With his tall, lean body, long, narrow head, and silky coat, the Borzoi is the picture of refinement and elegance. Borzois carry themselves proudly, and it's easy to envision them lounging in the palaces of Russian Tsars or swiftly running down a wolf in the Russian countryside. But before you bring a Borzoi to your palace, you need to decide if a Borzoi is right for you.
Prized for their grace as well as their sweet dispositions, Borzoi are known for their speed, juxtaposed with a laidback personality. They prefer a quick sprint to long-distance running and are then satisfied to return indoors to relax on a favorite sofa. They're not what you'd call a high-energy dog. If you want to spend the day in bed or on the sofa, your Borzoi will be happy to spend it there with you.
Despite his relaxed attitude and regal appearance, the Borzoi is not simply a beautiful showpiece for your home. This giant breed, whose height ranges from 28 to 32 inches, has a mind of his own and a desire for human companionship. He's not the best choice for people who are away from home for long hours every day. His luxurious double coat, which kept him warm during brutal Russian winters, sheds heavily. His size is also a consideration for people with small children. The Borzoi is gentle, but puppies are enthusiastic and may accidentally knock over a toddler in play.
The Borzoi's athleticism serves him well in dog sports. Naturally, he's beautiful in the show ring, and he can also compete well in agility, obedience, and rally. But where he shines is in the lure coursing field, exercising his natural instinct to chase. In Western states, Borzoi are sometimes used in open field coursing to hunt jackrabbit, and some farmers use them against coyotes to protect their livestock.
No longer a royal hunting companion, today the Borzoi's most important job is that of family friend. With his sweet, gentle demeanor, it's a job at which he excels.
- Borzoi are sighthounds and will chase anything that moves. They should never be allowed to run loose unless in a secure area.
- Borzoi can be sensitive to drugs, especially anesthetics, due to their lack of body fat. Make sure your vet is aware of this. The drug Ropum (Xylazine) should never be used for a Borzoi. Also, avoid exercising them on lawns that have been recently treated with fertilizer, insecticides, herbicides, or other chemicals.
- Borzoi can be fussy eaters.
- Borzoi can be prone to bloat. Feed frequent small meals and prevent heavy exercise after eating.
- Borzoi can be nervous around children and should be introduced to them at a young age if they will be in frequent contact with them.
- Borzoi bark infrequently and do not have strong guarding instincts. They make poor watchdogs as they cannot be relied upon to raise the alarm when an intruder is sighted.
- They can live successfully with cats and small animals if introduced to them at an early age. Some Borzoi only follow the "no chase" rule indoors and cannot resist the instinct to chase a running cat if outdoors.
- The Borzoi is not a common breed, so it may take some searching to find a breeder who has puppies. Be patient.
- Gastric dilatation volvulus, also known as gastric torsion or bloat: This is a life-threatening condition that affects large, deep-chested dogs, especially if they're fed one large meal a day, eat rapidly, drink large amounts of water rapidly, or exercise vigorously after eating. Bloat occurs when the stomach is distended with gas or air and then twists. The dog is unable to belch or vomit to rid himself of the excess air in his stomach, and blood flow to the heart is impeded. Blood pressure drops and the dog goes into shock. Without immediate medical attention, the dog can die. Suspect bloat if your dog has a distended abdomen, is drooling excessively, and retching without throwing up. He also may be restless, depressed, lethargic, and weak with a rapid heart rate. If you notice these signs, get your dog to the vet as soon as possible.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): This is a degenerative eye disorder that eventually causes blindness from the loss of photoreceptors at the back of the eye. PRA is detectable years before the dog shows any signs of blindness. Fortunately, dogs can use their other senses to compensate for blindness, and a blind dog can live a full and happy life. Just don't make it a habit to move the furniture around. Reputable breeders have their dogs' eyes certified annually by a veterinary ophthalmologist and do not breed dogs with this disease.
- Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD): This orthopedic condition, caused by improper growth of cartilage in the joints, usually occurs in the elbows, but it has been seen in the shoulders as well. It causes a painful stiffening of the joint, to the point that the dog is unable to bend his elbow. It can be detected in dogs as early as four to nine months of age. Overfeeding of "growth formula" puppy foods or high-protein foods may contribute to its development.