Those who proclaim the Russian wolfhound, or borzoi, the most wonderful dog in the world have strong grounds for their opinion. Of great size, a marvelous silky coat not long enough to hide his graceful lines, speed almost equal to a greyhound's strength almost equal to that of an Irish wolf dog, and with long, muscular jaws, like a grizzly-bear trap, it is no wonder that he is such a favorite, and that beautiful women are so proud of his company.
But the gods always withhold something even from those whom they favor most, and the borzois we have seen appeared to lack both the keen intelligence and the frank expression characteristic of their British cousins.
We know that the champions of the breed will differ from us in this, but the fact remains that the form of the Russian dog's head leaves little room for brains. In Russia these hounds are used in wolf hunting. The wolves are first driven out of the woods by smaller dogs or by beaters, and when a wolf comes into the open two or three borzois, well matched as to speed and courage, are unleashed and sent after him.
They are trained to seize the wolf, one on each side, just behind the ears, and they should do this both at the same moment, so that their antagonist cannot use his formidable teeth on either of them. They hold their quarry until the huntsman arrives, leaps from his horse, and either dispatches the wolf with a knife or muzzles him and carries him off to be used in training young dogs in a large, railed inclosure made on purpose.
This handsome animal should be of extreme slenderness of head, leg, and waist; narrow through the shoulders, but very deep in the chest. Pasterns and hocks well let down, and, like the greyhound and whippet, the borzoi should have the back strongly arched or roached to give play to the enormous unbending spring. The legs are straighter than in the greyhound, especially at the stifle.
Color is not a cardinal feature, as in Russia at least the borzoi is really used for wolf hunting and the color is unimportant. Here and in England, however, where they are kept solely for their graceful beauty, those in which white predominates, with head and flank markings of lemon, bay, brown, or black, are favorites.
The head should be extremely slender and narrow, the coat deep, silky, and nearly straight, the eyes full and round. Indeed, the eyes of the best dogs look rather flat and scared to one who sees them for the first time. In spite of his slender, rather obsequious, appearance, the borzoi is a serious opponent when in trouble. Woolly hair, bent pasterns, straight back, "cow hocks," and a gaily carried tail are all defect to be avoided.