Maple Heights, United States

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19×25 colored pencil on tinted pastel paper. Original available.

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“Borzaya” (“quick dog”) is a Russian term for various types of native sighthound. The Russkaya Psovaya Borzaya (Psovoi – the longhaired borzoi) is the dog we know as Borzoi. The system by which Russians over the ages named their sightdogs was a series of describing terms, not actual names, which makes the use of Borzoi for the Psovaya a mistake made by the first Western exporters of the breed. “Psovaya” means “longhaired”, just as “Hortaya” (as in Hortaya Borzaya) means shorthaired. Other Russian sightdog breeds are e.g. “Stepnaya Borzaya” (from the steppe), called “Stepnoi” or “Krimskaya Borzaya” (from the Krim), called “Krimskoi”.
Appearance Borzoi can come in any color or color combination. As a general approximation, “long haired greyhound” is a useful description. The long top-coat is silky and quite flat, with varying degrees of waviness or curling. The soft undercoat thickens in winter or cold climates but is shed in hot weather to prevent overheating. In its texture and distribution over the body, the Borzoi coat is unique.
Temperament The Borzoi is a quiet, intelligent, moderately active, independent dog. They adapt very well to suburban living, provided they have a spacious yard and regular opportunities for free exercise.
Most adult Borzoi are almost mute, barking only very rarely. They are gentle, sensitive dogs with gracious house-manners and a natural respect for humans. Borzoi should never display dominance over people. However they are sometimes nervous around children and need to be introduced to them at an early age if they are to be the pet in a young family.
Health Life expectancy is 10 to 12 years, females usually living longer than males. Exceptional individuals have lived to be more than 16 years of age. Dogs that are physically fit and vigorous in their youth through middle age are more vigorous and healthy as elderly dogs, all other factors being equal. In most parts of the world, bloat and road accidents seem to be the most frequent causes of premature death.

As with other very deep-chested breeds, gastric torsion is the most common serious health problem in the Borzoi. Also known as bloat, this life-threatening condition is believed to be anatomical rather than strictly genetic in origin. Many Borzoi owners recommend feeding the dog from a raised platform instead of placing the food-dish on the ground, and making sure that the dog rests quietly for several hours after eating, as the most reliable way to prevent bloat.
History It was long thought that Saluki type sighthounds were originally brought to Russia from Byzantium in the south about the 9th and 10th centuries and again later by the Mongol invaders from the East. However, now that the archeological archives and research results of the former USSR are open to scientists, it has become quite clear that the primal sightdog type evolved between the lower Kazakhstan part of Altai and the Afghan plains, and that the earliest actual sightdog breeds were the plains Afghans and the Taigan.

These ancient breeds then migrated south (founding the Tazi/Saluki branch) and west (founding the Stepnaya, Krimskaya and Hortaya branches) to develop into breeds adapted to those regions. This was a slow process which happened naturally through normal spreading of trade, with the silk and spice trade via the Silk Road being the prime vector.

The more modern Psovaya Borzaya was founded on Stepnaya, Hortaya and the Ukrainian-Polish version of old Hort. There were also imports of western sightdog breeds to add to the height and weight. It was crossed as well with the Russian Laika specifically and singularly to add resistance against northern cold and a longer and thicker coat than the southern sightdogs were equipped with.

All of these foundation types – Tazi, Hortaya, Stepnaya, Krimskaya and Hort – already possessed the instincts and agility necessary for hunting and bringing down wolves.

The Psovoi was popular with the Tsars before the 1917 revolution. For centuries, Psovoi could not be purchased but only given as gifts from the Tsar. The most famous breeder was Grand Duke Nicholas Nicolaievich of Russia, who bred countless Psovoi at Perchino, his private estate.

In the 1917 Revolution, large numbers of native Psovoi were destroyed by the revolutionaries. The Tsars had turned them into a symbol of affluence and tyranny, and they were not welcomed into the new world of the Soviet Union. Some noblemen took it upon themselves to shoot their own dogs rather than allow them to fall into the hands of militants and be cruelly tortured. However, the Psovoi survived along with the other borzaya variants in the Russian countryside.

In the late 1940s a Soviet soldier named Constantin Esmont made detailed records of the various types of borzoi dogs he found in the Cossack villages.

Esmont was concerned that the distinct types of borzaya were in danger of degenerating without a controlled system of breeding. He convinced the Soviet government that borzoi were a valuable asset to the hunters who supported the fur industry and henceforth, their breeding was officially regulated. To this day short-haired Hortaya Borzaya are highly valued hunting dogs on the steppes, while the long-haired Psovaya Borzaya, still carrying some of the stigma of its association with the old White Russia, has become more common as a decorative companion. (information from Wikipedia)

  • Complete 06-26-2000 in 14.51 hours spread over 10 days

Artwork Comments

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