There is no doubt the beautiful Borzoi is one of the most regal, elegant-looking hounds in the canine kingdom. This longer-than-life pooch has an easy-going and relaxed personality that many dog lovers adore. But it’s true that not every family can offer them the lifestyle that they need to stay happy, healthy, and entertained.
This breed guide reviews the facts about this relatively rare breed, from their history and breed purpose (which involves lazing around with Russian Czars and hunting wolves) to their lower-than-expected exercise needs. We also share tips on how to maintain their long, luscious locks and much more.
This breed guide is a must-read for those looking to invite the Borzoi into their palace. So, let’s begin with their royal history.
The Borzoi is a Russian dog breed best linked to the imperial Romanov dynasty, which dated from 1613 up until 1917. They were the stunningly aristocratic pooch favored by Czars and other noble families to keep them company. But these dogs aren’t just pretty faces. They are also sighthounds with the stamina and power to reach 40 miles per hour and hunt anything that runs.
This impressive skill meant that their royal owners also used them for hunting wolves and smaller prey. Their job was to bring home meat for the palaces and their grand parties. And this is why you might hear some people referring to them as the Russian Wolfhound. Sadly, the Russian Revolution saw the slaughter of the Romanov family, other noble families, and their long four-legged companions. Because of this, the Borzoi breed nearly became extinct.
Thankfully, Borzoi lovers overseas lent their best specimens to help save the bloodline. In 1903, an American man named Joseph Thomas made three trips to Russia. And he brought Borzois from top kennels back with him every time. The same year, the Borzoi Club of America was formed. In 1936, they were officially recognized as the Borzoi rather than the Russian Wolfhound.
Those that know this breed well cherish them most for their calm and agreeable nature. The American Kennel Club (AKC) describes them as ‘regally dignified,’ and they haven’t got it in them to fool around or be silly. They are still well-balanced and peaceful pooches.
They are so laid back that they make terrible watchdogs. And they have no interest in guarding your home whatsoever. Not only do they rarely bark, but they’ll also let anyone and everyone walk into their home without batting an eyelid. They can be shy or friendly with strangers but never suspicious.
Except, of course, smaller, furry creatures because they have a very high prey drive. They’re not rude — they just can’t help themselves. They’ll chase everything that comes into their yard because it’s in their nature to do so. So don’t expect anything less.
They are sensitive souls and loyal to a tee as well. Meaning if you’re looking for a dog that’ll stick to you like glue, the Borzoi could be an excellent option for you. While this is a charming characteristic, it also has its fair share of problems, including not wanting to be left alone. As a result, many Borzois suffer from separation anxiety.
Size & Appearance
They range from 60 to 105 pounds, with males tending to be the heavier of the sexes. Females usually measure a minimum of 26 inches tall, from paw to shoulder. And males measure a minimum of 28 inches, typically ranging from 32 to 34 inches.
Under their long coat, they are similar in build to a Greyhound. They have a slightly domed head, a long, thin muzzle, and a large fleshy nose. Their ears are small, and their neck is thick and muscular. They have a long tail that they carry low and gracefully. And their back is slightly arched, giving them an elegant yet powerful appearance.
The breed standard outlines what an ideal Borzoi should look like. And if you want to show your pup in the show ring, they’ll have to match these rules as closely as possible. But if you are just looking for a family companion, the rules aren’t as important as their health.
Coat & Colors
A Borzoi’s coat should be silky to the touch rather than wooly and can be flat, wavy, or curly in texture. The hair is shorter around their face, with a curly frill around their neck. They have a double coat that sheds moderately throughout the year and is heavier during the shedding seasons.
Those looking for a hair-free home should avoid the long-haired Borzoi. When it comes to coat colors, they pretty much sport all the colors in the canine kingdom. The most popular colors are black, brindle, white, cream, gold, silver, sable, or a mixture.
Borzois would happily sit on the sofa for most of the day. But when they do get their butts outside for some exercise, they have impressively powerful bursts of energy. They need around 45 minutes of exercise a day to stretch their long legs and stay healthy.
Their explosive energy comes from the need for speed when chasing other creatures. As a sighthound with speeds of up to 40 miles per hour, it’s not recommended to let them off-leash in an unconfined area. Instead, stick to walking on the leash and allowing them to let loose in your yard, a secure field, or a doggy park. Otherwise, chances are, you won’t get them back.
They need mental stimulation during the day, but not as much as many other dog breeds. They are simple creatures with a laid-back nature, which is what many Borzoi fans love about them. Give them access to a basket full of doggy toys, such as chew sticks, and treat dispensing challenges to prevent boredom.
The Borzoi is a large and lengthy pooch, but their calm personality surprisingly lends them well to apartment living. They’d also happily live in a large house with sprawling fields, meaning they are pretty adaptable. But wherever they live, their home needs to be secured and escape-proof. Because despite being intelligent doggos, this sighthound would run in front of vehicles in the pursuit of a neighbor’s cat.
Their well-balanced nature means they make great siblings for kiddos of all ages. Just be sure to keep them under supervision like you would with any animal. Additionally, these dogs are also happy to live with other dogs if they are not too rowdy. They like their afternoon naps uninterrupted and haven’t got the patience for bouncy pups.
If raised alongside a cat, they will probably learn not to chase it. But the rules only apply indoors. Outside of the doors, anything is a game to hunt. For this reason, these dogs are best suited to dog-only households. However, every dog is different.
These pups are just as stubborn as they are clever, meaning training can be a little tricky for those with no previous doggy experience. The key to training a Borzoi is patience and consistency. Start your training as soon as you bring them home, and stick to the rules you set. Just bear in mind that a ‘no dogs on the sofa’ rule won’t go down well with this royal pooch.
Gentle and fair training is the only way to train this canine. Because if they deem your training as too harsh or unfair, they will not respond well. Instead, stick to positive reinforcement training. Sighthounds love to chase things, so most Borzois are motivated by a ball or high-quality squeaky toy to pursue. Keep training sessions short and fun to keep them interested.
Socialization is another crucial aspect of training if you want your Borzoi to transform into the well-balanced and calm canine we know them to be. Without it, these sensitive pups become extremely shy and lose confidence. Mix them with as many dogs and humans as you can, as well as new situations and experiences.
Crate training is also a good idea for Borzoi puppies. Not only is it proven to reduce anxiety in already sensitive dogs, but it also means that they have somewhere to retreat to for peace. Investing in an XXL crate for your large buddy ensures that they have all the legroom they could wish for. Start the training early, and they’ll soon see it as their very own palace in no time.
This breed has an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years, which is impressive for their size compared to other large dog breeds. Like all dog breeds, they are more likely to suffer from certain health conditions more than others. Many responsible breeders screen for the following health concerns.
Many large dog breeds are predisposed to a variety of heart problems. The most common in this breed is dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). DCM occurs when the heart becomes enlarged, thin, and weak, preventing it from efficiently pumping blood around the body. Advanced symptoms include breathlessness, coughing, exercise intolerance. But it can be picked up early at routine health checks if murmurs or abnormal heart rhythms are detected.
Hypothyroidism occurs when the body does not produce enough thyroid hormone. An abnormal hormone balance causes weight gain, lethargy, hair loss, and behavioral changes, just to name a few. It can also lead to secondary health concerns such as epilepsy, keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or dry eye. It cannot be cured, but it can be managed with a daily hormone supplement.
Eye concerns are found in most dog breeds. The most common in the Borzoi is progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). PRA is a degenerative disease of the retina, which eventually causes total loss of vision. The first symptoms to watch out for are usually light sensitivity and bumping into objects.
This is a debilitating disease of the spinal cord which leads to hind limb lameness and eventual paralysis. Degenerative Myelopathy is believed to result from a genetic mutation, and it is more common in larger dogs.
Many sighthounds are sensitive to drugs, particularly those with a lower percentage of body fat. Although most vets are aware of this, it is always worth mentioning should your pooch need emergency surgery, dental cleaning, or anything else that requires sedation.
A typical Borzoi eats approximately four to eight cups of food a day. Although it’s challenging to overfeed this breed as they are naturally lean and aren’t overly greedy, preventing them from becoming overweight is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
All large dogs should be fed food specifically designed for large breeds, and the Borzoi is no exception. This is because it contains optimized calcium and phosphorus levels, which help to stabilize bone growth and prevent skeletal disorders in later life. This is especially important during the developmental puppy stage.
The Borzoi is prone to gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), more commonly known as bloat. The stomach twists and fills with gas, leading to shock and sudden death. Although this is more common in large, deep-chested breeds, little is known about the exact causes of GDV. Feeding them two smaller meals instead of one large one and avoiding exercise immediately before or after mealtime are recommended to decrease the chances of this life-threatening condition.
Their silky texture holds onto little dirt, making them relatively clean dogs. Their long hair needs brushing once every day or two to prevent matting and sweep away any dead hair that otherwise might end up on your outfit. The best brushes for a Borzoi grooming kit are a pin brush and a slicker brush. During the shedding seasons, you might need to brush them every day without fail.
Their long and narrow muzzles mean that they have cramped teeth that need extra attention than their wider-mouthed friends. To prevent tooth decay and periodontal diseases, brush their teeth three times a week. And always use a doggy-designed toothpaste – never human toothpaste. Their nails tend to grow fast, too, so be sure to trim them monthly at least.
Bathe them regularly to keep them looking and smelling their best, but try not to wash them more than once every month. Otherwise, you risk upsetting their natural skin pH levels and causing irritation. A conditioning doggy formula decreases the chances of their long hair tangling. Get them used to their beauty regime as a puppy if you want groom time to go smoothly as an adult.
Breeders & Puppy Costs
If you are looking for a puppy, you will probably need to travel to find a responsible dog breeder. You should also expect to be placed on a waiting list. But don’t worry, this is a positive sign of a reputable breeder. The AKC list registered breeders on their Borzoi breeder page, so this is a great place to start your research.
The typical fee for a Borzoi puppy from a decent breeder usually falls between $1,800 and $2,500. But if you are looking for a puppy from an award-winning lineage, you can expect to pay more than this. If you find a Borzoi pup for much lower than this price, see it as a warning sign that the breeder might not be as responsible as they are claiming to be.
Being a dog owner is not all fun and games — it is a huge responsibility that comes with more expenses. On top of the initial puppy price, you’ll need to consider the cost of buying everything your dog needs, including beds, bowls, a secure fence, balls to chase, a leash, and more. You’ll also want to plan for annual vet checkups and unexpected medical expenses that pet insurance can help you plan for.
Rescues & Shelters
Not every family wants to or can invite a puppy into their home. Instead, adopting an older pooch is sometimes the better option. Plus, the costs of adopting rather than buying are usually much lower.
Heading out to your local rescue shelters is usually the first step in the adoption process for most. Speak to the staff who can talk you through the adoption process. And if there isn’t a Borzoi available there, they might know of another in a nearby shelter. Alternatively, the National Borzoi Rescue Foundation helps pups in need across the country and details how their adoption process works.
As Family Pets
In general, this breed is:
- A large and long dog that can live in all types of homes, be that a small apartment or large house.
- Moderately active dogs that require 45 minutes of daily exercise. But then they love to snooze the day away.
- A sighthound with a high prey drive, so you shouldn’t trust them off-leash in open spaces.
- Curious and when not chasing furry creatures, they are super calm and laid back, making them well-balanced family pets.
- Very affectionate with their family and love nothing more than to snuggle on the sofa.
- Intelligent but stubborn, so they need a family with previous dog experience to get the best out of them.
- Happy to live with children and other dogs, but they prefer calmer siblings over boisterous ones.
- Sensitive dogs and don’t like to be left alone for too long.
One thing’s for sure: the Borzoi isn’t your average dog. They are large but super calm. Elegant but capable of taking down wolves. And they are stubborn but very laid back at the same time. All these traits combined make for an extraordinary dog breed.
Sure, they might make terrible guard dogs, and they aren’t the silliest of breeds, but they are friendly, loyal, affectionate, and much more. These sensitive souls need a family that can spend most of their time with them and offer them a relatively serene lifestyle. So, if you think that you’ve got what it takes to provide this regal pooch a place in your palace, what are you waiting for? This snuggly sighthound might just be your next best friend.