Hortaya Borzaya aka Chortaj aka Chortai

Borzoi vs Hortaya Borzaya

The name of dog Hortoya Borzaya is certainly similar to the name Borzoi, and it even more similar to the Russian name for Borzoi – Russkaya Psovaya Borzaya. Are these the same dog? No, they are not. Let’s compare the Borzoi to the Hortaya Borzaya and find out if and how they are related.

The Hortaya Borzaya, also known as the Chortaj (or Chortai), is a breed of dog typically found in rural Eurasia. Its name translates roughly to “short-haired and fast.” These dogs look and act a lot like Borzoi, Greyhounds and other sighthound breeds, with long legs, high waists, and the ability to out-speed prey.

The people who own Hortaya Borzayas tend to use them as working dogs for survival. They will hunt for food or fur, rarely for sport.

The dogs are rare, and it’s estimated that only around 3,000 of them exist in the entire world! They live mostly in Asia, and it is much less common to find them in the United States.

Learn all about the Hortaya Borzaya breed, from its trainability to its history, in this complete guide.

What does a Hortaya Borzaya Look Like?

Most people would mistake a Hortaya Borzaya for a Greyhound, but their facial features aren’t quite the same. Chortaj more closely resemble the Borzoi with long muzzles, big eyes, and flopped-back, triangular ears.

Chortaj are also smaller than greyhounds. Male Hortaya Borzayas are typically 25-29 inches tall, while females range in height from 24-28 inches. They are muscular dogs and often weigh more than their thin, long appearance would suggest.

Hortaya Borzaya  vs Greyhound
Hortaya Borzaya vs Greyhound. Compare the length of their coats, especially on the tails.

Another features that sets the Hortaya Borzaya apart from the Greyhound is its tail. Greyhound have tails with short hair, where as the Chortaj has medium length fur on its tail. Like the the Greyhound, their tail is long and curls at the end.

Like all sighthounds, Hortaya Borzaya are deep-chested with long, slender snouts and legs.

Unlike the Borzoi, the Hortaya Borzaya has a short coat. Its density, not length, is what keeps the dogs warm and protected from the elements. Its coat is a little longer than a greyhound‘s but long as long as Borzoi’s.

Coat colors include white, cream, sable, black, red, and brindle.

Also See: Tall Skinny Dogs

Hortaya Borzaya vs Borzoi

In Russia, the dog that we call Borzoi is known as Russkaya Psovaya Borzaya – Russian Wolfhound. It’s thought that Borzois are an ancestor of Hortaya Borzayas. They originated in the Asian continent and are very similar in facial structure and build.

Hortaya Borzaya vs Borzoi standing. Compare the length of their hair and their face shape.
Hortaya Borzaya vs Borzoi. Compare the length of their coats and the shape of their noses.

Hortaya Borzayas and Borzois both have:

  • The ability to run fast, up to 40 miles per hour!
  • Muscular bodies with the strength to take down a wolf
  • Long, slender, deep-chested frames
  • Triangular ears that rest far back on the head
  • Independence, high prey drives, and emotional sensitivity
  • The need for a large yard and plenty of exercise

However, Hortaya Borzayas tend to be more consistently energetic than Borzois. They also hunt more using their sense of smell, though they are still primarily sighthounds.

Hortaya Borzayas may take down wolves for their fur or other prey for fur or meat. Borzois can also hunt a variety of game, though they were initially bred for Russian wolf hunts. These events were more theatrical than practical, differing vastly from the regular hunt of the Hortaya Borzaya.

Also see: Are Borzoi Good Hunting Dogs?

Also see: What are Borzoi Used For?

Hortaya Borzayas’ exercise needs are incredibly high, and they need hours of daily activity. Borzois, on the other hand, prefer one big “sprint” in the form of a long walk, run, or playtime, before lounging around the house for a long period. They need a lot of exercise, but outside of that, they are calm, laid-back dogs.

Hortaya Borzayas may also be more trainable, although this can’t be said for certain due to the limits of our knowledge on the breed. As I’ll discuss more in-depth in the trainability section, I suspect they would behave similarly to other sighthounds if given a more sedentary lifestyle.

Currently, they tend to live in situations where their job is to hunt, and they’re very good at it! Obedience when it comes to reliable recall or not chasing that cat down the street, well, that might not be as easy to train.

Keep in mind that the reason many sighthounds tend to be less trainable is that we’re asking them to do things they weren’t bred for, while the Hortaya Borzaya breed still exists mainly in the optimal environment where they get to hunt as much as they like every day.

While Borzois and Hortaya Borzayas share some common health concerns, Hortaya Borzayas seem healthier and tend to live longer.

Lastly, Borzois are more common as a breed in general and certainly within the United States. While it’s possible to buy a Borzoi puppy or even find one for rescue, you’re very unlikely to come across a Hortaya Borzaya to adopt.

We also know more about the Borzoi breed because they’re relatively common, while Hortaya Borzayas still hold some mystery and haven’t been extensively studied.

Hortaya Borzaya Cost

It’s unknown how much a Hortaya Borzaya would cost you in the United States simply because they aren’t sold here often.

Their rarity would cause many problems for potential owners anyway because we don’t know much about their health or even the best diet to feed.  

Instead of searching for a Hortaya Borzaya puppy, we recommend looking into other sighthounds like Greyhounds, Borzois, or even Whippets if you’d like a smaller dog.

Hortaya Borzaya (Chortaj) vs Greyhound vs Borzoi (Russkaya Psovaya Borzaya).  Running. Coat, Tail
Hortaya Borzaya (Chortaj) vs Greyhound vs Borzoi (Russkaya Psovaya Borzaya). Running side view. Compare length of coat, length of tail, and hair on tail.

These dogs will be easier to care for when it comes to veterinary care, feeding, and exercise.

If the thing that draws you to the Hortaya Borzaya is their endurance and need for constant activity, consider another working dog such as an Australian Shepherd, Siberian Husky, Beagle, or Poodle.

There are so many dogs already found in the United States that make great companions and that we can provide for more easily than rare, exotic breeds like the Hortaya Borzaya (as incredible as these dogs are!).

Hortaya Borzaya Temperament

The Hortaya Borzaya’s temperament is the most surprising thing about them. When you think sighthound, you usually think of a sprinter who likes to take frequent breaks lounging on the couch. (Or maybe their sprint is their break from lounging, even!)

Like many working dogs, Hortaya Borzayas have incredible endurance. These dogs were bred to hunt several times a day, then wake up ready for more.

For people in rural areas trying to survive, pampered pooches who like to lay in bed don’t cut it! They need their dogs out hunting so that they themselves can eat, have fur to stay warm, or goods to sell for income.

When it comes to people, Hortaya Borzayas are friendly. They make good watchdogs but are a mixed bag when it comes to guarding. Some are more protective than others, who will simply let strangers come into the house untouched.

Hortaya Borzaya (Chortaj) vs Borzoi (Russkaya Psovaya Borzaya) aka Russian Wolfhound
Both Hortaya Borzaya and Borzoi (Russian Wolfhound) are fast sighthounds.

They may be wary of strangers and prefer the company of their own family. They should always be supervised around small pets and children. Though these dogs tend to be gentle with kids, any dog can bite, especially when pushed by a child who hasn’t learned how to interact appropriately.

Chasing smaller dogs and cats may seem like a game to your Hortaya Borzaya—or worse, they could see these animals as prey.

Though dogs who’ve been brought up with these animals are more likely to get along, it’s still possible for their prey drive to win out over their exposure and training.

Are Hortaya Borzayas Easy to Train?

These dogs have been bred for easy trainability. However, we must keep in mind what they’re being trained for. These aren’t just house pets learning politeness, leash training, and basic commands, but working dogs trained to hunt.

Simply put, they likely obey because their environment provides them with all they need. Like your average sighthound, they have a tendency to roam and a high prey drive. And we can imagine that, like most hunting dogs, they’re quite independent thinkers.

In the average American household, I imagine the trainability ranking for these dogs would drastically decrease as they’d be provided less stimulation and more direction than they are used to or bred for.

Hortaya Borzaya sideview vs Russian Wolfhound Borzoi.  Notice tail.

You should never trust a Hortaya Borzaya to be off-leash in an unenclosed space. Their high prey drive means that they’ll run fast and far. There’s a good chance they will be injured or killed by running into traffic or that you won’t be able to find them again due to their speed.

Working on recall is recommended, but reliable recall tends to be difficult to impossible to train in most sighthound breeds. Their instincts tend to overpower their listening skills!

Important things to train a Hortaya Borzaya include how to be alone, allowing people to handle them, and socialization so that they don’t become nervous around strangers as they age.

Hortaya Borzaya Environmental Needs

Hortaya Borzayas are not apartment dogs. They’re best suited for families with large yards and tall fences, which will prevent them from jumping out of the yard and running off.

These pups are a big commitment because they require a lot of exercise throughout the day and plenty of time to sprint around in a large, enclosed space. One daily walk or run likely won’t be enough for them, as they’ll want to be almost constantly on the go.

They also don’t like to be alone for long periods of time, so they’re best suited for households with more than one person to care for them. Your family would also need to be up for exercising your dog while you’re away at work, school, or other outings.

Also see: Are Borzois Good Pets?

They can live with small children so long as both dog and child are taught how to interact appropriately with one another. Always supervise children with any dog.

Hortaya Borzayas prefer to be the only fur baby or to share the household with other large sighthounds. Small dogs and cats may be seen as prey, particularly for dogs with high prey drive who haven’t lived with smaller pets in the past.

These dogs bark moderately, but it shouldn’t be excessive to the point where they’re bothering the neighbors. However, the neighbors shouldn’t be too close—since that likely means the yard isn’t large enough to meet the dog’s exercise needs.

Exercise

Hortaya Borzayas have more endurance than your typical sighthound. They were selectively bred as working dogs who could survive harsh conditions, often hunting to feed their families and fed table scraps.

Hortaya Borzaya vs Borzoi vs Greyhound Running Front View
Front View of Hortaya Borzaya v Borzoi v Greyhound Running. All three are built for speed.

This may surprise sighthound enthusiasts, but these dogs don’t like to laze around! When working, they’d be going on several hunts throughout the day, sometimes one after another.

They aren’t built for living in small environments but need plenty of space and time to run. A large yard with a tall fence is necessary to stop them from wandering while still giving them the exercise they crave.

Training or sports like agility, lure coursing, and even scent work are great ways to get out that access energy and engage these dogs’ instincts. It’s thought that Hortaya Borzayas don’t only hunt by sight but also by smell when prey wanders too far away.

Some ways to occupy them at home include hide and seek, flirt poles, and training. This is an incredibly smart breed!

Grooming

Hortaya Borzayas weren’t bred to be high-maintenance. A quick brush one to two times a week will suffice to keep their coat healthy and reduce shedding.

Bathe them as needed and trim their nails regularly. Cleaning their ears weekly and brushing their teeth daily will help keep them healthy.

It’s best to desensitize your dog to handling early in life, as this will make everything from grooming to veterinary appointments simpler.

Health

Like all sighthounds, Hortaya Borzayas are prone to bloat. This deadly condition kills 30% of affected dogs—even with the very best veterinary treatment.

Bloat, or gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), occurs when the stomach fills with air and flips inside of a dog’s body. This cuts off blood circulation and can cause damage to the heart.

While there are ways to make bloat less likely, there are no surefire ways to prevent it, and deep-chested dogs are the most prone. Every sighthound owner must know the signs of bloat, including:

  • Swollen, painful abdomen
  • Retching
  • Excessive drooling
  • Restlessness

Sighthounds are also sensitive to anesthesia. Working with a veterinarian experienced in treating sighthounds is a must for any medical procedure that requires anesthetics.

Other possible health concerns include joint problems, which tend to affect large dog breeds, skin conditions, and allergies.

It’s impossible to have a complete picture of this breed’s health due to their rarity, particularly in the United States. There haven’t been enough studies on Hortaya Borzayas to give us definite answers. However, they are generally accepted as a healthy breed.

They must be tough working dogs, as those who lack endurance wouldn’t make it given their typical working lifestyle. Hortaya Borzayas are also bred for work more than appearance, which often leads to healthier pups.

Hortaya Borzayas often live into the teens, making them quite long-lived for their size!

Hortaya Borzaya History

The Chortaj has been around for hundreds of years. It was found north of the Black Sea in the Eurasian Steppe. Hortaya Borzayas are not well known in modern times. We don’t know a lot about how they came to be, but we do know they were bred to hunt by sight.

They were originally found in Central Asia – typically found in rural areas of Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan.

These are true working dogs. Their owners kept them not as pets for for show, but in order to hunt for food and fur. Many are killed by other animals during these hunts.

Hortaya Borzayas usually continue to work and even reproduce late into life.

The breed was first recognized by the USSR in 1951 and was introduced to the United States in 2005.

Since then, some dogs have participated in shows and competitions, including racing and agility. They are smart, versatile dogs.

Notable and Famous Hortaya Borzayas

For a dog breed that has been around for hundreds of years, there certainly must have been some individual dogs that were exceptional. However, since this working animal was kept for practical use in remote rural regions, there are few records available about any of these dogs – certainly not in English. Since the breed standard was established in 1951 in USSR, the dogs have been mainly shown at Kennel Clubs dedicated to Hunting Dogs. We are unaware of any formally recognized Hortoya Borzaya cross-breeds as part of the standard.

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