PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial
Published: June 2, 2009

An elegant, graceful breed, the Borzoi was originally a hunter in mostly open terrain. As such, it relies primarily on sight for spotting its quarry and powerful, fast running gear to chase it down.

Physical Characteristics

Graceful and elegant, the Borzoi retains these qualities while standing or moving. As a running hound, this breed is fit for hunting fierce, big game in extremely cold climates. To suit this purpose, the dog runs at a very fast pace but has a more powerful and larger build than a Greyhound. It has jaws which are powerful enough to trap a wolf. The silky, long coat of the hound, meanwhile, can be either curly or flat and wavy, thus protecting the dog from snow and cold weather.

Personality and Temperament

The Borzoi is normally good with kids, but its playfulness may not meet the expectations of some. Shy with strangers, some Borzoi are also quite timid. The Borzoi is a true example of a quiet and good-natured indoor house dog. When outdoors, the dog races wildly and even chases small, running animals. The hound is considered independent as well as sensitive in nature.


Functioning best as house dogs, with easy access to a yard, Borzoi can reside outdoors in cold weather, provided a warm shelter and soft bedding are offered. The male Borzoi has a fuller coat than the female, and requires combing or brushing two or three times a week. There are times when the dog sheds a great deal. This breed of dog does well when given a chance to exercise every day with a long walk and a sprint in an enclosed area.


With an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years, the Borzoi dog breed is prone to major health concerns such as gastric torsion, and minor problems like cardiomyopathy and hypothyroidism. The Borzoi reacts adversely barbiturate anesthesia. To identify some of these issues, your veterinarian may run thyroid and cardiac tests on this breed of dog.

History and Background

For several hundred years, the Russian aristocracy bred the Borzoi or "Russian Wolfhound." In the 13th century, hare hunting was a popular sport and after two or three centuries, coursing hounds were crossed with tall Russian sheepdogs and bear hounds to increase the original breed’s coat and size. This was required to hunt wolves in very cold climates.

The first Borzoi model was documented in a book dealing with Borzoi hunting rules in the 1600s. It is said that there had never been such a large-scale focus on a hunting dog before. Countess serfs took care of the dogs on large estates and the hunts were always grand occasions. One account says that hounds, beaters, horses, and hunters were brought in on a train of more than 40 cars. Another train carried the Grand Duke and nobility. More than a hundred Borzoi took part in the hunt. Initially scent-hounds and beaters trailed the wolf and hunters on horseback followed them. When a wolf was spotted, a pair of Borzoi was then let loose. The dogs attacked the prey together, until the hunters arrived.

Towards the end of the 1800s, there were as many as seven different subtypes of the Borzoi breed in Russia. The Grand Duke Nicolai Nicolaevich retained the current Borzoi standard that descended from the Perchino breed. Most of the early imports in America were brought straight from the Perchino doghouses. The Russian Czar gifted many Borzoi to visiting royalty. The conclusion of the Russian Revolution put an end to the prosperity of the nobility and subsequently numerous Borzoi died.

In the United States, the Borzoi dog breed became famous as a glamorous dog that accompanied movie stars. The Borzoi is popular as a pet and is mostly liked for being an excellent model, coursing dog, and show dog.

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