By Amy Fernandez
Importing dogs is never fun or easy, but technical challenges wax and wane based on forces beyond our control. At the moment, that’s mostly due to pandemic travel restrictions, economic volatility, and a bit of war for good measure. Like I said, everything is out of our control.
There will always be something complicating an inherently demanding situation. The thing is, dedicated breeders will find a way around the obstacles because they see the big picture. That dog or lineage is worth the effort.
Writing an overview of Borzoi for March 1947 Gazette, Arthur Fredrick Jones admitted that World War II had dealt a drastic blow to much of the dog world. “This is particularly true of dog breeders who, despite a preponderance of all the evidence, are even now looking to depleted European kennels in the hope that some breeding miracle will produce near-perfect dogs there.” .
However, he added that this kind of frustration was nothing new to the Borzoi fantasy: “We talk about the iron curtain that now cuts off our knowledge of Russia as effectively as lead insulation, but we forget that the old tsarist Russia it was hardly more open. to foreign visitors than the Soviet version.” That inaccessibility, which extended far beyond dog breeds, gave rise to much speculative imagination. It could be compared to the fascination that surrounds other exclusive cultures like Tibet. When the Tibetan races finally came to the west, we got everything wrong. And that was more or less the case with the Borzoi, as Jones admitted. He wrote: “That is why it came to pass that when scruffy pairs of Borzoi trickled down to England, France and other Western European countries, there was little way to tell that these hounds were, for the most part, the discards of various kennels. ”
As a result, the United States got off to a bleak start when the first Borzoi arrived here in 1889. One strong review described it as small, undergrowth, boneless, with a curly tail and coat, and an overly bent knee. But, as Jones said, this didn’t stop America’s interest in the breed. “Twice in a ten year period, just before and shortly after the change of 20the century: American breeders made extensive trips through Russia to inspect the various types that country had to offer. The result of this first-hand study of the correct Russian type was that some of the best specimens were brought to this country not once, but several times.”
Jones was aware of the brevity in that article. But even he couldn’t simplify that enormous challenge. The main figure associated with that aspect of Borzoi history is, of course, Joseph Thomas, who subsequently wrote extensively about Borzoi’s experiences in Russia and greatly expanded current knowledge of the breed. When Thomas and other Americans went cattle hunting, there were hardly any purebred Borzoi left in Russia; “[E]although for several hundred years the great estates of Russia maintained the kennels of these superb hunters.”
Haunted is the only way to describe Thomas’ search. Despite the odds, he refused to take no for an answer. And in hindsight, it’s fair to say that the Borzoi might have disappeared if Joseph Thomas hadn’t accomplished the impossible by entering Russia, enlisting the cooperation of the handful of remaining breed followers, and importing enough high-quality specimens to find a viable home. gene pool around here.
Jones said: “Joseph Thomas in particular, the second American to spend time in Russia, set up kennels here that were unrivaled for the quality of cattle outside Grand Duke Nicholas’s Perchina Kennels and Artem Balderoff’s Woronzova Kennels, both of which had supplied their original specimens. And it is that strain, forty years later, that is still found in many of the major show hatcheries.”
By then, the purebred Borzoi had all but disappeared from its homeland. The handful of kennels that existed in Europe were based on Borzoi rejects, feces, and scribbles. It was a failed breed in every way, which made the Borzoi’s later turnaround all the more amazing.
Never underestimate the impact of big dogs and competitive spirit. The breed reached its peak popularity here in the early 20th century.the century “[D]This is largely due to the fact that several large kennels were continually competing for top honors. Even in 1926, the first year the AKC had a breakdown of registration numbers, the breed was at 17the place with 482 individuals registered in the stud book of that year.” The good times were good, but not perfect, as Jones pointed out. “At the height of her popularity, the Borzoi was often seen alongside an elegant Gibson Girl of the time, emphasizing only the beauty of the breed.”
We can speculate as to why registrations fell off after that, bottoming out in 1935 with only 85 recorded. AKC revised the name to Borzoi in 1936 and 147 were registered in 1940, making the breed 47th in popularity. But it began to decline again the following year. “As a large breed, it suffered during the war years when food was hard to come by and dwindled to 58the place.”
The Borzoi has definitely endured a wild ride towards survival. Last year she was ranked 104ththe , about halfway through the AKC breed pack. Regardless of which path he takes from here, we know he’s here to stay, thanks to breeders who refused to take no for an answer.
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