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The Borzoi is a large to giant purebred from Belarus and Russia and was once called the Russian Wolfhound. It has a similar look to the Greyhound but with longer and curlier hair. Russians often named their breeds with adjectives that reflected the dogs, in this case 'borzoi' in archaic Russian means fast. In Russia the breed is called by a fuller name, Russkaya Psovaya Borzaya. When referring to more than one of them you can use Borzois or Borzoi. While they were developed a hunting dogs and for coursing they also make great companions as it has a lovely gentle and sweet manner.

The Borzoi at A Glance
Name Borzoi
Other names Barzo, Russkaya Psovaya Borzaya
Nicknames Russian Wolfhound
Origin Belarus, Russia
Average size Large to giant
Average weight 60 to 105 pounds
Average height 26 to 28 inches
Life span 10 to 12 years
Coat type Silky, long, wavy to slightly curly
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black, red, grey, white
Popularity Somewhat popular – ranked 89th by the AKC
Intelligence Low – training can be harder with this breed
Tolerance to heat Good – can handle warm weather but not very hot climates
Tolerance to cold Very good – can handle cold climates
Shedding Constant – expect a lot of hair around the home
Drooling Low – not a breed known to slobber or drool
Obesity Moderate – not especially prone to weight gain
Grooming/brushing Will need daily brushing
Barking Rare – should not be prone to frequent barking
Exercise needs Somewhat active – enjoys a mix of play and relax time
Trainability Moderate – will be a gradual process, some experience will help
Friendliness Very good with socialization
Good first dog Good but best with experienced owners
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Good with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization
Good with other pets Good with socialization – can have string prey drive
Good with strangers Very good – approachable with socialization
Good apartment dog Very good – despite its size it is happy napping when indoors so can adapt to apartment living
Handles alone time well Low – can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues Very good health – just a few possible issues which include bloat, OCD and eye problems
Medical expenses $485 a year for basic health care and insurance
Food expenses $275 a year for a good quality dry dig food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $650 a year for basic training, license, grooming, miscellaneous items and toys
Average annual expenses $1410 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,000
Rescue organizations Several including the National Borzoi Rescue Foundation and the Borzoi Club of America
Biting Statistics None reported

The Borzoi's Beginnings

The Borzoi is believed to have been developed crossing the Arabian Greyhound with other Russian sheepdogs. It was used as a sighthound for hundreds of years in Russia where it was very successful at hunting fox, hare, wolves and other prey. It was especially favored by the Russian nobility and the wealthy. For many years in fact they could only be received when gifted to you from the Tzar, they could not be purchased in any manner. It is an ancient breed of dog and its ancestors can be found back to the 9th and 10th centuries.

During the times of the Tsars, so before the revolution in the early 20th century, they introduced hunting trials, a great way to test breeding stock and for many an exciting sport to watch. In 1650 a written breed standard was produced. The trials could go on for days and while small game like hare were the most kills dogs and hunters also enjoyed testing themselves against harder prey like wolves. In fact wolf hunting today in Russia is still part of their trials to receive a sightdog hunting diploma. By the mid 1800s these lavish trials were less possible and popularity of the breed began to drop. In 1873 numbers of the dog were low and some breeders tried to take steps to saved and promote them.

But with the 1917 revolution things changed a great deal. Things linked to the Tzars and the aristocracy were no longer valued and were even viewed negatively. The Borzoi was no longer fashionable or in demand. At the same time different techniques and inventions were changing the world of hunting. This too had a negative impact on the numbers of dogs in Russia at this time. A lot of dogs were killed during the revolution and in the years after.

New Lease on Life

The breed was saved thankfully because of those that had been gifted to other royal families over the centuries by the Tzars and those that important people had imported from Russia. The first such imported Borzoi to the US was in the 1890s and kennels were established and a breed club formed. In 1891 it was recognized by the AKC and in 1936 its name was changed from Russian Wolfhound to Borzoi. It is ranked 89th most popular registered purebred by the AKC.

In the Soviet Union, as Russia was known then, in the 1940s a Soviet soldier who's name was Constantin Esmont studied borzoi types and numbers and made recommendations about controlled breeding to preserve the types. He persuaded the Soviet government of their value and importance and that they could be an asset to hunters for the fur industry. As a result their breeding was regulated.

The Dog You See Today

This dog is large to giant weighing 65 to 105 pounds and stands 26 to 28 inches tall. It has a double coat the top of which is long, silky and can be wavy to curly. It can come in almost any color though more common ones are black, red, white and grey. The hair on its head, front of the legs and ears is smooth and short. Around the neck there can be a curly frill and on the rear and tail there is heavy feathering. Its body shape is very like the Greyhound, with a narrow but deep chest, arched back line, straight front legs and a curved tail that is set low. It is tall and lean, streamlined and elegant.


The head is domed and narrow and it has a muzzle that is a little arched and long. The nose is big and black and the eyes slant and are dark. It has small ears that it holds laid back on its head.

The Inner Borzoi


This is an intelligent and sweet natured dog and is good even for owners with little experience. It is very loyal to its owners and family and with them is affectionate. With strangers though it tends to be more reserved. It does have an independent mind though so be prepared for some free thinking. It does not often bark and is not a great breed if you want a watchdog. However it does have some protective instincts so may act to defend you if needed.

With its noble history it has a proud bearing about it and can be quite cat like too about its own cleanliness. When a puppy it is more playful but as it grows it becomes more quiet and dignified indoors and saves its exuberance for outside. It does not like to be startled and it can be touch sensitive so homes with young children or lots of raised voices are not the best fit for it. This is a sensitive breed and if the dog is stressed it can become sick and neurotic. It also does not like to be left alone for long periods of time so is not the right dog for people who are out all day at work. It needs plenty of attention and companionship.

Living with a Borzoi

What will training look like?

Some see the independent temperament of the Borzois as an indication it is less than intelligent, but others argue that it just has a different kind of intelligence. Training Borzoi can be difficult because it is willful and thinks it knows best. It does not care about making you happy, it can even be manipulative. You will need to be consistent, patient, firm and clear that you mean it and that you are the pack leader. Training cannot be overly repetitive, as soon as it becomes bored it will find a way to get out of it. Keep it fun, short and engaging for the dog and give lots of encouragement and praise. Intimidation, impatience and scolding will not be as effective for this sensitive breed. It is important that a sensitive and wary dog like this is socialized well. Otherwise it can become overly suspicious and that can lead to aggression. In a dog of this size this is not something you want.

How active is the Borzoi?

While it is large the Borzoi can live in an apartment if exercised well enough as once it is fully grown it is not active indoors, and in fact is quite happy to take over your couch! However in an ideal situation it should have access to a yard. It is not a high energy dog but it does need a couple of moderate to long walks a day, as well as chances to run off leash in safe places like a dog park. Make sure you keep it on a leash when walking as it will want to run off after things and many end up in car accidents as a result. These are a great jogging companions and would also do well joining you on a bike ride or a hike. If you do not give it enough exercise it will become bored and act out.

Caring for the Borzoi

Grooming needs

Borzoi have moderate maintenance needs and you will need to brush it regularly and be prepared for lots of shedding. This means vacuuming daily to keep some of that hair at bay, though you will not get rid of it all, all the time! Use a firm bristled brush when grooming and when it comes to bath time only shampoo and bathe when it is really needed to avoid drying out its skin. It is a clean dog, almost cat like and is easy to keep its coat clean. Make sure you keep the mats behind its ears and hind legs away too. It will likely need regular trips to a groomer to help look after its coat if you keep it longer.


It will need the hair between its toes to be clipped to stop the feet spreading. The nails should also be clipped when they get too long. Take care with this as cutting too far down can cause bleeding and pain. If you are not experienced with it have your vet do it and show you how, or leave to a professional groomer. Also clean its ears once a week just by wiping them and check them for signs of infection. Brush its teeth at least two to three times a week too.

Feeding Time

The Borzoi will need to eat around 4 to 8 cups of a good quality dry dog food each day and that should be split into at least two meals to avoid problems with bloat. How much exactly your Borzoi will need is going to depend on its size, metabolism, level of activity, age and build.

How is the Borzoi with children and other animals?

If raised with children and well socialized the Borzoi can be good with children though it is best with older ones. Younger ones tend to make sudden loud noises that it does not like, and will tug and pull at it which it also does not like! With its size it can sometimes knock down smaller children too accidentally. Make sure children are taught how to play and touch a dog in the right manner, it is not a dog that can handle being teased and is touch sensitive.

With other dogs around its size it is usually fine and can be very good with socialization. Some can be aggressive with other dogs of the same sex when they have not been neutered or spayed. With dogs that are quite a bit smaller though it will see that the way it sees other strange small animals like cats, something to chase and should it catch them (which is likely given how agile and quick this breed is), can do harm. Training will teach it some control as will socialization but that instinct will always be there and could trigger at any time especially when outside.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

Its life span is about 10 to 12 years and it has quite a good health in general. There are a few issues that can come up though, as mentioned it is prone to bloat, it also can be drug sensitive. Less common concerns include heart problems, eye problems, OCD and Cancer.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dog attacks against people over the last 34 years in Canada and the US the Borzoi is not specifically mentioned in any of them. This makes it a breed that people do not need to feel wary around, despite its size it is not prone to attacking people. It can have bad days like any dog can, and it can be aggressive around dogs though. As a responsible owner it is your job to minimize the risk of your dog overreacting to something. Make sure it is well socialized and trained, that it has enough attention and exercise and that it is the right dog to suit your own lifestyle.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

The Borzoi can cost about $1000 for a pet quality dog from a good breeder, though prices can range from $500 to $1500. Take care where you buy from and be prepared to do some homework and spend time looking at breeders. Avoid backyard breeders, ads in papers or online, pet stores and such where the puppies often come from puppy mill like places. For a dog of higher quality, one that can be shown from a top show breeder you can expect that figure to run into several thousands. There is the option to look for a rescue and offer it a new home for $50 to $300. You are giving a dog a new chance at a better life and usually these dogs comes with medical concerns taken care of. Often though they are more adult aged than puppies.

When you have found the right breeder and have a puppy there are some things you will need and some medical concerns to take care of. The former includes things like bowls, a crate, collar and leash and so on. These will cost you about $180. Medical needs covers having the dog vaccinated, dewormed, given a physical, have blood tests done, micro chipped and spayed or neutered. These will cost in the region of $300.


Annual costs will cover things like food, medical basics, pet insurance, miscellaneous needs, training, license and so on. A good quality dry dog food and dog treats are going to cost about $275 a year. Basic medical care and pet insurance will be another $485 a year. Miscellaneous costs like license, training (basic), toys, grooming and other needs come to about $650 a year. This gives a total annual cost of $1410 or more.


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A Borzoi is an athletic and fast large dog but calm indoors and quite dignified. It is not a barker but it does shed a lot so you will need to spend more time with its grooming. It is a sweet and gentle dog but it can be sensitive and shy. That can turn into being suspicious and aggressive without the right care and without socialization and training. Also be prepared that training can be difficult with this dog as it does have an independent nature and can be stubborn.

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