The Breed History
Perhaps as early as the 1200s, Russian aristocrats bred fast sight hounds for hunting and the breed started to take form. Dogs such as the Bearhound, southern coursing hounds of the Tartars, and Owtchar sheepdogs were reported as progenitor breeds. Some also report Saluki and Greyhound as part of the mix. The first breed standard dates back to 1650. Aristocrats used to carry out elaborate wolf hunts, using pairs or trios of Borzois, one horsemen and foxhounds to flush quarry. The first specimen may have been sent to England in 1842. The importation to America began in earnest in the 1890s. The name in Russian is "borzii," meaning swift.
Breeding for Function
Historically, they functioned in the hunt to pin down the quarry (usually wolves) until the horsemen arrived. They were also successfully used to hunt fox and hare. Today they are popular in lure coursing events, obedience, and as valued companions due to their gentle nature and trainability.
Height at Withers: female 26" minimum (66 cm), male 28" minimum (71 cm).
Weight: females 75-90 lb (34-41 kg), males 75-105 lb (34-48 kg).
Coat: The coat is variably curly but long and silky. Short hair is present over the head, and long feathers are found on tail and hindquarters. They possess a prominent neck frill. Any color or color combination is acceptable. Daily brushing and regular bathing are recommended. They have a moderate shedding tendency.
Longevity: 9-13 years
Points of Conformation: Graceful movement and lithe conformation characterize the Borzoi. Males are noticeably heavier set than the females. The skull is very long and narrow, slightly domed and somewhat Roman-nosed in profile. The stop is not prominent, ears are small and obliquely set, eyes are dark with dark palpebral rims. The nose is large and pigmented black. The thorax is very deep and narrow, and neck slightly arched and muscular. The topline is slightly curved, back is short, and abdomen is tucked up. Long bones of the limbs appear oval; narrow when viewed from the front, but are straight. The feet are well knuckled up and the dewclaws are generally removed. Hindquarters are wider than forequarters. Their long tail is set low and carried low in a curve. A powerful springy gait is desired.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed characteristics include: Courageous in the hunt, protective of their owners, tractable, intelligent, affectionate with owners, sensitive, some are aloof, faithful, good with children (best if raised with children); may chase cats or small dogs if not brought up with them. Is active outdoors but quiet in the house, has moderate to high exercise needs, and early training is needed. They can sometimes be independent and a bit stubborn. If off leash, the Borzoi should be in a fenced enclosure. Can be destructive if bored. Considered alarm barkers not guard dogs.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Sight hounds have lower normal ranges for T4 and T3 concentrations compared to other breeds.
Anesthesia: Sight hounds require particular attention during anesthesia. Their lean body conformation with high surface-areato- volume ratio predisposes them to hypothermia during anesthesia. Impaired biotransformation of drugs by the liver results in prolonged recovery from barbiturate and thiobarbiturate intravenous anesthetics. Propofol, and ketamine/diazepam combination are recommended induction agents.
Hypothyroidism: Breeding studies of autoimmune thyroiditis in the breed suggest an autosomal recessive inheritance. Thyroid auto-antibodies are usually present by 2.5 years of age. 11.5% positive for thyroid autoantibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%)
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 2.9% affected.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. The breed has uniformly tight hips, and is used as the gold standard by PennHIP for judging joint laxity (all have a DI < 0.32). OFA reports 1.8% affected with hip dysplasia.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Too few Borzois have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Cervical Malformation/Malarticulation (Wobblers Disease): A congenital anatomical disorder that causes compression of the cervical spinal cord. Clinical signs include limb weakness, proprioceptive deficits, and paralysis. Evidence of an autosomal recessive trait was found in this breed.
Multifocal Chorioretinopathy: Borzoi's can develop a retinopathy that does not progress once developed, and does not cause visual abnormalities. Various studies have found 5.6% to 12% of adult dogs with this lesion. Pedigree analysis and breeding studies rule out a sex-linked or autosomal dominant mode of inheritance, although male dogs predominate. CERF does not recommend breeding any Borzoi with chorioretinopathy.
Mammary Cancer: Dorn reports a 17.06x odds ratio of developing mammary cancer versus other breeds.
Gastric Dilation/Volvulus (Bloat): Life-threatening twisting of the stomach within the abdomen. Requires immediate veterinary attention. Dorn reports a 13.47x odds ratio of developing GDV versus other breeds.
Cataracts: Anterior cortex punctate, and capsular cataracts predominate in the breed. Unknown mode of inheritance. Identified in 3.40% of Borzois CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Borzoi with a cataract.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 1.44% of Borzois CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): Inherited degeneration of the retina. Autosomal recessive inheritance in most breeds. 1.03% of Borzois CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005 are labeled suspicious for PRA.
Congenital Malformation of the Canine Tricuspid Valve: Affected Borzois have a mild right-sided heart murmer with this congenital condition. It is inherited as an autosomal dominant trait with reduced penetrance in the Labrador Retriever. OFA reports 0.8% of Borzois have heart disease through cardiac evaluation.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy: Primary disease of heart muscle causing arrythmias and heart failure. Unknown mode of inheritance. Reported at an increase frequency in the breed. OFA reports 0.8% of Borzois have heart disease through cardiac evaluation.
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM): Affected dogs show an insidious onset of upper motor neuron (UMN) paraparesis. The disease eventually progresses to severe tetraparesis. Affected dogs have normal results on myelography, MRI, and CSF analysis. Necropsy confirms the condition. Unknown mode of inheritance. A direct genetic test for an autosomal recessive DM susceptibility gene is available. All affected dogs are homozygous for the gene, however only a small percentage of homozygous dogs develop DM. OFA reports DM susceptibility gene frequencies of 25% carrier, and 2% homozygous "at-risk".
Microphthalmia, Optic Nerve Hypoplasia, Stifle OCD, Dysfibrinogenemia, Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy, Lymphedema, Methemoglobin Reductase Deficiency, and Oligodontia are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Multisystemic Inflammatory Disease: Report of a 6 week-old dog developing anorexia, temporary intention tremor, seizures, episodic pyrexia, tachypnea, conjunctivitis, otitis and neck pain. Hematological abnormalities included an inflammatory leukogram and regenerative anemia. Post mortem examination revealed a multisystemic inflammatory disease involving thyroids, lymph nodes, spleen, pancreas, bladder and lung, but no lesions to account for the neurological signs.
Cutaneous Malignant Histiocytosis: Report of a 4 year-old dog. This is a multi-system, rapidly progressive disease in which there is simultaneous involvement of multiple organs such as spleen, lymph nodes, lung, bone marrow, skin and subcutis. The disease is poorly responsive to treatment. A canine cell line (CCT) was established from this dog.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test of K coat color alleles is available from VetGen. Direct tests for a DM susceptability gene is available from the OFA.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required tests are; CERF eye examination, thyroid profile including autoantibodies, cardiac certification, and direct gene test for DM. Optional recommended tests are; hip and elbow radiographs. Recommend patella evaluation.
- Breed name synonyms: Russian wolfhound, Psowaya Barsaya. - Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club). - AKC rank (year 2008): 94 (630 dogs registered) - Internet resources: Borzoi Club of America: www.borzoiclubofamerica.org
Borzoi Canada: www.borzoicanada.ca
The Borzoi Club UK: www.theborzoiclub.org.uk
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