Meet Esper and Ora.
They’re a pair of Borzoi with 1.2 million followers on TikTok and nearly 60,000 fans on Instagram.
Together with their owner Jacob, they’ve been educating social media about the Borzoi breed and all things dogs.
Having started their social media journey with a viral video on Vine, Esper, Ora and Jacob create wholesome dog content for dog lovers.
We spoke to Jacob to learn more about the Borzoi breed, Esper and Ora’s personalities, their social media success and much more.
1) What attracted you to the Borzoi breed?
My parents had Borzois since the 70s, in fact, they were the only breed I knew of growing up. We lived in a remote area of Arizona, and I remember the first time I saw a dog other than a Borzoi and thinking “what the heck is that!” I knew when I got older that I was going to want them and once I had a stable enough home life, I started my search.
2) How did you end up with Esper and Ora?
I waited nearly 4 years until we found Esper (Little Russian Lady) and her brother Vlad (Vladimir Poopin) – I really wanted to adopt a dog, but rescues for Borzois are fairly slim, so we lucked out with those two. Vlad went to my parents, Esper went with me back to LA. We searched for another six years for another Borzoi for our family, we finally decided to go with a breeder, we did our research and found @saxafraxborzoi. They are a small heritage breeder in Oregon and we felt comfortable working with them for one of their pups then we got Ora (Leetle Little Russian Lady).
3) How would you describe Esper and Ora’s personalities?
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. I remember she used to rearrange Tina’s sweaters anytime we left her alone for more than a couple hours. We still, to this day, have no idea how she retrieved the sweaters or why building an effigy with them on the bed was so important. 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.
4) What does an average day look like for your Borzoi? Do they need a lot of exercise?
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. Our average day is a morning play session in the yard, a mid morning of napping (Not me unfortunately), afternoon dog park or long walk, make videos, more sleeping and maybe a bone or two, evening walk / yard play time and sleep. On the weekends or if I get some time to step away during the week, we will go hiking or go for a run (they love to join me in my workouts).
5) Do Borzoi shed a lot?
GOOD LORD YES. If I knew the proper incantations, I could animate a new Borzoi every week just from the collection of hair. They also “blow” their coats (which is to say, like a dandelion, exploding into a cloud of hair when you whisper on them) twice a year when the seasons change. That said, it’s easy to pick up since it’s longer hair and not spiky little fur daggers.
6) Do Borzoi suffer from separation anxiety?
Some do, some don’t. They can be very independent- some days I feel like they want me to leave. When they are puppies, like any dogs, the separation anxiety is pretty bad. It took some training with Ora to get used to it. Also, I don’t believe any dog should be left alone all day, and no breed should tolerate that.
7) Do Borzoi do better in pairs or as part of a pack?
I would say, like most dogs, they do better in packs. Borzois like to know another dog is there. It’s not that they want to play with them, or snuggle with them (it does happen a lot though), they like their presence like the baby blanket you still have in storage.
8) What is the reaction of people when they meet your Borzoi? Any funny breed guesses?
Kids always have the best reactions. One girl screamed and started crying because she thought that Esper was a Unicorn (which she is). They both LOVE HUMAN ATTENTION, so walking around is always an adventure. Most people think they are Afghan hounds, or some say a long haired greyhound – though not technically correct is very apropos.
9) What made you start an Instagram page for your Borzoi?
I made an instagram page for photos, initially, I never intended to make video content on the app, but they’ve caught up to other social media services in that regard. I am all about reusing content. So if I spend a couple hours creating something for TikTok, it’s nice to have it populate on the Instagram / Facebook feed as well. There is also a smaller community there (59,000 as opposed to 1.2 million on TikTok), so it feels more intimate – intimate like a baseball stadium vs an entire city. Instagram also has far superior shop integration for merchandise – it’s become a shopping app, whereas TikTok is purely entertainment.
10) Do you prefer Instagram or TikTok as a way to educate and connect with followers?
TikTok is my go-to app. They have incredible editing tools. They allow 3 minute content. I make numerous educational series about dogs and dog history. I am not a trained professional in any way, so I steer away from giving anyone advice, in fact, I have a few accounts I point people to for more serious questions. Also, the majority of my feed is really inane dog humor and ironic situations with dogs, as well as mock TV shows about dogs- It’s like a dog flavored variety network.
11) What is your favourite memory or post with Esper and Ora?
My favorite post has to be the day I made my first viral video about Esper being a Little Russian Lady. This was on VINE in 2015. I had a few thousand followers at the time. Made the video with no real thought at all. I went to bed that night and my phone’s notifications would NOT stop. I had no idea what was going on, my phone ended up crashing and overnight the video exploded. I still make content about this to this day.
My favorite memory with Esper was the day she first did her Tornado Spin level III in our yard. I was simultaneously terrified, excited, surprised and flabbergasted. I had no idea what was going on. We took her to the vet to make sure nothing was wrong, turns out she just loves to SPIN. The agreed-upon hypothesis is, since she grew up in a very cramped environment before we adopted her, that she learned to spin as a way to get her exercise.
My favorite memory with Ora was when we had just gotten her as a puppy a few weeks prior – so she was about 14 weeks old. Raising a puppy is difficult, it takes a lot of watching, a lot of attention and even more patience. She was such a rambunctious little monster at first and we wondered if she would ever calm down. Then, one Sunday morning at 5am, instead of running around forcing one of us to get up. She got herself up on the bed, and fell asleep between Tina and I. It was the cutest moment ever.
12) Can you tell us your funniest Esper and Ora story?
One story that always makes me laugh, well now it does. Esper is an incredibly clean dog. She will groom herself until she is completely immaculate everyday before bed. Well one night she had the poops, you know, the bad poops. She is also very shy about bothering anyone. So she waited until she couldn’t hold it anymore, and painted our couch with her misgivings. However, unlike a normal dog, she thought it would be better if she laid on top of it…. you know, to hide it. So Tina and I wake up like a normal morning. Make coffee. Then we notice Esper is REFUSING to get off the couch to go outside. So finally we coax her up, and she peels herself up off of cushions, staring us both in the face like a criminal who just got convicted. The smell was abhorrent. We spent the morning washing a poop pancake off the most embarrassed dog in the world. I can’t help but laugh every time I think of her face.
13) What advice would you give to someone thinking about getting a Borzoi?
Do your research. Do your research. Do your research. They are an easy breed in some ways, and difficult in others. Make sure you meet them in person, get a feel for their personality, see if they mesh with your lifestyle.
14) What would you say are the pros and cons of the Borzoi breed?
Pros: independent, quiet, friendly, intelligent
Cons: stubborn, aloof, high prey drive, shed like crazy