Borzoi: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

borzoi dog in the woods

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Borzoi dogs are large hounds native to Russia with deep chests, narrow limbs, and smooth, long fur. A dignified dog bred as regal members of the Russian aristocracy, the Borzoi has long been considered one of the most beautiful breeds. Though these elegant sighthounds are agreeable and calm, their impressive speed was historically used to hunt wolves.

Borzois have the ability to run at 35 to 40 miles an hour—which isn’t surprising since underneath their luxurious silky coat is the ancient blood of the Greyhound. Today, Borzois are affectionate and loyal family pets that possess both strength and style.

Breed Overview

Group: Hound

Height: 28 to 34 inches (males); 26 to 32 inches (females)

Weight: 75 to 105 pounds (males); 60 to 85 pounds (females)

Coat: Flat, wavy, or curly

Coat Color: White, brown, black, cream, tan, and other variations

Life Span: 9 to 14 years

Temperament: Calm, quiet, athletic, gentle, attentive, intelligent

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: Russia

Characteristics of the Borzoi

Like the Greyhound, the Borzoi has a very even-tempered, calm, and quiet personality with gentle and elegant mannerisms. Though they make loyal, affectionate family pets, Borzoi aren’t the type of dogs to do a lot of roughhousing with children—they’re a bit too dignified for that. They can often be reserved with strangers but affectionate with their family and people they know well. Because of their strong prey drive and instincts to hunt and chase, Borzoi dogs may not always do well entering a home with other pets; ideally, they should be introduced to other animals in the home when they are puppies.

Affection Level High
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness Medium
Energy Level High
Trainability Medium
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Low
Shedding High

History of the Borzoi

Known as the Russian Wolfhound until 1936, the Borzoi dog was bred to be fast, strong, and tough enough to pursue some of the most ferocious quarries. They originated in 17th century Russia when Arabian greyhounds were bred with a thick-coated Russian dog. Appropriately, "Borzoi" is the masculine singular form of an archaic Russian adjective that means "fast."

The Russian concept of hunting trials was developed during the era of the Tzars; these tests were often used to select Borzoi breeding stock so that only the fastest and most intelligent hunting dogs were bred. They hunted in packs, sometimes with more than 100 dogs, including just as many Foxhounds and people to assist them in their pursuit of game—which was sometimes hare and small animals, but more often than not, Borzoi hunted wolves.

What would become the first Borzoi standard was written in 1650, and they were bred by the Russian aristocracy for hundreds of years. Exports of Borzoi to other countries were rare during the Soviet era, but enough of these dogs had been taken to countries including England, Scandinavia, Western Europe, and America by the late 19th century for the breed to establish itself outside its native country. The Borzoi is said to have made its way to America in 1889, when William Wade of Hulton, Pennsylvania brought one of these dogs over; the dog was originally purchased from Freeman Lloyd.

Borzoi Care

Since Borzois are known as gentle giants, it's easy to mistake them for a very low-maintenance breed. However, while even temperament does consume most of their days, these dogs do need consistent exercise and mindful, positive reinforcement-based training to live happily. It's also important to groom this breed regularly to maintain their silky coats.

Exercise

These large, athletic dogs require at least an hour of daily exercise in the form of long walks. It’s imperative to have a fenced-in yard and only walk these powerful sighthound dogs on a leash, as the sight of wildlife like a cat or squirrel on the run is far too tempting for their strong pursuit instinct. This breed also takes great pleasure in participating in active, outdoor activities with their owners, and they tend to excel in canine sports like lure coursing and agility.

Grooming

Due to their long, silky coat, the Borzoi is a shedder and needs a brushing every couple of days with a pin or slicker brush and/or comb to remove loose hair and dirt. The Borzoi has an annual shedding season in the summer and fall when more frequent grooming is necessary. This breed's coat is unique in its texture along with its distribution over the body; there should be a frill on its neck as well as feathering on its hindquarters and tail. As with most dogs, this breed also requires regular bathing and nail trimming.

Training

Owning a Borzoi typically requires plenty of patience, consistency, and a little bit of humor. In some ways, these dogs are catlike, as they can be both quiet and stubborn. When it comes to training, the Borzoi may be intelligent, gentle, and well-mannered, but they are also independent (so training may be somewhat of a challenge). They are likely to become easily bored with repetitive and seemingly pointless activity—and like other sighthounds, they are very sensitive to harsh treatment. This means that your Borzoi will not be able to cope with raised voices or any form of punishment-based training. Early socialization and positive reinforcement training are key.

Common Health Problems

Borzois are generally healthy dogs, but they have been associated with some health issues that can affect their stomachs, joints, and eyes. As with all breeds, this dog's ears and teeth should also be cleaned on a regular basis. The following are common conditions to be aware of:

  • Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV or Bloat): Because they are a large, deep-chested breed, Borzois can be susceptible to gastric dilatation-volvulus, a sudden and life-threatening stomach condition. Borzoi owners should educate themselves about the symptoms, treatment, and even preventative care like prophylactic gastropexy surgery. Sighthounds like the Borzoi tend to be more sensitive to anesthesia than other breeds.
  • Elbow and hip dysplasia: Common in large breeds, dysplasia is a degenerative condition that affects a dog's joints. Many dogs experience elbow or hip dysplasia from genetic abnormalities that progressively develop from a young age.
  • Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD): Osteochondritis dissecans is another condition that affects the joints. Unlike dysplasia, OCD is a malformation caused by calcium deposits in joint cartilage that fails to develop into bone.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy: Affecting a dog's sight and potentially causing blindness, progressive renal atrophy is a hereditary, deteriorating condition that begins in the retina.

Diet and Nutrition

Surprisingly, Borzoi dogs typically eat less than other dogs of their size, and puppies tend to consume more food than adults due to their rapid growth. Borzoi owners should be mindful about overfeeding or offering too many treats, as these dogs can potentially become overweight and subject to obesity-related issues.

The Borzoi should do well on high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with veterinary supervision. Choose food appropriate to your dog’s age, considering whether they are a puppy, adult, or senior. Their age also correlates to the recommended number of feedings per day (and amount of food per meal), so consult with your veterinarian to determine a healthy, safe eating plan as your dog grows.

Because of the tendency of these dogs to run and chase, it's important to time their meals carefully. Avoid feeding your Borzoi before or after they engage in any strenuous exercise, as this can be a contributing factor to bloat. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times for this active breed.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Borzoi

Be sure to check your local animal shelters and rescue groups for Borzoi dogs. The national rescue group for Borzoi dogs, the Borzoi Club of America, can also help you find your new best friend. Purchasing a Borzoi puppy from a breeder typically costs between $1,000 and $2,000, but the price can range up to about $5,000 depending on the breeder. Below, find online resources to rescue a Borzoi in need of a forever home:

Borzoi Overview

Pros
  • Calm and gentle

  • Intelligent

  • Loyal to family, friendly with children

Cons
  • High shedding

  • Sensitive; needs positive reinforcement-based training

  • Needs regular grooming

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

When determining if the Borzoi is the right dog to join your family, be sure to research all aspects of the breed and consult other Borzoi owners, breeders, and rescue groups to learn more. Check out these other similar breeds:

With a little bit of research, you're sure to find the dog breed that's right for you!

FAQ
  • Is a Borzoi a Good Family Dog?

    The Borzoi is a great dog for those with children for many reasons, such as its calm personality and friendly, loyal personality with close family. However, this breed can be a bit standoffish with new people, so ensure your dog is socialized well with your extended family and friends.

  • Are Borzoi Dogs Aggressive?

    Borzoi dogs do not have a reputation for being aggressive, though this breed does have an instinctive hunting drive. Many Borzois coexist happily with other dogs and smaller pets like cats, but it's important to introduce them slowly (when your Borzoi is still a puppy, if possible).

  • Are Borzoi Dogs Smart?

    The Borzoi is an intelligent dog known for its historic trainability that was bred specifically for hunting in packs. However, these dogs are also sensitive and can become bored easily, so it's best to practice regular positive reinforcement-based training when your dog is introduced to the household.

  • Are Borzoi Dogs High-Maintenance?

    Borzois don't need more exercise and training than most dog breeds, but they do require regular grooming thanks to their long, silky coats. This breed needs to exercise for at least one hour per day and should be brushed at least twice per week to keep its fur clean and tangle-free.