Guidelines for Judging the Borzoi

Patti Widick Neale
The Borzoi was originally bred for the coursing of wild game on more or less open terrain, relying on sight rather than scent. To accomplish this purpose, the Borzoi needed particular structural qualities to chase, catch and hold his quarry. Special emphasis is placed on sound running gear, strong neck and jaws, courage and agility, combined with proper condition. The Borzoi should always possess unmistakable elegance, with flowing lines, graceful in motion or repose. Males, masculine without coarseness; bitches, feminine and refined.
Look first for the points of special emphasis; all critical in a large game coursing hound. Condition means muscular fitness. Though both should be elegant, there is a pronounced difference in secondary sexual characteristics between dogs and bitches. There should be no mistaking which is which. Graceful, flowing lines are the mark of a fit, well constructed, strong but elegant Borzoi.
Avoid a weedy, narrow animal as well as one who is coarse or cloddy or unsound. Avoid a doggy bitch or a bitchy dog, weak snipy muzzles and Borzoi in soft, flabby condition. Hard muscular condition is desirable.
Skull slightly domed, long and narrow, with scarcely any perceptible stop, inclined to be Roman-nosed. Jaws long, powerful and deep, somewhat finer in bitches but not snipy. Teeth strong and clean with either an even or a scissors bite. Missing teeth should be penalized. Nose large and black.
Look for a long, smooth head with a deep, strong underjaw to catch and hold game. Roman nose means a slight drop-off of the end of the nasal cartilage, NOT a Roman head. Know how to count teeth properly. Penalize missing teeth as one fault in the whole dog. A breeder would not penalize an otherwise excellent individual for a missing tooth. Teeth should be large and strong. Avoid a short, broad, lumpy head or a weak, snipy muzzle, especially in a male. A Roman head like the Bull Terrier is a severe fault. A dish-face or pronounced domed skull is undesirable. Do not assume that space between premolars in a long jaw means missing teeth.
Small and fine in quality, lying back on the neck in repose with the tips when thrown back almost touching behind the occiput, raised when at attention.
 Look for small, highset ears. When at attention, ears are held up and out, in a semi-prick position. Most Borzoi when sighting game will hold one or both ears erect. Avoid low set ears or heavy leather or hanging ears. A Borzoi is not expected to hold its ears at attention in the show ring nor should he be penalized for occasionally pricking an ear.
Set somewhat obliquely, dark in color, intelligent but rather soft in expression; never round, full nor staring, nor light in color; eye rims dark; inner corner midway between tip of nose and occiput.
Look for dark eyes set at a slight angle to towards the sides of the head, with soft expression and dark eye rims. Avoid forward facing "monkey" set eyes or eyes set toward the top of the head. Yellow, grey or blue eyes are very undesirable.
Clean, free from throatiness; slightly arched, very powerful and well set on.
Look for a strong, medium length, slightly arched neck that flows smoothly into the shoulders. Head should be carried level with the back or slightly above when moving. Avoid a weak, thin or ewe neck, or one that is very long or very short. A neck that emerges upright from the shoulders, or is carried high when moving, like an Afghan, is incorrect.
Sloping, fine at the withers and free from coarseness or lumber.
Look for shoulders placed high and back on ribcage, with the tops of the blades level with or slightly higher than the top of the vertebrae, with two to three fingers width between them, depending on the size of the dog. The blade should slope from the withers to the point of shoulder. The bone is long and covered with long, flat muscles. Avoid shoulders set too far forward with upright or short blades, or shoulders that appear to come out of the neck. Coarse, loaded shoulders are wide apart at the withers or are set below the tops of the vertebrae.
Rather narrow, with great depth of brisket.
Look for fill from the front from a deep brisket and musculature covering the prosternum which should protrude slightly. Rather narrow means compared to the working and non-sighthound hunting dogs of the day when the first standards were written. You should be able to get an average size flat hand on the brisket between the front legs. Brisket should be close in depth to the elbow in a mature dog. Avoid the "cut up" look or feel of a very narrow chest, or the look of both legs coming out of the same hole. This results from shallow ribs and/or forward shoulder placement. Do not be fooled by hair. Males especially can disguise a shallow chest with a luxurious coat.
Only slightly sprung, but very deep, giving room for heart and lung play.
Look for spring from the top of the ribs where they join the thoracic vertebrae and then the ribs flatten out more than in non-sighthounds into great depth to give room for the hind legs to pass the ribs and front legs in the double suspension gallop, while allowing great lung capacity. Avoid the sunfish or angelfish look of slab sides, as well as the tubular body of the shallow ribbed dog. Ribs should shorten gradually toward the loin in a smooth curve, not in a straight line from the lowest point of the chest giving the dog a herring gut.
Rising a little at the loins in a graceful curve.
Extremely muscular, but rather tucked up, owing to the great depth of chest and comparative shortness of back and ribs.
Back and loins create the topline. The back, the area of the thoracic vertebrae, is actually level, and the loin, the area of the lumbar vertebrae, rises slightly, both because of the muscle mass, and the longer, larger vertebral spines that the muscle is attached to. The back and loin muscles hold the whole dog together and provide the power for the tremendous expansion and contraction of the body in the double suspension gallop, transmitted through a flexible spine which bends tightly in the closed portion of the gallop and then turns the curve inside out on the extended part of the gallop. In judging, look for a short, level back that starts to rise with the muscles about three ribs forward of the last rib and continues the smooth curve into a long pelvis. The topline will flatten somewhat as the dog trots. Avoid a topline that rises from the shoulder area (wheel back) or falls off steeply from the start of the loin to a steep pelvis, (remember, rising a little at the loin, not starting its descent there) or one that is flat or sagging from shoulder to hipbones. Heavy coat on the shoulders or rump, especially on males, can disguise a good topline, making it appear flat, so feel for it. A topline that remains in the same curve while moving is a rigid one and the dog will usually have a stiff, bouncy gait. Avoid exaggeration.
Bones straight and somewhat flattened like blades, with the narrower edge forward. The elbows have free play and are turned neither in nor out. Pasterns strong.
Look for dry, well delineated bones which should have thickness in proportion to the size and substance of the dog. Heavy coat can give the appearance of round, coarse bone. Free play means not tied to the chest but able to reach forward from correct muscling in the shoulder and a long upper arm, that should angle from the point of the shoulder back beneath the dog so that the elbow falls in line with the top of the withers. Strong pasterns are slightly sloping and springy. Avoid round or coarse bone, short upper arms or a dog that is tied in at the elbows or has flying elbows. Avoid short, straight, upright pasterns which go with an upright shoulder and short stepping movement.
Hare-shaped, with well arched knuckles, toes close and well padded.
Hare-shaped means that the center two toes are longer than the others. Look for a long foot, still with well arched knuckles. Toenails should nearly touch the ground. Avoid flat, splayed, round or thin feet. Remember the special emphasis on sound running gear. "No foot, no horse" applies to Borzoi as well.
Long, very muscular and powerful with well bent stifles; somewhat wider than the forequarters; strong first and second thighs; hocks clean and well let down; legs parallel when viewed from the rear. Dewclaws, if any, on the hind legs are generally removed; dewclaws on the front legs may be removed.
 Look for a long, strong first and second thigh with short hocks and a wide hock joint. From the rear, hips should be wide through the pelvis, and the legs should be parallel when STANDING. Long, firm muscling throughout. Avoid straight stifles, high hocks, narrow hock joint or second thigh, a narrow pelvis or steep croup.
Long, set on and carried low in a graceful curve.
Look for a low set tail that continues the smooth transition line from loin to croup. Tail should reach at least to the hock. Carriage when moving is low and flowing out behind the dog Avoid a short tail, a high set one, a tail carried above the level of the back, a ringed or curly tail or a tail with obvious kinks in the bone. Tail faults are difficult to breed out.
Long, silky (not woolly), either flat, wavy or rather curly on the head, ears and front of legs it should be short and smooth; on the neck the frill should be profuse and rather curly. Feather on hindquarters and tail, long and profuse, less so on chest and back of forelegs.
Look for a clean, healthy coat. The standard allows for a wide range of coat types so except for a harsh, woolly or wiry coat, most coat textures are correct. There is tremendous variation in undercoat, depending on climate. Avoid a woolly, hard, wiry or coarse coat or one that is unpleasant to the touch. Do not expect a bitch to carry the heavy coat and feathering of a male. A shorter, healthy coat with nice britches and tail is correct for a bitch.
Any color, or combination of colors is acceptable.
Don't look for a particular color. Any color, from pure black to pure white, and all kinds of spots and speckles in between are acceptable. There is no such thing as a mis-mark, and no color or pattern is preferred over any other Avoid any color prejudice. Be aware that some patterns may cause optical illusions that may hide or enhance a dog's actual structure. Do not be fooled by favorable or unfavorable markings
Mature males should be at least 28 inches at the withers and mature bitches at least 26 inches at the withers. Dogs and bitches below these respective limits should be severely penalized; dogs and bitches above the respective limits should not be penalized as long as extra size is not acquired at the expense of symmetry, speed and staying quality. Range in weight for males from 75 to 105 pounds and for bitches from 15 to 20 pounds less.
Look for Borzoi whose height balances their body proportions and you will never have a problem with size. Very large dogs usually attain their size at the expense of angles and elegance. Very large bitches may still be structurally correct but appear doggy. This author in 28 years has never seen an under Standard sized Borzoi in the ring. If one appears small it is usually in the company of a number of large ones. Avoid discounting a smaller animal of quality just because it is smaller than other in its class, or rewarding extra large just because it looks impressive. Compared with other giant sighthounds, the Borzoi's minimum height in both sexes is two inches less than in Scottish Deerhounds, and four inches less than in Irish Wolfhounds.
Front legs must reach well out in front with pasterns strong and springy. Hackneyed motion with mincing gait is not desired nor is weaving and crossing. However, while the hind legs are wider apart than the front, the feet tend to move closer to the center line when the dog moves at a fast trot. When viewed from the side there should be a noticeable drive with a ground-covering stride from well angulated stifles and hocks. The over-all appearance in motion should be that of effortless power, endurance, speed, agility, smoothness and grace.
Look for the effortless, ground-covering dog that comes close to single tracking. The Borzoi is a working hunter and needs the kind of gait that is most efficient for distance and speed Avoid the kind of movement that would be poor in any large dog. The dog that flies around the ring by moving its legs the fastest may be flashy, but is probably not the most graceful, or efficient.
The foregoing description is that of the ideal Borzoi. Any deviation from the above described dog must be penalized to the extent of the deviation, keeping in mind the importance of the contribution of the various features toward the basic original purpose of the breed.

The basic original purpose of the breed, to catch and hold game, is the Borzoi's raison d'être. Remember "Special emphasis is placed on sound running gear, strong neck and jaws, courage and agility, combined with proper condition." as these are the most important contributing factors to that purpose. The Borzoi's classic beauty and elegance are the icing on the cake.