The Borzoi is a sighthound that originated in Russia in the 17th century.
These elegant dogs became popular in the UK and the USA in the 20th century, leading to the importation of Borzoi to their shores.
Originally dubbed the Russian Wolfhound, the breed was christened “Borzoi” in 1936.
The American Kennel Club rank the Borzoi as the 93rd most popular dog breed in the USA.
In popular culture, the Borzoi gained notoriety for their appearance in Leo Tolstoy’s 1869 novel War and Peace. These sighthounds also featured on the Hollywood screen in the 2012 film The Hunger Games.
In this article, we’ll learn about the Russian dog breed, discussing topics such as temperament, shedding, training, exercise requirements and much more.
We spoke to Esper and Ora (@esperborzoi), Dino and Gyuri (@diamondd.and.gyurika), Yeti (@yetiandthebear) and Luna (@lunatheborzoi) to get a better understanding of the breed and share some of their Borzoi photos (with their permission).
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What Is A Borzoi?
Borzoi are a Russian dog breed that originated in the 17th century.
These swift sighthounds were bred for hunts on vast estates belonging to the Russian aristocracy. However, the Revolution led to the cull of these aristocratic hounds in an event that would set back the breed’s development in the 20th century.
Fortunately exportation of the Borzoi breed to the UK and the USA allowed breeders abroad to ensure these noble dogs didn’t go extinct despite the Revolution.
Having been called the Russian Wolfhound, they were rechristened Borzoi in 1936 based upon the Russian word for swift, borzyi.
Not to be confused with the Afghan hound, Saluki or a large Greyhound, the Borzoi is a breed recognised by the American Kennel Club and the Kennel Club in the UK.
The first Borzoi breed standard was written for these beautiful sighthounds in 1650.
The Borzoi Club Of America explain that the general appearance of Borzoi “should be that of an elegant, graceful aristocrat among dogs, possessing courage and combining great muscular power with extreme speed.”
Borzoi have a life expectancy ranging from 9 to 14 years.
The Borzoi are usually between 75–85 cm (30–33 in) tall and 75–105 lb (34–48 kg) in weight, while female Borzoi range from 68–78 cm (27–31 in) in height and weigh between 55–90 lb (25–41 kg). These sighthounds have a medium length coat that can be silky and wavy or short in length.
Any color, white usually predominating, more or less marked with lemon, tan, brindle, grey or black. Whole colored specimens of these tints occasionally appear. Solid black or black marked with tan to be considered a disqualification.
Some of the common Borzoi colors include black, white, yellow and white, red and white, black and white, whit and brown, white and grey and white and sand.
Borzoi have a reputation for being an independent breed that don’t bark a lot and aren’t territorial. These athletic Russian dogs tend to be gentle giants who will need regular daily exercise to stretch their legs.
Jacob, owner of Esper and Ora, shed some light on the distinct personalities of his Borzoi.
Esper and Ora are diametrically different in some ways, but encapsulated in the general Borzoi-esque vibe. Esper is demur, calm, queenly. She is also very sneaky and smarter than anyone could possibly realize. Where Esper is shy and reserved, Ora is a wrecking ball. The dog eats like she can breathe meat, is not afraid of anything, will run headlong into a dog park looking for playmates. She loves run around, freak out, kick her sticks wildly like a kickboxer. Together they are a hilarious pair.
Lorna, who is the owner of a Borzoi called Luna, believes the breed have an “ideal temperament”.
I wouldn’t say Luna is timid but she does take time to “read the room” before greeting other people or dogs. I would also say she doesn’t have an aggressive bone in her body. She’s very much a gentle giant.
Borzoi Exercise Requirements
Borzoi are athletic dogs that require regular daily exercise. The AKC suggest on their website that a long walk or the chance to stretch their legs in a fenced garden or yard should suffice.
Esper and Ora get around 45 minutes of daily exercise. JC explains:
Borzois are a lot like Greyhounds, 45 minutes of crazy time and a day’s worth of sleeping. My parents always said Borzois turn into gorgeous furniture once they get older, and that’s very true. That said, exercise is extremely important for them. Vigorous off leash play is an absolute must, so having a yard with a TALL fence (they can jump up to 6 feet) is really important. Oddly enough they do great in apartments, once they’ve got their wiggles out they turn into rugs.
Ellen, who is the owner of Yeti, says the Borzoi breed is bred to run!
Borzoi are built to run and chase and do need quite a bit of exercise. As Yeti is a growing puppy, we are careful not to overdo it but expect long walks plus plenty of time running and playing off-lead. Any off-lead play should always be in a safe, enclosed space as if they see something to chase their instinct is to run FAST which can be dangerous, especially if near roads.
Borzoi have a high prey drive, which shouldn’t come as a surprise given they’re sighthounds. So they do represent a flight risk if they spot another animal moving. It’s a good idea to keep your Borzoi on a leash and work on recall training.
Are Borzoi Hard To Train?
You should start training at an early age irrespective of breed or mix. The Borzoi are no exception. In The Intelligence Of Dogs, the Borzoi is ranked at a lowly 75th with what is described as the “lowest degree of working/obedience intelligence”. However, Stanley Coren’s book was published in 1994 and a lot has changed since.
Urska, who is the owner of Borzoi duo Dino and Gyuri, provided her experience when it comes to training these elegant sighthounds.
They are harder to train than some other breeds but not due to lesser intelligence. They are very intuitive and will learn something if they find it useful and interesting. In my experience, it is best to build a really strong bond with them because they will then more likely do the stuff you ask of them.
Every dog is different, though. So some Borzoi may pick up training quicker or be more willing to learn. This is a point emphasised by Urska.
My boys are completely opposite when it comes to “training”. Gyuri is a bit of a show off and genuinely loves to learn new things. it does not take long for him to learn something, I usually just have to show it once or twice to him. Then he is excited to show me what he knows and how to do it. Dino on the other hand will do things just for my praise and love and does not see the point in “silly tricks”. He knows how to do something and is capable of doing it, he just won’t do it in a given moment if he thinks it is useless and unnecessary.
The AKC write on their website that “patience and consistency” is key when it comes to training Borzoi, who can have an independent or stubborn streak.
Do Borzoi Shed A Lot?
Borzoi aren’t a hypoallergenic dog breed so they will shed to some degree. They’ve got a long coat that will blowout at least once a year. During shedding season, these dogs will need daily grooming to get rid of loose hair.
Gracie explained that Luna tends to shed at the start of the summer and in the autumn.
Borzoi do shed a lot. Mainly in the early summer and in the fall but it is continuous all year around. It’s very fine hair and it gets on everything. So any Borzoi owner probably knows that lint rollers become your best friend. They don’t require much professional grooming but do benefit from having their leg feathers, under the chest and tail brushed through frequently (as that’s where most of their long hair is).
Urska described her Borzoi Dino and Gyuri as moderate shedders.
As far as I am concerned, the care for Borzoi fur is no big deal. If you brush them regularly (2-3 times/week), you will only need a few minutes of brushing. It does take more time to wash them because their hair is fairly long and it will take more time to dry it out. But there is one amazing thing about their hair – whenever my boys get dirty in a puddle for example, I can just wait for them to dry and the dirt will fall off on it’s own. I don’t need to wash them with soap every time.
Are Borzoi Good Family Dogs?
Described as “affectionate family dogs” on the American Kennel Club’s website, the Borzoi can do well in a family setting with the right training and socialization. These proud dogs will enjoy a gallop in the garden or yard. However, with a delicate but athletic build, the organization warns that this breed doesn’t like “a lot of roughhousing”. You should never leave a dog alone with children unsupervised. It’s no different with Borzoi.
This is a point underlined by Yeti’s mum Ellen.
We made sure to socialise Yeti with children from a young age and she’s very gentle with our little nephews. As we would with any dog, borzoi should be closely supervised with children at all times and extra care should be taken due to their large size. Yeti loves other dogs and tries to play with everyone but as a sighthound, the instinct to chase smaller animals like cats is extremely strong.
Urska believes that Borzoi would make great family pets in a home with older children who understand the importance of treating these sighthounds with respect.
They love kids but these children have to be well mannered. As there are some breeds of dogs that have much more patience, I would not suggest an adult Borzoi for a family with very small children that would pull their hair or climb on top of it. But if the children are gentle and loving, a Borzoi will fit right in. As Borzoi mature, they more and more need their peace and quiet time and will not feel good if there will always be someone bothering them. But you can do a lot with puppies as you can desensitize them to any kind of a household.
In Urska’s experience, Borzoi tend to get along well with other pets inside the home, despite their inclination to chase when outside.
They are also pet friendly. They can live with any kind of pet, even cats. But as they are very gentle and loving when cats or other smaller pets are inside, they will most likely chase them when outside because they are hunters after all.
Borzoi Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety is a chronic canine disorder that can affect dogs. Symptoms usually occur when dog owners are preparing to leave or leave the home. This condition can manifest itself as persistent barking, destructive chewing or defecating inside the home. Having spoken to the Borzoi owners in this article, it appears Borzoi are no more susceptible to separation anxiety than any other dog breed.
Gracie shed light on a training method that worked well in Luna’s case to prevent the onset of separation anxiety.
Luna doesn’t have separation anxiety but we did crate train her as a puppy and continued to do so until she 2-3 I believe. I definitely think that played a huge roll on her not developing separation anxiety. Now she gets free roam of the apartment and sometimes doesn’t even greet me at the door with anything other than a slight lift of the head off a pillow (if she’s too comfy).
Are Borzoi Fussy Eaters?
Borzoi will benefit from a balanced and complete diet – but you may be surprised to learn that they don’t indulge in overeating like other dog breeds. The AKC write on their website that the Borzoi tend to eat “less than one might assume for their size”.
Urska explained that her Borzoi were quick to decide their likes and dislikes and haven’t strayed from this.
I wouldn’t say fussy eaters as much as they know what they like and what they dislike. I will explain. I feed my boys raw meals and they know exactly which meat they like and which they don’t. They will for example not eat venison and beef and horse meat but they will eat sheep, duck, turkey and deer meat. I just had to find the tastes they liked. As for the treats, they will eat anything. I also never had a Borzoi who would overeat. All my dogs always ate just as much as they needed. And they would even leave the raw meals uneaten if they have had enough.
Ellen has noticed that Luna’s appetite decreases if she’s feeling stressed or her routine changes.
The AKC warn about the potential issue of bloating with this breed and advise Borzoi owners to avoid feeding their dogs before a walk or a run.
Gracie echoed the sentiments of the other Borzoi owners, adding that Luna will eat pretty much anything.
Luna is a free feeder mainly because she’s an only dog child and doesn’t have to fit for her food. I give her about 3-4 cups a day and sometimes she’ll eat all of it sometimes she’ll eat just half and I’ve learned that that’s normal for her. I know most breeders recommend a raw food diet but sometimes that isn’t always financially feasible. I have Luna on dry kibble and I add 3 pumps of omega oils to it. Luna always loves banana’s and eggs. She will pretty much eat anything and I’ll let her (if I check that it’s safe for dogs). I do spoil her sometimes and pick up livers or quail carcass from the grocery store for her to have.
How Much Do Borzoi Cost?
If you’re thinking about getting a Borzoi, we recommend looking at the relevant Kennel Club to find a breeder. We spoke to our Borzoi owners to get their advice and learn about their journey when it came to finding their sighthound.
Ellen stressed the importance of finding a Kennel Club-registered Borzoi breeder.
Find a kennel club registered breeder who prioritises animal welfare, health, and temperament. We chose Yeti’s breeder because she was truly passionate about the breed and a hobby breeder who only has a very small number of litters. I would also recommend visiting the Borzoi Club website in your country to familiarise yourself with health screening tests for Borzoi, though in general, they’re pretty healthy, especially for a purebred dog!
Gracie highlighted the importance of asking breeders about health checks.
Borzoi are overly healthy dogs but can have genetic hip/eye issues that can be ruled out by tests done on the parents. My parents actually bought Luna for me as a gift in 2016. She was 2000.00 CAD. As of right now I’m not 100% how many breeders there are in Canada but there are quite a few in the states that do ship puppies. If I were to give an estimate I would say these days puppies are probably between 3000-5000$. (A worthwhile investment if you ask me)
It’s a good idea to speak to multiple breeders and visit their homes to see the mother and father of your puppy before you go ahead and decide to adopt. Urska urged potential Borzoi owners to avoid rushing into a decision.
I would tell them to do their research and not take the first available puppy. To take a look at more than just one breeder and ask about the character of their dogs. There are some characteristics that can vary a lot and you can get a dog that has more hunting instinct than others, a dog that is more introverted and aloof, or a real joker that will make fun of himself all the time. They have a complex character and it’s good to know the lineage behind and how the puppy’s parents behave.
Borzoi To Follow On Instagram
• Esper and Ora (@esperborzoi)
• Dino and Gyuri(@diamondd.and.gyurika)
• Luna (@lunatheborzoi)
• Yeti (@yetiandthebear)
We’ve reached the end of our Borzoi feature.
These elegant sighthounds originate in Russia but they can now be found throughout Europe, the United States of America and Canada.
With an athletic frame and an independent personality, Borzoi will require regular exercise and training.
Although they’re part of the sighthound family, Borzoi like nothing more than cuddling up on the sofa next to their owners after stretching their legs outside.
You can learn more about the Borzoi breed by following our contributors Esper and Ora (@esperborzoi), Diamond and Gyurika (@diamondd.and.gyurika), Yeti (@yetiandthebear) and Luna (@lunatheborzoi).