Hundreds of years ago, you’d have seen Borzoi dogs sprinting through the field lands in 1600s Russia, chasing after wolves. In fact, when they first came to the United States, they were dubbed Russian Wolfhounds. The first standards for what a Borzoi is were set in 1650.
Borzois were bred for hunting and surviving harsh Russian winters. They were bred from Arabian Greyhounds and Russian Sheep Dogs. Borzoi have long hair to protect them from the elements, a lithe build to aid them in running, and keen eyesight to detect prey. The Borzoi is a sighthound breed, meaning they hunt by sight.
Today, they’re kept as pets more often than they’re used to hunt. Still, some farmers rely on them to take down large predators and keep their livestock safe. Others may use them to hunt small game such as hare.
Many people are more familiar with the Borzoi’s close relation, the Greyhound, and thus may see them as a long-haired version. While the Borzoi is a breed of its very own, there is a lot of truth to this theory, as the breeds are remarkably similar.
In this complete guide we’ll talk all about the Borzoi, from the breed’s origins to how to adopt and care for a Borzoi puppy today.
Table of contents
- Borzoi Overview
- Borzoi Appearance
- How Much does a Borzoi Cost?
- Borzoi Temperament
- Are Borzois Hard to Train?
- How much Exercise does a Borzoi Need?
- Do Borzois Need Grooming?
- Borzoi Environmental Needs
- Is the Borzoi a Healthy Breed?
- What to Feed Your Borzoi
- What are Borzois Known For? Borzoi History
The Borzoi dog breed belongs to the sighthound group of dogs. Sighthounds are also known as gazehounds. These dogs tend to have similar builds and temperaments.
Because they’re bred to sprint, they have long, slim features. They also tend to be couch potatoes. Though they need plenty of daily exercise, they prefer to run in short bursts and are content to spend the rest of their days relaxing in the comfort of their homes.
Borzoi dogs are also giant in size, standing over 26 inches at the shoulder. Because they’re sighthounds, they weigh less than other dogs of their height—but don’t let this fool you!
The lithe, strong Borzoi was bred to take down wolves. They have a strong bite force and incredible prey drive.
|Appearance||Sprinter’s build with deep chest, slim face, and long legs|
|Size||26+ inches, 60-105 pounds|
|Coat||Long, double coat|
|Temperament||Aloof, intelligent, gentle, sensitive, loving, quiet|
Borzois have sprinter’s builds, similar to the bodies of Greyhounds and other sighthound breeds. Though females stand over 26 inches tall and males 28+ inches, they weigh just 60-105 pounds.
They have slim, triangular faces, small ears, and elongated snouts. They’re deep-chested with long legs and slim waists.
Borzois have long coats, which makes some people wonder whether they have hair or fur. Unlike some long-haired dogs with human-like hair that rarely sheds, Borzois have fur that sheds fairly heavily.
Borzoi fur can be a variety of colors according to the American Kennel Club (AKC) breed standard. These coat colors include:
- Black and brindle
- Black and cream
- Black and tan
- Red brindle
- Silver sable
- Silver brindle
- Gold brindle
- Gold sable
- Brindled sable
- Sabled gold
- Sabled red
Borzois may also have the following markings or a combination of them:
- Black mask
- Spotted on white
- White trim
How Much does a Borzoi Cost?
The price of a Borzoi puppy will vary greatly depending on whether you shop with a breeder or adopt from a rescue or shelter. Of course, there are pros and cons to both of these, which we’ll dive into further below.
Adopting from a Rescue or Shelter
Borzois adopted from a rescue, shelter, or rehoming situation will usually cost well under $500.
The best place to find a Borzoi is at a breed-specific or sighthound rescue, though you may find them in your local shelters as well.
Adoption fees at shelters and rescues go toward helping future rescues, as well as covering some of the fees they’ve put into your Borzoi before adoption. This can include spay or neuter surgery, veterinary care, food, and other items your dog needed during their stay at the facility.
Often, the shelter doesn’t even charge as much as they spent on the dog, so this is a fantastic deal.
Other pros to adoption include saving a dog’s life, ensuring you don’t shop with an unethical breeder, and the potential to adopt an already-trained adult dog. With an adult dog, you can be more certain of their personality and full-grown size.
Cons to rescuing a puppy or dog include not knowing their past, genetics, and potentially missing those puppy years.
Some rescues take more time to train due to an abusive or neglectful past, while others are a breeze since they’re already used to living in a home and following basic household rules, such as going potty outdoors.
Finding a Breeder
Borzoi puppies from a breeder cost anywhere from $1000-$5000, with the middle ground being $2000-$3000. Breeder prices will vary depending on lineage and the work the breeder is putting in. They may also vary depending on where you live.
Purchasing a puppy from a breeder sometimes requires more research to get right because there are so few reputable breeders out there. It’s vital to make sure you don’t purchase from a puppy mill or backyard breeder.
Puppy mills churn out puppies for sale without care toward their health or where they’re going. They’re often inbred with poor health, raised in poor conditions, and neglected. The mothers of these puppies are forced to give birth more times than is healthy, because the companies only care about profit.
Backyard breeders are a bit trickier to spot. They’re typically everyday people who want to breed dogs for fun or profit, but don’t know enough about breeding to do so ethically. They’re also very likely to breed dogs with poor health and not to care for their dogs properly.
When looking for a reputable breeder, look for the following:
- Visit the home, never a secondary location. The dogs should be kept inside of someone’s home in a clean, optimal environment. They should have toys and access to fresh water at all times.
- See the mother dog and other puppies. Some breeders may show off the cute puppies to tempt people to buy without knowing the poor conditions the mother dog is kept in.
- Reputable breeders always health screen their dogs and are happy to show proof of veterinary paperwork. This is one of the best things about shopping with a breeder—they can screen out genetic health problems from their puppies.
- They know the breed and care inside and out. Reputable breeders will honestly and accurately answer any questions you have.
- The breeder asks questions of you, too. They should want to know about your family, your home, and the life you’re going to give the puppy they’ve raised.
- Be ready to walk away if red flags arise. Remember that “rescuing” a puppy from poor conditions only enables the breeder to keep breeding. If they don’t sell any puppies, they’ll likely dump them at a shelter and stop breeding.
When adopting from a breeder, you’re less likely to get a dog with a set personality—for this, I recommend adopting a grown Borzoi from a shelter or rescue that utilizes foster homes. The foster parents will be able to tell you how the dog acts in a home.
While breeders can guess based on lineage and how the puppy acts today, they can’t be sure since every Borzoi has their own personality. They might be very cuddly as a puppy but grow out of this as they age, for instance.
You’re also going to have a lot of training to do. Although a good breeder will have already started socializing and training the pups, there’s no way to have a fully and perfectly-trained two month old puppy!
The pros to purchasing a Borzoi from a breeder include health screening, genetic knowledge, and spending nearly the entirety of your dog’s life by their side.
Borzois are giant dogs, and unfortunately come with some large expenses too! It’s important to think about the care your dog will need throughout their life on top of the beginning expenses.
Replacement items will likely add up throughout your dog’s lifetime, particularly when they’re in their teething phase as a puppy.
Veterinarians recommend every dog eats a high-quality dog food with meat as the first ingredient. Borzois don’t eat quite as much as other dogs their height because they’re not as bulky. Still, food costs will be more significant than they’d be for a smaller pup.
We recommend having either a savings account or pet insurance to pay for veterinary bills throughout your dog’s lifetime. Most insurances don’t pay for regular check-ups or care related to pre-existing conditions, but they can be a literal lifesaver for your dog during an emergency!
If you decide to purchase insurance, it’ll be cheapest to do so while your dog is young. You also never know when a problem will arise, so sooner is better than later!
Lastly, decide if you’ll be taking your dog to the groomer regularly. Groomers can help keep up with your Borzoi’s coat, but they are an added cost.
Borzois are known for being sensitive, lazy, and loving. They’re great dogs for people who are active, but would prefer a laid-back dog at home. They’re also well-suited to living with families where someone is home most of the day.
Borzois can be clingy and love to be around their people. They also love the comforts of life—they’d rather lay on the couch watching TV with you than sit outside in the yard alone.
They can sometimes be prone to separation anxiety. Because of this, it’s important to teach them how to be alone by providing short and positive experiences for them early in life. You can gradually increase the time and distance away from your pup as they get used to it, and as they age.
Like many sighthounds, Borzois are empathetic and sensitive to the mood around them. They do best in a calm home without too much turmoil.
Borzois are quite kid and dog-friendly, but they might chase little ones or see small pets as prey. They might also be nervous around children if not properly socialized.
For this reason, a home with older children and large dogs is recommended. Always introduce new pets slowly, and never leave children and dogs unattended.
These pups do pretty well with strangers so long as they’re well-socialized. You’ll want to teach manners early on, as most people won’t appreciate a giant dog jumping up on them or nipping.
Borzois seldom bark and don’t have strong guarding instincts, so don’t expect them to protect your home—though their mere presence might scare away some threats!
Are Borzois Hard to Train?
Often compared to felines, Borzois can be quite aloof! However, they’re also incredibly intelligent. They might know exactly what you’re asking and choose to do what they like instead.
However, these dogs are also sensitive to people’s emotions and truly do want to please. Remember, they were bred to think independently—it’s how they hunt!
It’s important to be firm but gentle with these pups. Avoid harsh, disproven training methods such as dominance theory or punishing your dog. This will quickly damage your relationship and make your Borzoi distrust and fear you.
Instead, keep training sessions short and positive. Find a reward they’ll work for, whether it be their favorite treat, a fun toy, or enthusiastic praise. These dogs aren’t very food-motivated, so you’ll do best with a very high-value treat or perhaps a toy for them to chase!
Try to always end on a positive note, before your Borzoi becomes bored or you become frustrated. Add variety to keep them interested and make training into a fun game for best results.
This way, your Borzoi will be begging for more—almost like it’s their idea.
Lastly, it’s important to keep your expectations realistic. For instance, recall is something worth working on, but don’t expect it to be reliable when your dog spots something to chase. Instead, manage your dog’s behavior through keeping them on leash or enclosed at all times.
How much Exercise does a Borzoi Need?
Some people describe Borzoi dogs as good for apartment living, but this is only true if you can regularly visit an enclosed space for them to sprint. Running is what they were bred for, and humans can’t keep up with their top speeds of 40 miles per hour.
Your Borzoi will also need a daily walk or run. Though they seem like couch potatoes, it’s vital they get their steps in!
However, if you’re looking for a hiking companion for long trails or someone to accompany you on long runs, you might want to look elsewhere. Borzois were bred for speed, not endurance—so this kind of long activity isn’t typically for them.
Do Borzois Need Grooming?
Borzois shed moderately, but it may feel like a lot more when you’re brushing them or vacuuming the house! Their size makes for a lot of shed fur.
Comb their fur once every other day, and once daily during shedding season. For Borzois, this will happen once a year and last up to a few weeks. During this time, they’ll shed much more profusely than normal.
Bathe your Borzoi as-needed. Regular baths will keep their coat looking its best. They’ll also need their teeth brushed, nails trimmed, and ears cleaned regularly.
Borzoi Environmental Needs
Borzois need a large, enclosed space to run daily. Ideally this is a backyard, especially as some Borzois may not get on with smaller dogs enough to utilize a dog park.
Daily walks or runs are essential, but not enough for these sprinters!
Your challenge, when it comes to keeping your Borzoi enclosed, will be their intense prey drive. They’ll be ready to chase just about anything, from a can rolling down the street to the neighbor’s cat.
Tall fences are a must, as they can jump quite high, especially when motivated! When they’re not enclosed, Borzois should be leashed at all times. Also use the right collar for your borzoi.
Reliable recall is difficult to impossible to train in these dogs, and it isn’t worth the risk of your dog running off where they could get lost or even hit by a car.
Is the Borzoi a Healthy Breed?
The Borzoi is a fairly healthy breed, but they can suffer from some genetic conditions including bloat, elbow and hip dysplasia, heart problems, eye problems, and sensitivity to anesthesia.
Bloat (Gastric dilatation-volvulus)
Bloat, or Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) is a serious condition in which the stomach fills with gas, food, or liquid and flips inside of the body. This cuts off blood supply and can cause damage to the dog’s other organs.
It is deadly if left untreated. Dogs seen by a veterinarian have a 30% fatality rate as well, even when given the best of care.
For this reason, it’s vital to know the symptoms. A dog has the best chance of survival when brought immediately to the emergency veterinarian.
Symptoms of bloat include:
- Enlarged abdomen
- Pain in the stomach area, especially when touched
Bloat can be caused by many factors. While all dogs can develop it, it’s most common in deep-chested breeds and in male dogs.
Stress can also contribute, so it’s important to keep your dog’s stress levels low—particularly around mealtime. Keep children and other pets away from your Borzoi’s food to avoid tension. Also, avoid exercise right before or after a meal.
Many Borzoi owners use grooved bowls to prevent their dog from eating too quickly, as this is another risk factor. Drinking large amounts of water in a short period of time can also cause bloat, so watch for this as well.
Elbow and Hip Dysplasia
Large dogs are the most prone to elbow and hip dysplasia, which are conditions where the ball and socket of the joint grow at different rates, causing it to be loose. In later stages the dog will develop degenerative joint disease (DJD) or osteoarthritis (OA).
Borzois are giant dogs and thus are more likely than smaller breeds to develop hip or elbow dysplasia. However, breeders can screen for these deformities—when shopping with a reputable breeder, you shouldn’t have to worry about them.
Always ask breeders for the paperwork to prove they’ve done health screening, rather than taking their word for it.
When adopting a rescue, you will want to keep an eye on your pup with the help and guidance of your veterinarian.
Borzois can develop a number of genetic heart conditions, including dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and heart defects.
Reputable breeders will screen for heart conditions, making their development less likely.
Your Borzoi might also suffer from eye conditions such as progressive retinal atrophy, which causes cells in the eye to deteriorate, which can lead to night blindness and then total blindness. This is another condition that, luckily, can be screened for by breeders.
Sensitivity to Anesthesia
Sighthounds tend to be sensitive to anesthesia and react to it differently than other dogs. If your Borzoi ever goes in for surgery, it’s important to see a veterinary surgeon who’s experienced in caring for sighthound breeds.
What to Feed Your Borzoi
Like all dogs, Borzois need a diet of high-quality dog food. Look for meat as the first ingredient—even better if the meats are listed specifically and the product doesn’t contain great amounts of animal byproduct.
Borzois are known for acting somewhat cat-like, and their fussiness with food is another trait they have in common with our feline friends. You might have to switch it up occasionally or try many brands before landing on something your picky eater will eat.
Feed your Borzoi in a slow feeder bowl with grooves at the bottom. This will prevent them from eating too quickly, which can cause GDV, as we discussed above. Avoid raised bowls as these helping to prevent bloat are a myth.
Avoid exercise directly before and after feeding a meal. Discourage your pup from lapping up huge amounts of water in a short timeframe—this can also cause GDV.
What are Borzois Known For? Borzoi History
The Borzoi, previously known as the Russian Wolfhound, originated in 1600s Russia, where they were owned by nobility in the hundreds. The royals of this time made a grand event of wolf hunts, which were incredibly festive.
Borzoi dogs would be released in small packs to hunt down wolves across open fields, chasing after them at top speeds of over 40 miles per hour.
With huntsmen on horses following behind, the Borzois would catch the wolves and hold them down with their powerful jaws rather than kill them. The huntsman would make the final decision to either kill the wolf, release it to catch again on future hunts, or capture it.
Captured wolves were used to train the next generation of Borzoi puppies.
When the serfs of Russia were freed, the royals no longer had anyone to care for their large kennels of Borzois. For this reason, the breed nearly went extinct in 1873, only to be brought back by its rich admirers.
Unfortunately, Borzois would once again near extinction in the 1900s. Most of them were killed during the Russian Revolution, but again the breed was saved.
Today, Borzois are still fairly rare to find in the Americas. However, they are acknowledged by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and it’s possible to find a reputable breeder given time and patience.
What else are borzoi known for? Along with being kept strictly as pets, borzoi also compete in dog agility and lure coursing competitions. They are also used as emotional support animals.