Breed love: Borzoi

Borzoi just waiting for you to take his picture. Click for source.

The borzoi, also known as the Russian wolfhound, is an undeniably fashionable dog. They are scattered throughout the portraits of the rich and famous in the early 20th century. These shaggy, elegant giants were especially popular among wealthy women in the 1920s, because they looked fabulous with every ensemble. At the very least, you would attract a lot of attention with a pair of borzois at your side.

These gentle and quiet-natured sighthounds were once used by the Russian royalty to hunt wolves, although it would be quite unlikely to find a borzoi hunting today. Today, you’d be most likely to meet one in a show ring. They are still quite rare in the United States and you would pay a pretty penny for a purebred borzoi.

Racing borzoi. Source: Flickr user wolfhound

Borzois, like other sighthounds, are not known for being champions of the obedience ring. In fact, many owners will find them very difficult to train. This is not because, as Stanley Coren posited, they are unintelligent, but rather because they are uninterested in learning what you’d like to teach them. Unlike the highly trainable herding breeds, hounds are notoriously stubborn and sighthounds in particular are famously aloof.

Despite the challenges to training, borzois make great house pets and probably won’t give you half the trouble that one of the highly trainable breeds, like border collies or Australian shepherds, would. They are clean and quiet and almost catlike in their affectations. I’d be open to owning a borzoi one day if the opportunity ever presented itself.

Borzoi links:

Breed Love: Greyhound

Elegant greyhound. Source: Flickr, user ginakellyphotography

There is nothing quite so beautiful as seeing a dog do something it was born to do. Like watching a border collie control sheep. Or watching a greyhound sprint. Greyhounds are fleet, elegant dogs who have been around for centuries. They appear in classic paintings and today, many of them still appear on the racetrack. Greyhounds ought to be one of the more highly recognizable breeds for their popular image and their distinctive shape, but I find myself always surprised by how many people think greyhounds are whippets (or vice versa).

The issue with using greyhounds for racing–apart from the fact that it seems like a rather inhumane life for such sensitive dogs–is that racers are often “retired” when they hit two or three years old. This means that you have a whole lot of greyhounds who need to be adopted. Thankfully, there are a ton of great greyhound rescue agencies, like the Virginia-area ones I’ve linked to below.

I find myself increasingly drawn to getting a greyhound for a second or third dog (maybe after we get our Aussie and German shepherd). Why? A few reasons spring to my mind. One, greyhounds make great indoor dogs. They are quiet and clean, almost cat-like in their movements and habits. Their fur is extremely short and velvety and requires very little grooming. Second, a mild-mannered and elegant greyhound would be an excellent foil to a high-maintenance Aussie and a super-athlete German shepherd. Third, there are hundreds of these gorgeous dogs who need to be adopted.

A thoughtful greyhound. Source: Flickr, user mobilevirgin

I can think of few cons to owning one of these beautiful dogs. I think I’d like to have a dog who could compete in obedience or agility with me, and for that reason, greyhounds wouldn’t be ideal. But after we’ve settled in a bit and I’ve gotten out my need to have a high-maintenance (read: herding) dog, I really think I’d love a greyhound.

Greyhound links: