Borzoi: The Elegant Sighthound of Russia

Out of all the dog breeds out there, the Borzoi is one of the most beautiful and aristocratic out there. They hail from Russia, where they were bred as sighthounds. You can think of them as the Russian sighthounds. 

These princely dogs are beautiful when at full stride. They also have a friendly temperament and tend to be quite calm.

A stark white Borzoi standing on the grass under the sun
A stark white Borzoi standing on the grass under the sun

This makes them great companion dogs for a variety of people. If you’re looking for an impressive dog that also makes a great companion, this rare breed might be for you!

From the Stepps for Russia

The Borzoi hails from Russia, where it was bred to hunt wolves. They likely came from the breeding of Arabian greyhounds with a long-haired breed, like the Russian sheepdog.

During the centuries of Romanov rule, wolf hunting was common among the Russian aristocracy. Ritualized hunts were common as well. These were basically giant festivals that focused on “hunting” wolves. 

Before 1861, these dogs were very popular, and large amounts of money were put into the development of the breed. In fact, more money was likely put into this breed than any other breed on the planet. 

In fact, this breed was even mentioned by Leo Tolstoy in War and Peace. Tolstoy was a big fan of Borzoi. 

In the years leading up to the Russian Revolution in 1917, these dogs began to be imported to England and America. However, the breed had already lost some of its popularity.

After the Revolution, these dogs became almost unheard of in Russia itself. The breed today largely comes from these early imports into the English-speaking world. 

The breed’s name was originally changed to the Russian Wolfhound in America. However, in 1936, the dog’s name was changed back to the original Russian name – the Borzoi.

This name comes from the Russian word “borzyi”, which means swift. As you might imagine, the dog was named after this word due to its high speeds. 

The Long and Slim Borzoi

A Borzoi standing on a bench showcasing its height
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These canines look like sighthounds. They are slim with very long limbs. They are bred from the same ancient breed that the Greyhound likely came from.

Because of this, they have a very similar body shape. If you’ve ever seen a Greyhound, you have a pretty good idea of what the Borzoi looks like. 

The adult Borzoi also has very long faces and snouts. They are referred to as “dolichocephalic” dogs because of this.

While this word sounds long and fancy, it really only means “long face”. This is closer to the ancient dog ancestor than the modern, short-nosed dogs. Those with longer muzzles are often healthier as well. 

Borzoi Dog Breed: Large and Lean

On top of being quite lean, these dogs are also very large. They don’t exactly count as giant dogs, but they are absolutely in the large category. 

A full-grown male stands at least 28 inches at the shoulder and weighs between 75 to 105 pounds.

Females are usually smaller at anywhere between 60 to 85 pounds. Females stand a little shorter too at 26 inches at the shoulder. 

Despite their large size, these dogs are not very bulky at all. They have very sleek bodies and are extremely skinny. 

Because these dogs are large, they do best in larger homes with yards that they can roam.

They must be kept in a fenced-in yard or on a leash, as they tend to chase things. These are not dogs you can let roam around your farm. 

What sort of hair do Borzois’ have?

While their body shape does look very similar to a Greyhound, the Borzois coat does not in the least. They have moderate-length fur that is very flowy and rather long in some spots.

The silky coat on their head is rather short, but they have long “trails” of hair coming off of their limbs and belly. 

Their fur is not the same length all over their body, so some areas will need more attention than others. They do shed quite a bit, as you might imagine. Their fur is longer, so it does tend to make more of a mess than other dogs. 

Their fur does tend to have a bit of a wave, though it isn’t exactly curly. 

They can come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Their coat color varies from black to brindle to white. Fawn, cream, and red are also common. 

Group of smiling Borzoi with different coats
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Is Borzoi a good family dog?

They can be. They are calm and well-mannered when inside. While they are very fast, they don’t tend to utilize that speed while indoors. Some owners refer to them as “40-mph couch potatoes.”

They are affectionate with family members and somewhat kid-friendly. They can knock smaller children over and aren’t extremely patient.

However, they aren’t particularly aggressive or unsuitable for kids either. They are great for older children in particular. 

While these dogs were originally designed as hunting dogs, they do make good companion dogs in some families. 

Are Borzois good with other dogs?

A sitting Borzoi enjoying the day with a Chihuahua friend
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Yes. They are not particularly aggressive towards other dogs or territorial. When properly socialized with other dogs at a young age, they get along just fine with them.

As pack dogs, they are bred to deal with a variety of different canines. 

Are Borzois good with cats?

Not particularly. They are hunting dogs first-and-foremost. If a cat runs, they will chase it. They do not do well with smaller animals, like rabbits or chickens, either. It is best if they are just kept around other dogs. 

Do Borzois have separation anxiety?

Borzois are not well suited to being alone. They are pack-oriented dogs and do best when others are around them. However, they do not have separation anxiety in the technical sense. 

Separation anxiety involves a dog getting anxious when a particular person is separated from them. Most Borzois do not have this problem. However, they do have isolation anxiety.

In other words, they get anxious when they are left alone. But, they don’t particularly care who is with them. 

Some of them do perfectly fine with just other dogs to hang out with throughout the day, but others really need people to feel confident. 

Can Borzoi be aggressive?

All dogs can be aggressive. However, Borzois are not particularly more aggressive than any other dog. In fact, they are usually not very aggressive at all.

While they were bred to hunt wolves, they aren’t particularly aggressive towards people or other dogs. 

They were bred to hunt wolves, not to guard against wolves. This is an important distinction since guard dogs tend to have aggressive, territorial instincts.

Borzois are not territorial. They are hunting dogs instead and will chase just about anything that runs. 

How fast can a Borzoi run?

A running Borzoi outdoors
A running Borzoi outdoors

Borzois can run up to 36 mph, making them one of the fastest dogs in the world. They are extremely swift and nimble with a high energy level. 

Are Borzois smart? Are they easy to train?

While the Borzoi is very smart, they are also very independent. As hunting dogs, listening to commands is not something that was bred into them.

They are not as eager to please as other dogs and tend to want to do their own thing instead. They are very stubborn, even as house dogs. 

While they are not typically aggressive, they can be a bit aloof when it comes to strangers. They are not going to run up and greet every person they see.

Socialization and puppy classes are highly recommended for this breed because of these factors. 

To train them successfully, patience and consistency are key. They need regular training and big rewards! Overall, these dogs are gentle and well-meaning, even if they don’t always listen to what you say. 

Taking Care of Your Borzoi Dog

Borzois are not particularly high-maintenance. However, we wouldn’t call them low-maintenance either. They will take a few hours of your time every day and do require things like regular grooming and exercise. 

These dogs are not particularly sensitive to hot or cold weather. They do well in most environments. 

Exercising your Borzoi

These hunting dogs do require regular exercise. They were made to hunt all day. However, they probably don’t require as much as you might expect. 

These large, graceful animals need exercise every day. A brisk walk for a few miles in the morning and a night should be plenty for most dogs.

Puppies tend to need more exercise. However, they should never be forced to walk, as this can damage their developing joints and cause problems down the line. 

Borzois love fenced-in yards where they can run. You don’t have to have a fenced-in yard to own one of these dogs, but it is highly recommended. 

A purebred Borzoi doing an agility training
A purebred Borzoi doing an agility training

Games like agility and lure coursing are perfect for these dogs. If you grow bored of walks, try one of these canine sports instead. 

Do Borzoi shed?

Yes. They shed a bit at all times and also “blow their coat” a couple of times a year. Because their hair is long, you will also need to brush it to prevent tangles.

Their hair is not all the same length throughout their body, so you will need to treat different parts of their coat differently. 

The long hair should be brushed out every day or two. This will remove loose hair and dirt on top of preventing mats.

Their shorter hair will not need brushing nearly as much. However, when their shedding increases seasonally, you should plan on brushing their short hair as well. 

Like all dogs, you need to brush your Borzoi’s teeth as well. A dog’s teeth health is very important to their overall wellbeing.

Teeth can become infected and that infection and spread. It is vital to keep your dog’s teeth clean to avoid these situations. 

You will also need to care for their nails. Their nails grow quite quickly and will need trimming to avoid splits and breaks, which can be quite painful. You can do this yourself or work with a groomer. 

How do you feed a Borzoi?

Surprisingly, Borzois are surprisingly small eaters according to the Borzoi Club of America. Puppies do eat quite a bit of dog food because they are growing.

However, when puberty hits, the dog will usually start eating less. They will need about the same amount of food as some other large dogs, such as a German Shepherd. 

The quality of the food is very important. While these dogs are healthier than a lot of other breeds, they are prone to some health conditions.

Some of these can be aggravated by a poor diet. A high-protein is always the best option. 

Strenuous exercise is not recommended right before or right after eating. Plan your day to have meals during calmer periods. 

What health problems do Borzois have?

Typically, the Borzoi is healthier than many other breeds out there. They are bred mostly for function, so they tend to be very healthy.

In many cases, they usually live between 9 and 14 years, which is a pretty good lifespan for a dog of their size. 

The most important part of choosing a healthy Borzoi is to pick a puppy from a responsible breeder.

The National Breed Club recommends a variety of different health tests before breeding two dogs together. This prevents them from passing possible health problems to their puppies. 

If you choose not to get a puppy this way, you may end up with an unhealthy puppy. Not all breeders do these preliminary tests, so it is essential to choose a quality breeder.

On top of the health conditions we mention below, it is important to remember that larger dogs are almost always prone to hip dysplasia. 

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

A close-up image of a Borzoi face
Image source

This is actually a group of diseases, but they all have the same outcome. As a degenerative disease, PRA is characterized by a breakdown of cells in the eyes. Eventually, this causes the dog to go blind. 

There is no cure for the disease, and it is not treatable. Eventual blindness is almost always a result. 

This disease is genetic. Parents pass it on to their puppies. Because of this, it is essential to purchasing a puppy from a qualified breeder. Ask about testing for this disease and if any of the puppy’s relatives have gone blind. 

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV), which is also called bloat, is a life-threatening condition that is common in large dogs.

It involves their stomach and is characterized by the stomach twisting and filling with gas. When the stomach is twisted, the natural gasses it produces don’t have anywhere to go, so they build up in the stomach. 

Eventually, this causes the stomach to swell and press up against veins. This can result in blood not getting to where it needs to go, which will cause the tissue of various organs to start dying.

Obviously, this is not a survivable condition. 

Luckily, it is very treatable. The dog will need surgery to untwist its stomach. Usually, when treated in time, the condition is survivable and the dog makes a full recovery.

The surgery just needs to happen before tissues start dying, so time is of the essence. 

Osteochondrosis Dissecans

This is a significant joint condition where the cartilage at the end of the bone in the joint does not develop properly.

This causes the cartilage and surrounding area to become inflamed. Eventually, the cartilage separates from the underlying bone. The shoulder joint is most commonly affected. 

This condition is most common in large breed dogs, as their joints develop very quickly between the ages of 6 to 9 months.

Usually, the disorder develops during this time period. It occurs most often in male dogs. However, no one really knows why. 

How much are Borzoi Puppies?

Most Borzois cost around $1,000. Top breed lines that compete in shows or have a superior pedigree will likely cost even more.

A black and white Borzoi puppy sitting
A black and white Borzoi puppy sitting

Some are upwards of $3,000 when they meet the breed standard well. However, companion dogs usually cost around $1,000. Just be sure you let the breeder know you’re looking for a companion dog

These dogs are so expensive because they are pretty rare. Many of them were killed during the Russian Revolution, so their breeding is more limited than other breeds. Litter sizes are usually anywhere between 1-11 puppies. 

It is essential to purchasing these dogs from a qualified breeder. Otherwise, you cannot ensure that the puppy’s parents underwent proper health screenings before breeding.

Pet stores often source their puppies from puppy mills, which are usually less-than-stellar breeding operations that are only focused on profit at the expense of the dogs. 

Borzoi Breeders

It is important to choose a qualified Borzoi breeder. There is no other way to ensure that proper breeding guidelines are being followed.

Those that are certified by the AKC are the best option, as they have strict breeding guidelines. 

The marketplace at the American Kennel Club has a variety of breeders listed. Start here and choose breeders that are certified as following strict health guidelines.

Those breeders listed by the AKC have to care for and raise puppies following guidelines set by the club. You can ensure that your puppy has been raised carefully when you choose one of these breeders. 

You can also check the Borzoi Club of America, which has contact information for referrals to breeders.

This company also requires that breeders follow certain guidelines, so they are another great resource for breeders. 

Borzoi Rescues

The best place to rescue a Borzoi is the National Borzoi Rescue Foundation. This rescue foundation focuses solely on this breed and they rescue dogs from around the country.

You can fill out the application for adoption on their website. 

It costs $200 to $400 dollars to adopt a canine from this rescue. Most of these fees go to vet care, which many dogs are in need of when they are rescued.

They do not have their currently available dogs listed online. Instead, they will contact you when a dog is available in your area. 

This company also warns that some other companies use “rescue” in their name, but are actually for profit.

They recommend thoroughly researching any rescuers to ensure that they aren’t actually sourcing their dogs from puppy mills. 

Who Should get a Borzoi Dog?

A majestic Borzoi standing in the forest
Image source

These dogs are incredibly elegant and beautiful. However, they are not for every family.

They do best in homes without small animals and chickens, as they have strict hunting instincts that will make them chase just about anything. 

On top of this, these dogs need a lot of exercises. They love to run and do best in a fenced-in yard where they will be given the opportunity to exercise as they want.

They also require a bit of grooming, though it really depends on the time of year. 

If you have the time to devote to these canines, they can be great companions. They are adorable and absolutely affectionate to their family. They can be a bit aloof with strangers, but they are not aggressive in the least. 

In the end, whether or not this breed is the right choice for you depends a lot on whether you can give them the exercise and grooming they need. 

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