The history of the appearance of the greyhound breed

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The history of the appearance of the greyhound breed
The history of the appearance of the greyhound breed

General description of the variety, the ancestors of the greyhound, the territory of their development, the use, development and preservation of the dog, its popularization and recognition, the participation of the breed in culture and the current situation. The content of the article:

  • Origin and progenitors
  • Development area
  • Application of the breed
  • Development and preservation
  • Popularization and history of recognition
  • Participation in culture
  • Today's situation

Greyhound or Borzoi, also known as "Russian wolfhound" or "hound sighthound" belongs to the Sighthound group and is considered to be a native of Russia. These dogs have long been used by the Russian nobility for hunting, the main prey of which has always been the wolf. Created for running, the name of the dogs comes from the Russian word for "greyhound", that is: fast, agile, agile, quick, lively, zealous. These beautiful dogs later became famous as circus performers and flaunted on show rings around the world. They are rather large, graceful with a beautiful silky slightly curly coat of almost any color.

The origin and progenitors of the greyhound

Two greyhounds

These dogs have always been closely associated with the Russian nobility. They hunted wolves and other game with their owners for centuries. Although it is generally accepted that the breed evolved from the intersection of greyhounds with species more suitable for life in the cold weather of Russia, this version has long been disputed. Despite the fact that only the long-haired variety "psovaya borsaya" is found outside the Russian borders, another short-haired species known as "hortaya borsaya" or "chortaj" is found in its homeland. The short coated Borzoi is considered the older of the two varieties.

The Sighthound is the oldest identifiable type of canine and first appeared on Mesopotamian and Egyptian artifacts around 6,000–7,000 BC. NS. The exact origins of these early greyhounds will probably never be known, but it is generally assumed that the ancient Egyptian hunting dog known as the teem was their ancestor. These early borzoi evolved into animals that closely resemble modern salukis and may in fact be such a breed.

Trade and conquest spread these canines throughout the ancient world, from Greece to China. Saluki was once thought to be the ancestor of all other greyhounds, but recent genetic analysis has cast doubt on this theory. It is still likely that the saluki is a very closely related breed that is the ancestor of the afghan hound and other asiatic sighthounds.

Greyhound development area

Greyhound dog external standard

Russia had a long history of contacts with the nomadic peoples of Central Asia. This country has been conquered by Asian tribes for centuries. On the vast expanses of the prairie-like steppes, people with experience in the field of horseback riding, many of whom possessed greyhounds, such as: saluki, tazy, taigan and Afghan hound, moved.

At some point, these breeds appeared in Russia. It was long believed that they first arrived either with Byzantine merchants in the 9th or 10th centuries, or during the Mongol invasion in the early 1200s. Another theory, based on research published by the American Kennel Club (AKC), determined that a pack of gazelle hounds (salukis) was imported from Persia by a Russian duke in the early 1600s. These dogs did not survive the cold winters of Russia, and the amateur brought a second similar group of dogs, which he crossed with a collie-like Russian breed. As a result, they became the ancestors of the greyhound. However, such a relationship has recently been doubted when studying Soviet documents and other facts.

The original written account of the Russian hunting dog dates back to the 1200s, but it describes a breed that hunted rabbits and may not have been a greyhound at all. The first image similar to borzoi in Slavic lands can be found in St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, the former capital of Great Russia. Hunting murals from the 1000s show a dog very similar to the "hortaya borsaya" herding deer and wild boars. These data suggest that such canines were preceded by the Mongol invasion and, of course, the 1600s.

Research by the Soviet Union reveals the presence of two ancestral greyhound species in Central Asia: afghan hound (Afghanistan) and taigan (Kyrgyzstan). These dogs migrated both south and north. The southern canines evolved into the Tazy and possibly the Saluki, while the northern ones formed the hortaya borsaya. Most likely they first arrived in modern Ukraine in the 800s or 900s through trade or with conquering armies. But, the exact data is most likely lost forever to history.

Central Asia suffers from harsh winters, and these dogs are most likely able to survive in southern Russia and Ukraine. However, they would not have been able to withstand the harsh winters of Moscow or Novgorod. To create a breed more adapted to the cold, breeders crossed a Horta Greyhound with Husky, powerful spitz-like dogs native to the Russian north. It is not known exactly which of the four types of Laikas was used (East Siberian, Karelian-Finnish, Russian-European or West Siberian).

All of them are well adapted to the Russian cold, and are ferocious hunters who are excellent at fighting giant boars and are even able to endure them. It is also possible that spitz-type herding and hunting dogs belonging to the lapp people were used. In light of the evidence gathered by Soviet researchers, much of the above may in fact have a basis.

Application of the greyhound breed

Greyhound dog muzzle

However, when this breed first appeared, it was a cherished hunting companion of the Russian nobility for a long time. These dogs have always enjoyed the privileges of the monarch and lower nobles. Although hares and rabbits were considered the most common game, the variety was also used with some frequency for catching wild boar and deer, however, the wolf has always been the preferred and worthy prey for the greyhound. Borzoi is one of the only species, both large and fast enough to defeat the gray brother, especially in the cold climates and often snowy conditions prevailing in Russia. Traditionally, they were not used to find and kill a wolf. A flock of foxhounds or other scenthounds will hunt down and attack the predator.

Fierce and swift-footed greyhounds chased the wolf, working in groups of two or three. Such dogs overtook the gray brother, and then knocked down their prey with the shoulder or attacked the neck until the prey fell. Further, the "gray brother" was pursued by a hunter on a horse, who threw a spear at him, or captured the animal alive. The most desirable way to end the hunt is to kill the wolf in the immediate vicinity with a knife.

The Russian nobility was so keen on this occupation that very often they organized gigantic hunts. It was a common sight to see a pack of over a hundred hounds and hundreds of greyhounds. More than two hundred dogs and hundreds of instructors for them took part in some of the catching of animals. In the last era of the nobility of Russia, for such entertainment, forty trains were required to transfer horses, dogs and people.

For centuries, the only ones allowed to own greyhounds were members of the nobility. At various times in Russian history, it has been illegal to sell borzoi. They could only be donated by the sovereign. It was the Russian breeders who were responsible for the coat color of the variety. They preferred to breed light-colored animals because such dogs were perfectly camouflaged among the snow and it was easier to distinguish them from wolves.

Greyhound development and conservation

Greyhound dog puppy

Some say that the first standard for such dogs was written in 1650, but this is more a description of the breed than the criteria followed by modern dog lovers. Undoubtedly, the Russian nobility carefully bred these animals. Initially, large hunts, in which greyhounds took part, were purely entertainment. In the end, they became a test of the suitability of this species.

Therefore, only the most successful individuals began to breed. Since the earliest times, greyhound breeding has been carefully regulated, although suitable dogs from other countries have been used to improve the breed. This was especially true in the 1800s when western European sighthounds were added to the borzoi lineage.

During the 1800s, Russian nobles began to lose influence and power. Therefore, the quantity and quality of the greyhound population began to decline. In 1861, the Russians emancipated their last serfs. Many nobles left their lands and moved to cities. They left or significantly reduced the size of their nurseries. Many of the dogs were either euthanized or handed over to the recently "liberated" lower class.

The greyhound became rare in areas where the number of wolves was small. The Russian Revolution of 1917 almost doomed the breed to extinction. The communists who invaded Russia regarded the variety as a sign of the hated nobility and the oppression of the commoners that they endured. Many borzoi were killed mercilessly. Some local nobles have undertaken the obligation to euthanize their beloved pets, but not to let them fall into the hands of adherents of the ideas of the new era. The sheer size of the country has allowed a number of members of the species to survive in remote areas.

However, a soldier named Konstantin Esmont liked the greyhounds he met in the Cossack villages. In the late 1940s, he took a series of photographs with them. Esmont was successful in convincing the Soviet authorities that borzoi and other Sighthound were valuable as a means of providing furs for the Soviet fur industry and for controlling wolf populations that threatened livestock raising. Subsequently, the Soviet Union took control of breeding efforts to preserve the unique variety.

Popularization and history of recognition of greyhounds

Greyhound dog photo

Despite the fact that very few borzoi were exported at this time, they were sufficiently brought to the United Kingdom, the United States and several other countries before the Russian revolution. This fact has contributed to the stable population of the species in the West. Greyhounds were found throughout Russia, but restrictions on the transfer and sale of these dogs meant that they did not leave their homeland until the late 19th century.

The first greyhounds taken out of Russia are considered to be a pair donated to Queen Victoria by the Russian autocrat. Prince Edward was also presented with pets named "Well done" and "Udalaya". They were publicly exhibited several times and continued to produce offspring, which were later shown in British show contests. Queen Alexandra took a keen interest in borzoi. She kept and bred many of these dogs.

Around 1890, greyhounds began to flourish in England. The Duchess of Newcastle is largely responsible for the founding of Notts Kennel and is dedicated to breeding the highest quality borzoi. The weakening of the influence of the Russian nobility allowed a greater export of these canines. For many years in the United Kingdom they were known as the "Russian wolfhounds". Another famous British fan was E.J. Smith, Captain of the Titanic. Preserved his photographs with his beloved white pet "Ben", outside the cabin of the ship.

The first greyhounds came to the United States from England in the 1880s. The species was first recognized by the American AKC in 1891. In 1892, this organization registered only two individuals, littermates. The first was imported to the United States from Russia in 1890. This year, approximately seven dogs were brought to Seacroft kennels.

Most early American enthusiasts wanted to use the species for hunting wolves and coyotes in the American West. They found that many Russian kennels were producing dogs that had degenerated in quality and type. These lovers had to search for the animals they needed for a long time. Although many borzoi from Russia were on display in the show ring, most of them were originally used for hunting.

The Greyhound Club of America (BCOA) was founded on November 12, 1903 as the "Russian wolfhound club of America". The original purpose of which was written by Executive Committee member Joseph B. Thomas. It consisted in "placing the Russian wolfhound as a working dog in a chien de luxe (dog of luxury) popularly respected among the larger breeds." In 1904, representatives of the club gathered at the Westminster Kennel Club show and developed the constitution of the organization and the standard of the species.

At the same time, BCOA was ranked among the AKC. Variety criteria were approved and officially published in 1905. They remain relatively unchanged to this day, apart from a few minor adjustments in 1940 and 1972. In 1936, the name of the breed was changed from "Russian wolfhound" to "greyhound", and the name of the club was changed to "Borzoi club of America".

The United Kennel Club (UKC), which focuses on working dogs, first learned about the greyhound in 1914. In the middle of the 20th century, they became famous as circus dogs. Borzoi were popularized because they possessed not only the beauty and grace of the attention-grabbing "crowd", but also sufficient parameters for easy viewing from afar.

Greyhound participation in culture

Five greyhounds on the grass

A group of trained breed members have traveled with the Ringling Bros circus for many years. Many viewers were fascinated by these dogs, and later became owners and breeders. In recent years, greyhounds have been used for coursing sports. Although the breed does not have a Greyhound top speed or Saluki endurance, it still excels in the sport and the fighting between the species is always marginal.

Greyhounds have been represented in the literature and art of many countries for many centuries, probably much more than any other Russian breed. A long scene of a wolf hunt is described in several chapters of the masterpiece "War and Peace" by the writer Leo Tolstoy (1869).

In later times, borzoi appeared in the films Lady and the Tramp, Onegin, Hello Dolly!, Legends of Autumn, Excalibur, Bride of Frankenstein, A Tale of the Knights, Sleepy Hollow. The Last Action Movie and Gangs of New York. The breed has also performed on the small screen "Wings and Kuroshitsuji" The variety is a symbol of the Alfred Abraham Knopf Publishing House.

Today's greyhound position

Greyhound dog for a walk

In Russia, a large number of borzoi are still used traditionally to chase wolves. In fact, Russian breeders generally do not breed their dogs with English or American greyhounds, which lack hunting instinct and ability. In the Russian state, the dynamics of breeding dogs by type is growing, and maybe one day these dogs will restore their high status.

In the United States, the total population is very small. Few greyhounds are employed as hunters. In addition, some of these dogs remain circus performers. The vast majority of these lovely American pets today act as companion animals or show pets. Due to the special requirements for keeping the variety, it will probably never become a particularly common breed.

However, these canines have many devoted followers and a large number of hobbyists and breeders who try to preserve and protect them. Since the 1980s, the number of representatives of the species has remained fairly stable. According to the 2010 AKC dog registration statistics, the greyhound is ranked 96th out of 167 recognized breeds.

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