Borzoi, Russian for 'swift,' is a fitting name for this speedy breed. The Borzoi is a sighthound, like the Greyhound or Afghan Hound. Historically, this dog served as hunting companion to the Russian aristocracy; packs of Borzoi would catch—and pin—wolves until the hunter arrived. The task required speed, endurance, strength, and independent thinking. Though smart, they're not known for their obedience—a trait that comes from the need to make decisions while on the hunt. A patient, experienced dog owner is best for this stubborn, yet sensitive, breed.
The Borzoi was previously called the Russian Wolfhound. Borzoi is the preferred plural of the name, though Borzois is common.
The Borzoi's coat consists of a long, silky, and often wavy overcoat, with a soft undercoat. A frill is visible on the neck, and the tail is feathered. Any coat color is acceptable.
Average Height: 27-33 inches
Male: 75-105 pounds
Female: 55-90 pounds
Breed Standard & History
Borzoi were built for speed and sight, but should also appear elegant. The head is long and narrow, with long jaws and a domed skull. All teeth should be present. The head's shape and structure are of high importance. The ears rest back against the neck, and raise when at attention. The Borzoi has a powerful neck, a narrow chest, sloping shoulders, a graceful back, and muscular loins; any coat color is acceptable. His gait is strong and springy. – AKC Breed Standards
The Borzoi was developed in Russia from ancient sighthound breeds like the Afghan Hound. The dogs from whom the breed descended may have arrived in Russia as early as the 13th century. Nobles in the 17th century developed the treasured Borzoi as companions for wolf hunting, a tradition that included an excess of ceremony. The dogs were expected to pin wolves until the hunters could kill, or occasionally release, the wolf. They were also used to hunt rabbit and fox in teams. Royalty had an affinity for the elegant breed—ownership was restricted to only those who received a dog as a gift from the Tsar. The Russian Revolution resulted in the slaughter of the majority of the Borzoi population, as hunting with or owning the sighthounds was considered an aristocratic waste. The breed may have gone extinct were it not for the dogs who had made their way to Europe and America.
The glamorous 1920s were popular years for the elegant Borzoi—famous silent film actors kept them, and advertisers used them. In the decades since, they’ve been featured in everything from liquor ads and movies to publishers’ logos, as mascots, and characters in novels.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) first recognized the Russian Wolfhound in 1891, but the name was changed to Borzoi—after much debate—in 1936.
AKC Breed Category
Quiet, serious, or goofy—the Borzoi’s personality may vary between individuals. They are intelligent, gentle, and respectful, but can also be stubborn. The breed as a whole is not often shy, but socialization from puppyhood is important to prevent timid behavior. They are family-oriented and prefer to spend time with people, but they don’t demand attention and are often happy to lounge.
Are Borzoi Good with Kids? Borzoi aren't an ideal breed for homes with small children as they do not tolerate curious hands where they don't belong. They're also large and may knock over children unintentionally. Borzoi may learn to live with older, dog-experienced children.
Are Borzoi Good with Other Pets? Borzoi are usually tolerant of other animals, but may chase small dogs, cats, or critters like rats or hamsters. And even if they're accustomed to cats in the home, they are likely to chase cats and other animals outdoors.
Guarding instincts don't occur naturally in the Borzoi. They are not guard dogs, nor are they likely to make good watchdogs. They aren't often noisy, and may not even bark when a stranger approaches the home.
Though large, the Borzoi has a low energy level—some are downright lazy and must be encouraged to exercise.
- The Borzoi is sensitive to drugs and chemicals.
- He has a high prey drive.
- Feeding the Borzoi may be difficult—they're fussy eaters, with specific dietary needs.
- The Borzoi is an Independent thinker.
- He is intelligent, but not always obedient.
- He is sensitive to stress.
- He doesn't tolerate rough treatment.
- He's not an ideal match for small children.
Though large and energetic, the Borzoi is happy to lounge while indoors. They'll claim any free furniture, so if this isn't allowed in your home it is better to discourage the behavior in puppyhood—before they've gotten used to the most cushy seats in the house. Borzoi are calm enough to adapt to most living situations, even apartments, if provided regular opportunities to walk, run, and play outdoors. The breed is usually quiet, so they aren't likely to disturb neighbors with barking or howling.
The name 'Borzoi' means swift, and it's no coincidence. This is a speedy dog—and his prey drive is likely to kick in if something interesting runs by. Borzoi need supervised time outdoors, but keep your Borzoi leashed or in a fenced area unless he will respond to your recall every time. A visible barrier is important for this high-prey-drive breed—an underground fence will not contain him. If a Borzoi starts running, he may be oblivious to surrounding dangers like roads. He may also have difficulty finding his way home again. This is not a dog who can live outdoors full-time: he needs companionship and to curl up on a warm bed inside.
They may be giants, but they don’t require much exercise. Borzoi enjoy a couple of walks and the opportunity to run around outdoors—about a half hour per day—but are otherwise laid back, easygoing companions indoors. Some Borzoi may need more exercise than others, but don’t allow yours to become a couch potato.
One of the main priorities in the development of Borzoi was the ability to participate in wolf hunting and coursing. Stamina and speed are two of the Borzoi's most impressive qualities—but though they can run 35 miles per hour for one mile, they are better suited to sprinting than to endurance running.
Activity distance rating
- Running Miles: Full-grown, well-conditioned Borzoi may be able to run up to five miles, but sprinting is more their style.
- Hiking Miles: A full day hike may be easy for a healthy Borzoi, but they can’t often be trusted off leash. They have a high prey drive and a tendency to run away.
A special diet may be necessary for Borzoi due to the specific dietary needs of a tall, lean dog. Growth formulas for puppies may cause improper growth, leading to cartilage and joint concerns. Consult your breeder or veterinarian for diet advice.
Most Borzoi will need about four to eight cups of high-quality dry food daily, based on the dog's average weight and activity level. This amount should be split between two meals, or can be offered in a food-dispensing puzzle toy. They may suffer from gastric torsion, or bloat. Using raised feeding bowls and limiting activity for an hour after feeding can help prevent this dangerous condition.
Borzoi do not tend to guard their food, but children should never be allowed to touch or remove food while any dog is eating.
As a breed developed to work closely with its people, Borzoi aren’t thrilled at the prospect of spending time alone. They may be able to stay home alone for four to six hours, but may become destructive without enough attention or exercise. Crate training will help keep Borzoi safe while unattended.
Health and Grooming
Weekly brushing—more during seasonal shedding—and occasional baths are all that are necessary to keep the Borzoi's coat in top condition. Though they shed quite a bit, grooming is not a time consuming task. Trimming nails regularly will help prevent painful splitting, cracking, or breaking a nail.
Common Health Issues
The Borzoi may have some breed-specific health concerns, including:
- Cancer, most often osteosarcoma
- Progressive retinal atrophy
- Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), an orthopedic condition that affects joints and cartilage
- Cardiac concerns
You can minimize serious health concerns in a Borzoi by purchasing him from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.
As with most hunting breeds, the Borzoi is highly intelligent, but has a mind of his own. He can learn basic obedience, but it takes patience and plenty of positive reinforcement. If a Borzoi thinks there's a better option, he's likely to choose it over what you've asked. To prevent boredom, training should occur in short, fun sessions without much repetition. Basic manners, leash training, and a solid emergency recall should be priorities. Socialization is also important to prevent extreme shyness.
Speedy, graceful Borzoi often enjoy agility. Because Borzoi have a mind of their own, rally may be a better fit than advanced obedience. Keep training fun, use positive reinforcement methods, and maintain a sense of humor for the greatest success.
Sporting Dog Training
The Borzoi was developed for speed and skill and was desirable as a hunting companion. This breed has a high prey drive and may be trained as a sporting dog, but most Borzoi compete in coursing and tracking events rather than hunting.
Here are a few commonly asked questions about Borzoi.
The long, lean Borzoi looks different at birth—it takes a few years for their head to grow into its signature elongated shape. At birth, Borzoi puppies have a bent nose. The nose begins to straighten after a few weeks, but the head won't be fully grown for about three years—it has about 10 inches of stretching to do in that time.
Consult with a veterinarian to ensure you're feeding your Borzoi an appropriate diet from puppyhood and through adulthood. Borzoi aren't fully grown until they reach two years old. Growth formula puppy foods and foods formulated for large breeds can contribute to cartilage and joint issues, but an appropriate diet can help prevent these issues.
Sight is an important sense for hunting dogs like Borzoi. The ability to observe and react to visual stimuli as quickly as possible was a consideration in breeding these powerful hounds. Sighthounds—usually distinguished by an elongated, or dolichocephalic, head—tend to have better vision than breeds with short noses. Their superior vision may be attributed to an advanced visual streak—the part of the retina that provides the best vision. A sighthound's field of vision is about 270 degrees. Comparatively, humans have about a 180 degree field of vision.