpose, you are changing the appearence and function.
WHICH CAME FIRST: THE STANDARD OR THE DOG?
Copyright by Rey & Yvonne McGehee 1999
"Birds do not fly because they have wings; they have wings because they fly."
Robert Ardrey, The Territorial Imperative.
Ardrey's distinction may at first sound as unimportant and unsolveable as the question of the chicken and the egg; but it's an important one, giving a window through which we can view the relationship between breeds of dogs and the standards written to describe those breeds. His statement highlights the role behavior plays in the shaping of organisms. As individual animals execute a given beneficial behavior, selection favors those whose structure gives some advantage in the performance of that behavior. Structure is selected for, developed, and modified in this way. The structure does not simply suddenly appear and then become useful. In the same way working dog breeds (work is meant here in the universal sense, rather than in the limited sense of the AKC's Working Group) did not spring from a description of what might be thought desirable for a given job. The particular behaviors, physiology, and forms of these dogs developed through their working behavior, and only through that were the necessary qualities made recognizable. The written standard is simply an attempt to describe what already exists and has been shaped by a particular work. These descriptions, with all the flaws inherent in even the best attempts to convey spacial information verbally, never created the dog itself. This path of development explains why a standard alone cannot create the dog, whole, in it's entirety of behavior, physiology, and visible structure. Only the last can be seen without the performance of work; and none came to be without it.
Since standards alone are unable to encompass the dog in it's entirety, the more we know about the dog's origins, the better we will be abled to consider the standards. The Borzoi in Russia was and is, first and foremost, a hunting dog. Hunting made the Borzoi, every line, every muscle, every thought. Dulcie Wilde Rice writing in 1932 and reprinted in the Feb. 1958, Riders of the Wind, says "There still remain a multitude of persons who are oblivious that the Borzoi is a hunting dog". If we lose sight of what made the Borzoi, that we all love and enjoy so much, then we run the risk of losing that dog and the things that make him unique in the canine world. Wesley Mills, M.D. M.A. D.V.S., said in his 1895 book, The Dog in Health and in Disease, "Primarily the dogs of the breed in question should have such a form as is best suited to the purpose for which the animal is intended. Let this once be lost sight of, and breeders are at sea without rudder or compass." Arvid Anderson wrote in the spring, 1982, Borzoi Quarterly, "We can't go back to the hunting trials of Old Russia, but we should remember that just these hunting trials created the Borzoi." The form of a Borzoi does not come from a standard-- it comes from running. To rewrite Robert Ardrey's statement above, Borzoi do not run because they have a certain structure and form; they have this structure and form because they run.
The first Borzoi imported to the U.S. were fast powerful hunting dogs. Some of these early imports were sent to the Western plains to hunt jackrabbits, coyotes, and wolves. Groups of Borzoi were used in Colorado, North and South Dakota and most of the other plains states to hunt coyote for most of the first half of the 1900's and some can even be found doing this today. Freeman Lloyd who owned Elsie and Whirlwind, some of the first Borzoi in England, wrote in the Sept. 1933 Field and Stream "There is more wolf-hunting and coursing in the United States and Canada than in any other country in the world, outside of Russia. So it follows that the Borzoi will remain useful as well as popular as a coyote coursing and killing hound." In the Nov. 1938 issue he wrote, "Recently I was informed by a woman ranch owner in Oklahoma that the first of the Russian wolfhounds to reach their range were presented to her people by the late President Theodore Roosevelt. To this day, the Roosevelt strain of borzoi is being strictly maintained and used for hunting jack-rabbits as well as wolves." Roosevelt had gone to Russia and watched Borzoi work. He was so impressed by them that he brought some back to the U.S. for hunting. Jno. Gilmer Speed wrote in the Feb. 23, 1895 Harper's Weekly, "There are several of them from Mr. Hank's kennels with a cavalry regiment in the West, and they are said to make splendid chasers of the very fleet jack-rabbit." But most of the early imports were exhibited at dog shows in the East and were not hunted. Leon V. Almirall wrote in the May, 1940, National Sportsman, "All these dogs--Russian wolfhounds, Scottish deerhounds, greyhounds and their hybrids- -come into their own in the West, and "their own" is to course. Never were they intended merely to grace the drawing-room or to tread sedately behind their owner. Rather, they were meant, as their forms designate, to hurtle through space after their natural quarries, the wolf, the coyote and the hare. This is their game, and they love it."
As soon as these dogs landed on U.S. shores people began to "improve" them. Because of this the further back we go in the history of the U.S. Borzoi, the better idea we will have of what the Borzoi was and what it should be. Many people were taken with the Borzoi's elegance and "look". This "look" came about as a result of hunting but nonhunters were not concerned with it's origin. The "look" or form became more important than the function, although the function is what made the "look" in the first place...and what kept it from exaggeration. Despite the difficulties of translating
Russian to German, then German to English, Anna Shubkina words ring true when she calls the Borzoi, "The dog which looks like the form of art and working dog [at the] same time." William Wade, an early importer of Borzoi into the U.S., wrote in the May 9, 1889, Forest and Stream, "I constantly thought as I looked at this dog, "What a dog to follow a handsome span of horses or a lady on horseback." what a dash "Flora McFlimsey" would cut with a pair of these dogs "to wear," and what a hole she would make in papa's pocket to carry out her ambition to be ahead of her dear rival! We really have no breed of dogs thoroughly suited for this purpose."
Along the same lines Walter A. Dyer in 1916 wrote in his book, Gulliver the Great, "She herself had been able to discover no real usefulness in the hound. She knew that she desired him chiefly for his ornamental and fashionable qualities, for she had never discovered anything--not even a brown and gold limousine with chauffeur and footman in brown and gold livery--that so contributed to the aristocratic aspect of her immediate environment as did the stately Grand Duke Vladimir." Dyer goes on to give a wonderful depiction of the borzoi as a fashion accessory: "Emerging from Fifth Avenue...appeared a fine lady, clad in a costume of black velvet, relieved here and there with a foamy outcropping of white. On her hands were white gloves, and a bunch of white narcissus
was pinned at her waist. A huge salmon colored plume burst like a flame from her black velvet hat. By her side there stepped with majestic mien a tall, shapely Russian wolfhound, milk white, with a huge bow of salmon colored satin at his throat." But Dyer's story also describes conflicts arising from the fashion accessory's hunting dog nature. The accessory offends people with his haughty independence and escapist tendencies. "...the blood in his veins called aloud for long, swift, bounding runs across limitless steppes." The accessory also is easily abled to wrench his lead from his
mistress's gloved hands for the quick pursuit and killing of a kitten on a busy public street. "Mortified beyond words, Mrs. Thaxton led him home by the least conspicuous route, his head and tail drooping, his haunches muddy, his jaws stained with innocent blood. But when a month had passed, and a new costume needed to be displayed on the avenue, she forgave him." There has long existed a conflict between the Borzoi viewed as a fashion accessory and the Borzoi viewed as a hunting breed. The Borzoi is not a hat or ornament to be worn, it is a living breathing animal. As Almirall stated above, "Never were they intended merely to grace the drawing-room or to tread sedately behind their owner." Constance O. Miller in her book, Gazehounds: The Search For Truth, 1988, said of this, "The dotted line between serious specialization and frivolous fashion is one of PROVABLE FUNCTION (with no loss of vigor)--not subject to easy testing in the show ring where points of fashion gleam their brightest."
Very little information was available in the U.S. about Borzoi in the 1890's. Harry W. Smith, a well known Greyhound judge, wrote in the April 22, 1892 issue of Forest and Stream, "Only one thing seems to be certain in regard to the Russian hounds, and that is that they must be fleet enough to run down a wolf, and a pack of them must be strong and courageous enough to pull him to pieces. Surely if there is a use a dog can be put to, every one must acknowledge that it is best that he should be so made up in body and brain to accomplish the same. While this breed of dogs may be of only ornamental use in the East it is in the West that they will find their true place and it is for the West that we must breed."
When the Borzoi was first imported there were eight recognized types in Russia. These types are what we today would call bloodlines or kennel names. Mary M. Taviner wrote in the July 1962, Riders of the wind, "..on account of the tremendous distances in Russia, and as a consequence thereof, the isolation ... each hunt developed its own type of Borzoi." Most people of the time agreed that the type of Borzoi being imported to the U.S. was the Psovoi Borzoi. Each breeder of Borzoi in Russia had more or less their own type. Bear in mind the enormous differences in communication and travel between that time and the present. There was not the ready access to photographs and information exchange that we take for granted today. This is important to consider when regarding
breed variations and our concept of breed standardization. Dulcie Wilde Rice wrote "...vast distances separated the kennels, and in those days there were no trains, and means of transport was difficult." Mary M. Taviner wrote in the July 1962, Riders of the Wind, "The enormous distances between hunts restricted two hunts going out for sport." Because many of these breeders were great distances apart they did not crossbreed with the other types.
At the time of the first U.S. imports, the Borzoi in Russia was going through many changes as was the country of Russia itself. The following information is from the article, About Russian Borzoi, in the fall 1998 issue of European Borzoi by Borzoi breeder and judge Anna V. Shubkina, PhD. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution - Russian Academy of Sciences. Due to political events in the 1860's the large estates were broken up, causing changes in the agricultural practices of central Russia. Farm fields became much larger and the tracts of forest between fields became smaller and further apart as a result. These changes occurred over a vast area of many thousands of square kilometers. The white hare is a forest animal and was the common game animal in the small, woods-
bordered fields before the 1860's; but as the forest began to disappear the white hare population decreased and the population of the brown hare, which is an animal adapted for the open fields, began to increase. Catching the white hare required a dog that accelerated quickly, reaching speed in a short distance in the small fields. The brown hare is faster and runs farther than the white hare, an adaptation to living in more open areas. The hare was the main prey of the Borzoi, and the changes in field size and game species required corresponding changes in the hunting dog. A Borzoi with more endurance and increased speed over distance was needed, and breeders began to create one by outcrossing to breeds adapted to long distance coursing. Since at this time most of the large hunts were broken up and many disappeared completely, the main part of the Borzoi population shifted to so called "Melkotravchatich" hunters, who had only a few Borzoi, not tens or hundreds. This dispersal of the large hunts allowed for mixing of the different types, previously held by separate estates, and for mixing with other sighthound breeds. Borzoi were crossbred with "eastern and southern relatives...longeared sighthounds of Saluki type, and Chortai, short haired with rose ear...of European Russia."
The following is from a translation of the "Hunter's Calendar and Reference Book of 1892" by L.P. Sabaneyef, Moscow. This translation was published in the Jan. 19, 1893, Forest and Stream. Joseph Thomas used the first half of this translation in his book but left out the second half. This is from the second half and it seems to agree with the above ideas. "The ancient breeds of Russian borzoys have been obliged to change and lose some of their former characteristics, owing to changes taking place in the country; as for instance, decrease in size of woods. The short [slight? R.M.] dog, unable to run long distances, is gradually losing importance, and signs of greater endurance are being cultivated, like barrel-shaped ribs and strong muscles. But some signs and qualities of the ancient type are still being carefully preserved. The well known breeders, P.M. Matchevanauoff and N.P. Yermolof have crossed their dogs with the Caucasian race and have obtained dogs of rounded ribs and strong muscles, at the same time retaining the length of the ribs below the elbow, the touching of the ears behind, and possessing high speed in general with the ability to increase this to a last lightning like effort or spurt; powers and qualities that had been considered incompatible. Of course, many foreign breeds of windhounds have been crossed with the Russian borzoys in the course of time,
but of all these the Crimean and Caucassians have had the most influence and left their imprint on the race either casually or by design." These crosses were not done at random for no purpose; they were done to improve the hunting abilities of the dogs. Thomas (Oct. 1906) refers to a "fad" or "mania" for cross-breeding seizing the country in the 1860's. But this was not a "fad" it was a blending done for a specific purpose. Today such crosses are done to produce lurchers, often a saluki/greyhound cross offers the best of both breeds to the hunter. The highly successful racing Alaskan is another example where crossings are done to enhance performance. Thomas refers to the Borzoi with the performance qualities of more ribspring, greater muscle mass, and broader hips obtained by these crosses as "contaminated." The above points out that the older (ancient) type
Borzoi was a slighter dog, with high-set ears, having less rib spring and muscle mass than the modern type Borzoi. This older type had quick acceleration but less endurance and was not capable of sustained speed over distances greater than a few hundred yards. Anna Shubkina says that the explosive acceleration made the ancient type look very fast, in a small field, but for the brown hare in a large field a higher top speed was needed, as well as more endurance. The following quote describing the ancient type's variability is also from The Hunter's Calendar and Reference Book for 1892, and again was ignored by Thomas. "Owing to many different conditions of place, food, method of hunting, adding of new blood, ect., the breeds of the Russian borzoys are very numerous and varied, though their characteristics never pass beyond the limits of those of the parent types. That means that when the influence of the Asiatic dog is greater the Russian borzoy of the particular breed would show rounder ribs, prominent forehead, large hips, tail slightly shorter, and possessing great power. When the blood of the northern wolflike dogs predominates, the borzoy is usually gray; coat long and thick, especially so around the neck, and the temper and manners approach those of the wolf. For instance, the dog, sometimes lying down, waits for the game to approach and tries to catch it with one short, tremendous effort. This last quality has been especially developed in breeds for many generations into astounding leaps, as if they were fired from a gun. But owing to the usual tendency to excess in man, some breeds have been refined into nothing; too great a leanness and sharp back, lack of power and morbidity." We will return later to this explosive type of speed.
So by the mid 1800's the specific kennel types of Borzoi began to disappear and the type we know today began to emerge as a breed. Anna V Shubkina points out that the Borzoi was only becoming a "breed" in the mid-1800's; before that "...the breed as a genetic unit with one and the same complex of exterior and working abilities, isolated from others, was absent. As we postulated before, it was the combination of breeding groups. That's why till the middle of XIX century we receive these contradictories about borzoi breeds in Russia."
In the 1880's the Grand Duke Nicholas was also blending the types to get a better hunting dog. The following information is from articles in the July and Oct. 1961, Riders of the Wind. In 1887 the Grand Duke Nicholas bought land at Perchino and began to build his kennel there. The Grand Duke was an avid wolf hunter and he wanted his Borzoi to be "keen and courageous" He began to gather Borzoi from many different breeders. All these dogs were good hunters, as at this time hunting was his sole priority. The Grand Duke supervised the breedings at Perchino and "he culled the young stock asking nothing more for the youngster except speed and courage against wolves." He built a closed-in coursing ring for coursing trials, which indicates how important hunting was. Also at this time he formed the "Society for the Development of the Qualities of Hunting Hounds." According to Madame Henri Tessonier , in the Nov. 1958 Riders of the Wind, there were two types of Borzoi at Perchino. The first type was various shades of brown, they had a narrow chiseled head with a roman nose, dark eyes, high set ears, and a soft profuse straight coat. The tail was thin and they were light in weight. The second type's head had a straight topline, no roman nose, they had a curly coat and tail, and they were stronger, having "a very impressive appearance being very strong and powerful and a deep and imposing bone structure." From these descriptions, the first type sounds like the older type Borzoi and the second like the modern type. It would that appear the Grand Duke was breeding the old with the new to bring out the best points in both. He was producing a hunting dog with rib spring and endurance, while retaining the ancient type's long head and tail, by blending the old type with the new to create the Perchino type. The following is another part of the Hunter's Calendar and Reference Book discussing the ancient and modern types that Thomas left out of his book.
"General shape of the modern borzoy is the same nearly as of the old one. Both are as well-coated, with a kind of muff around the neck; profile and outlines of both are the same, except for the head and ears. In the old borzoy the ears are set higher on the skull and lying back on the neck made the profile of the head appear longer and more graceful; while in the modern one, though the head is as long, it is broader and the ears are not outlined; but even in this case the dog has a grace of its own by showing a proportional relation to its greater strength. This same quality is indicated by the greater width of chest, when seen from before, and thus the dog gains by a combination of breadth and strength."
"The best head in England, yet
"modern type" and incorrect."
Joseph B. Thomas
In the Oct. 1906 Illustrated Outdoor News, Thomas talks about the effects that crossing to other sighthounds had on heads, ears and tails. The crossing to improve speed over a greater distance was being done in the mid-1800's. England was importing quite a few Borzoi in the 1880's. This is not much time, after a substantial amount of outcrossing, to have a consistently producing breed develop; it's no wonder importers in the U.S. and England fou nd that their dogs didn't breed "true." Thomas says, "The consequence was that every conceivable type made it's appearance: the long ear of the Crimean hound, the short, curled tail of the Polish, the short coat, incomparatively thick, round skull of his English cousin." Notice that these are all comments on head, coat, and tail. Thomas makes no comments on the ancient type or the modern type regarding body structure or functional capabilities and differences. He makes no mention of ribspring, musculature, or endurance with respect to either type.
According to Thomas (1906) the Grand Duke at first bred exclusively for hunting abilities and only later did he start to breed for the heads and tails of the ancient type. Thomas wrote in the Feb. 9, 1907, Rider and Driver "To briefly explain the method of regeneration, it is necessary only to state that it was brought about by a violent out-cross; for example, a strain containing Russian and English blood was crossed with another strain containing Russian and Crimean blood. Some of the progeny of such crosses reverted to the ancient type." He is speaking here of regeneration of the ancient type's long lean head and long tail. Included are pictures of two Borzoi, used by Thomas to illustrate the differences between ancient and modern type. As you can see, these dogs are very similar in form, the heads and tails being the main points of difference.
With all the changes occurring in Russia and in the Borzoi even the Russians had many ideas as to where the Psovoi Borzoi came from and what it should look like. The following is from the Russian journal Ohota of the "Society for the Encouragement of Field Qualities of Hunting Dogs and all kinds of Hunting; St. Petersburg, Russia" by R.R. March 1, 1892 and it discusses some of the ideas as to how the Posvoi Borzoi may have originated.
"The views given below about the origin of the modern psovoy borzoi are the results of the opinions and discussions of coursers and hunters of different times: All serious and well-posted hunters have come to the conclusion that the modern borzoy is a mixed race, and the difference between them is but in the naming of the original progenitors, and in the question weather the race has been kept pure for the last hundred years or weather other blood has been infused within that time.
One party claims that the modern psovoy borzoy is the result of crossing of the Gustopsovoy borzoy with the Tchistopsovoy borzoy (this latter supposed to be a cross of the Gustopsovoy borzoy with the Crimean, Anatolian, or Polish borzoy).
Another party allows the psovoy borzoy to be a mixture of the above two breeds, but claims them to have been strictly Russian natives since very ancient times, their differences being a result of the climate in which each was living --the Gustopsovoy borzoy in the north of Russia, the Tchistopsovoy borzoy in the south.
A third opinion is that the modern psovoy borzoy was produced from Tchistopsovoy borzoy males and Courland borzoy bitches, and in his opinion the Tchistopsovoy borzoy are held to be the original pure Russian race; and any Gustopsovoy borzoy existing were not a special original breed at all, but mongrels from mating of psovoys and Tchistopsovoy borzoy with sheepdogs (ovtcharkas).
A fourth opinion partly states: The ancient psovoy borzoy or Gustopsovoy borzoy, as we are now in the habit of calling it, was purposely produced or improved by the northern Russian hunters very long ago. The points of these dogs were very much like those of the modern psovoy borzoy, but they had a heavier coat, hence their name Gustopsovoy. Nearest to this type of dogs were the borzoys of I.I. Kareyev, also those of V.T. Lepathev, but while they were nearly ideally good in front their rear was rather poor.
By their qualities the ancient psovoy (Gustopsovoy) borzoy were especially adapted to the dense woods of northern Russia, which are full of wolves; they were extremely fast on short distances and very fierce.
These ancient dogs were introduced into central Russia, south of Moscow, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, at first but a few in number, and then they became mixed with local dogs or southern borzoys.
In this crossing of breeds some hunters were influenced by a desire to improve their staying qualities,[this would seem to agree with Anna Schubkinai's account of the events in central Russia] while retaining their general type as far as possible; others were forced to cross them by necessity, since they did not want to inbreed them altogether, and other dogs of this breed were scarce, others again who owned several dogs kept breeding in rather than mix or cross the varieties.
In fact, at the beginning of the fifties most large kennels contained ten to twelve of the ancient psovoy (Gustopsovoy) borzoys, a breed especially kept up by in-breeding, which served to retain the blood and correct the defects in the other borzoy breeds.
About 1861, when the economical reconstruction of Russia took place, many landowners of the nobility lost heavily, or feared to lose, and then the hunts were abandoned as too expensive and needless. Fully two-thirds of the hunts disappeared altogether, only some in the rich southern country survived, although in considerably diminished force. Gradually, with the return of stability and confidence, the hunts were revived, and then it was found necessary in order to organize them at all, to import foreign dogs. Now, the interest in psovoy borzoy is again strong and the demand for these
dogs at home and abroad sufficient to encourage their breeding, so that instead of quarreling about the origin and proper name of the breed, we had better try to form some ideal of what the breed ought to be, and breed to it."(italics mine). Early U.S. importer William Wade seems to agree with the italicized statement above in the Feb. 12, 1891, Forest and Stream "Here is a breed, promising to be popular, about which no well defined knowledge exists; there certainly must be great variance in their type,....as the breed starts practically new, here is an opportunity for starting right, without any rubbish as to the "real thing," "old true type," and similar nonsense."
It becomes easy to see why the breed's description was not standardized, though the basic structure of all the types was that of a fast running dog with similarities common to all running breeds. At this time the Russians had no written standard, as Harry W. Smith wrote in the April 28, 1892 issue of Forest and Stream. "As far as can be learned there is absolutely no standard for Psovois in Russia; each breeder has his pack, and as they are kept at their country places far apart from each other, each breeder breeds for his own use solely and to a certain extent has a type of his own." The Russians did have descriptions of the breed, written by different breed authorities. Constance O. Miller wrote in her book, Gazehounds the Search for Truth, 1988, "But Russia has no "standard" such as had become the vogue in England. What Russia did have was "authorities"-many of them- who took it upon themselves to declare the most salient points of the dogs, offtimes with
obvious personal bias. There were as many so-called "Russian Standards" as Russian experts (native or short-term visitors) with enough courage to pass off their opinions as of empire worth." William Wade (1891)supports this idea; "We certainly do not want any more such "authority" as we have been getting,... What we want is an exposition why certain properties are most valued, and based, not on "authority," but on solid, sound "dog" reasons, in fact, a sort of synthesis on the qualities of such dogs." Over 100 years later, we are still without such a synthesis. There were attempts by different hunting organizations in Russia to write a standard but they were filled with the biases of the
author. One such "standard" was written by E.P. Ermolov in 1888, but as Tatiana Van Itan wrote in the fall, 1990, Borzoi Quarterly, "Although this standard has historical significance as the first of its kind, it was soon judged unacceptable because it reflected the taste and biases of its author."
Many of the early imports were said to be of poor quality, but without a written standard and with few people outside of Russia knowing what the Borzoi should look like, most were judged to the greyhound standard of the day. The greyhounds of that time were not the same as today, as A.J. Morris wrote in the Sporting Press Dec. 22, 1966. "The conformation of the greyhound, like every other animal, is related to its main purpose or function. Whether we think of the greyhound as a hunter or a racing machine, this rule applies. If park coursing and greyhound racing had never been popularized, the make and shape of the modern greyhound would almost certainly be very different from the one we know. He would probably be heavier in the shoulder and with hocks lower to
the ground if his function had continued to be what it originally was, a fleet-footed follower of the hare and the stag in the jungle or the open plains." Even so this is not what the Russians based the Borzoi on. A gentleman signing himself "Russian Bear" from Moscow wrote in the Dec. 10, 1892 Forest and Stream," Now as to breeding Borzoi, if the English want to manufacture a new breed of dogs there is no one in the world who can stop them from it, but if they want to breed Russian Wolfhounds, they must stick to the Russian taste, and the ears, eyes, hindlegs, ect., must be formed as is wanted in a Borzoi, and not in an English greyhound." Many people at the time were concerned about the changes that the U.S. and English breeders would make in the Borzoi. Wesly Mills,
M.D., M.A., D.V.S. wrote in the Dec. 29, 1892, Forest and Stream "But it seems to me unfair to continue to call a breed by the name given it when it originated, while we produce fundamental changes in its form. If we are going to have the Russian Wolfhound by all means let us not depart from essentials of structure and form." He also wrote in his book The Dog in Health and in Disease "In not a few respects the form of this animal is at variance with English and American notions of dogs, and the breed will likely be much modified if it has come to stay." An unnamed person wrote in the Oct. 20, 1892, Forest and Stream "...probably when the English have had sufficient time they will as usual, "improve" on the breed until it has lost much of its original distinctiveness...". All this shows the need for a written standard but with all the types of Borzoi and very few people in England or America hunting with them or knowing what they should look like, and the fact that the Borzoi was basically a new breed, writing a standard would not be easy.
I have included photos of Leekhoi and Argoss that were published in the July 28, 1892, Forest and Stream. These were two of the top dogs in the U.S. in the 1890's. They were of very different types and I think they represent well the extreme ends of Borzoi. These two dogs defined the types of the day as many judges referred to other Borzoi as being either of the Argoss or Leekhoi type. Argoss was the first Borzoi to get an American championship. He was also an English champion and won the Silver Medal in Moscow for 1891. He was breed by T.T. Sokoloff and whelped in Russia in 1887. Charles Stedman Hanks brought Leekhoi to the U.S. from Russia. He was whelped in
1890 and bred by Prince Boris Galitizin. Leekhoi died of heat stroke at the 1894 Louisville dog show and he was skinned by the judge, Roger D. Williams, to preserve his wonderful coat. Roger D. Williams coursed his sighthounds all over the U.S. on all kinds of game. At this time judges such as he had a wealth of experience in the field with the breeds they judged. Their qualifications were as experts in using these dogs. The following description of the two dogs is from the April 28, 1892 Forest and Stream written by Harry W. Smith, a greyhound judge.
" Argoss is a large, powerfully made, black and tan dog, with a rather short, flat coat, fair head with a trifle sour expression, mouth level and teeth strong, neck rather small, shoulders well muscled and rightly placed, forearms straight, running into strong pasterns and perfect feet. His chest drops well to his elbows and his ribs are not only well sprung but run well back to his coupling; his back is not very well arched, but his coupling is wonderfully strong, so strong in fact that I could rest my entire weight upon him. His ribs are well spread, quarters well made up of strong, hard muscle, and his stifles, hocks and feet perfect.
One is at once impressed when looking at him that he is made not only to run but also for holding, he would be able to exert a tremendous amount of power in shaking or pulling a wolf. He is essentially a workman and shows it in every move.
Leekhoi is by far the most beautiful and aristocratic looking of the two, and his long white coat, set off with light brindle markings, at once demand your attention; he is also a large dog, and in head and expression is much superior to Argoss, neck fairly strong, shoulders set close together, not heavily muscled, forelegs and feet perfect. We now come to his chest and ribs. Most of us have been taught to believe that unless a dog had well-sprung ribs he could not run well and stay; but in place of well-sprung ribs on Leekhoi we find them flat, and, as his chest is deep, he may be what is called fish-sided, even the short ribs next his coupling are flat. Can a dog with this conformation run and keep running, have we been breeding dogs on the wrong idea, and do they breathe up and
down rather than across? Surely, if we accept the above conformation, we have been off the right track. Leekhoi's back is very much "sickled" from the withers to the hips, his coupling is very small, so small, in fact, that I could almost enclose it in the span of my two hands, his hips are close together, stifles rather straight, quarters made up of flat long muscles, feet good. As he moves around you are at once attracted by his majestic appearance and lofty mien, but he is all in all a drawing-room dog, not a dog for a long hard run.
You now have the two types. ... which is right, or rather, which shall we make right? (italics mine).Shall we make a breed that can be classed as sporting dogs and have a use, or shall we have a breed that, while they are perhaps the most beautiful of all dogs, have no use in the field."
The italicized words in this and the prior quote ask the same question, by both those in the breed's new country and those in the country of origin itself! Charles Stedman Hanks, the owner of Leekhoi, said in the Feb. 3, 1894 Forest and Stream "We have only to look at the young stock now being exhibited, most of them out of good imported bitches but mated with dogs built on greyhound lines, and we cannot but notice that we are getting further and further, not only from the type of the imported stock, but are also getting dogs not nearly as graceful in carriage or as beautiful in outline." This quote from the Hunters Calendar and Reference Book of 1892 is describing the ancient type Borzoi, "For instance, the ribs of the Russian psovoy borzoy are not barrel-shaped, as of the Caucasian and Crimean dogs, but they are longer and reach down lower; the hips are never so large
as of the Caucasian and the English dogs." Hanks is calling for this ancient type dog rather than the wider, greyhoundier modern type. In other words he is calling for dogs like his Leekhoi. In the Aug., 1898 issue of Outing, H.W. Huntington, the owner of Argoss said, "Why the standard should call for ribs of less spring than the greyhound's is inexplicable. Both are dogs of the chase, and well-sprung ribs are the sine qua non of a fast running dog. The standard adopted by our fanciers for the breeding of every member of the hound family, down to the diminutive Italian greyhound, calls for well-sprung ribs, as such insure greater room for the action of the lungs and heart." Here Mr. Huntington is calling for the modern type Borzoi like his dog Argoss. The editor of Forest and Stream wrote in the Jan. 19, 1893 issue, "Another show season is coming on and in all fairness
and justice some understanding should be come to as to what type we are going to stand by. Is Argoss's type to lead or is Leekhoi's? There is much money invested already in these dogs, and with the exception of Mr. Hacke's kennel we believe that both Mr. Huntington and Mr. Hanks's kennels contain specimens of both types, Mr. Hanks having secured a couple of what he terms "cast offs" to compete with Argoss on his own form. Still Mr. Hanks, from information gained personally from Prince Galitzin and other breeders, vows strenuously that Leekhoi's type is correct and will so endeavor to breed his dogs. This all leads to confusion and the sooner it is settled one way or the other the better. Why cannot the National Greyhound Club secure all the evidence possible, compare standards, and let the majority of opinion on certain points rule and arrange a standard that our judges shall follow. We know that Mr. H.W. Smith, who has had the unpleasant task of deciding, in the dark as regards [to] correct type, between two good animals, is anxious that some steps in this direction should be taken at once, and we think that other greyhound judges are of the same mind.
In summery, apparently even early on, regional variations existed and the borzoi was not a uniform breed in the sense we expect a breed to be today. The ancient type was a slight dog, with silky coat, flat ribs, and the long lean chiseled head you might expect to see on a refined animal. This dog was capable of fast acceleration, and was suitable for short courses in small fields bordered by woodlands. White hare, fox, roe-deer and wolves were coursed and could be caught within a few hundred meters (Shubkina 199
. Crosses to other sighthounds for increased endurance features such as wider ribspring, wider hips, and heavier muscling, were done to meet changing needs in a changing region, and a broader-bodied, broader headed dog emerged, along with a lot of genetic
variation in the "breed". This information explains the differences we see in Leekhoi and Argoss very well. Argoss represents the modern type Borzoi and Leekhoi the ancient type.
A rough time-line would put the crosses at the mid-1800's with the very first imports of record in England in 1863. Imports to England were made with increasing frequency in the 1880's and 1890's until the quarantine was started in 1897. The Grand Duke Nicholas purchased several dogs in the 1880's and started to build Perchino in 1887. At first breeding only for coursing ability, later he tried to regenerate the long head and tail of the ancient type. By 1891 the Duchess of Newcastle had imported nearly 50 Borzoi. The first U.S. import was by Edward Kelly in the late 1880's. Argoss was born in 1887, and Leekhoi in 1890. Thomas brought 3 dogs from Perchino to the U.S. in 1903 with more following. In 1903, the Grand Duke had probably been trying to regenerate the ancient
type head for approximately 10 years.
The U.S. shows at which Borzoi were first exhibited were in the 1890's. It is quite easy to see, with the timespan involved, why there was so much question about what form the breed should have. This early information does much to explain the variations we see today; it gives historic validity to different types within the breed, and we can still see traits clustering similarly to the way they did in Argoss and Leekhoi. We have slender dogs tending toward long refined heads and flattened ribs, and heavier-bodied dogs with broader heads, traits still segregating out along ancestral and morphologically reasonable lines.
These and other early imports were the dogs that built our standard and we should remember this and not assume that they were not of the proper type. They are what defines breed type. Some people will look at a photograph of a Borzoi from the old Russian working kennels and feel that the dog lacks breed type; but how can this be? They exhibit the form developed by their success at the work that made them. What they lack is modern show ring type and not breed type. They were and should continue to be examples of breed type. I believe no one has said it better than a gentleman calling himself "The Onlooker" in the Oct. 1, 1891, Forest and Stream. "The proper and only
"true type" of any breed is, that which most exactly sub serves the purposes for which the breed is designed. Any malformation which is likely to unfit the dog for its uses is fatal to its being true to type." These are words to absorb, cherish, and breed by. The dog is what came first and these early dogs made the standard. The more we can learn about the original Borzoi, the better chance we have of maintaining the breed as it was and should be.
"The type of dogs these men bred are the types to look for even today. Nothing we can do today, be it showing, racing or coursing in any form, can add anything to the experience lain down in the breed as it was before the Russian Revolution. In our breeding programs we should have as our goal a picture of the Borzoi, which we should be striving for. A picture not of the present day celebrated champion, but of the Borzoi bred by the best of the old breeders. In fact, we should not only do this, we should consider it our DUTY to do so." Arvid Anderson Spring, 1979 Borzoi Quarterly. Borzoi do not run because they have a certain structure and form; they have this structure
and form because they run!
The next article will extend our timeline into the first half of this century in the U.S., when the Borzoi as a working dog here reached it's zenith.
Copyright Rey and Yvonne McGehee 2000