Borzoi Health and Temperament

Health and temperament, and a few closing notes.

We have covered most of the Standard and numerous side issues about the Borzoi. Joe has asked each of us as presenters of our breed to discuss health problems. So here is the straight skinny…

Borzoi do not have any health problems that are unique to the breed, but suffer from many of the same maladies as the dog population at large. The average life span is 10 to 12 years ( I currently have 5 in that age range) and there have been individuals that have live until 17, but that is extremely rare.

Being large dogs, Borzoi can have rapid growth related bone problems such as OCD and HOD, as well as the transient panosteitis.(sic) In spite of what you may have heard, there are dysplastic Borzoi, but OFA certification still seems to be a low priority for too many breeders. It is nearly impossible to breed to OFA certified males outside of one's own kennel since so few are radiographed.

Cardiomyopathy of both kinds, dilated and hypertrophic, does occur, and various kinds of cancers will get them in old age. The other big dog killers, bloat and torsion, also occur, but appear to run in families; some having a lot, others having none for generations.

Like most breeds, Borzoi have their share of allergies and more recently, thyroid disorders.

Back in the mid 70's there was a big scare about PRA. Most kennels had all their dogs checked and most were clear and have remained so. I do not think that it has completely died out, but it is seldom heard of, even on the rumor line. Many people do get their dogs CERF checked at some point.

Most Borzoi, however, spend their lives free of illness, and are very hardy, low maintenance dogs.

Temperament is something I haven't touched on up until now, but I cannot finish the week without that subject.

Borzoi, on average, are the quietest dogs around. Many never bark in their lives, believe it or not, but even the ones that are average in that department, seldom bark at anything other than game (cat, squirrel, 'possum etc.) on the other side of the fence. Strangers are usually greeted with a grin or a nose shoved between the legs (such a perfect height!) but rarely with suspicion. They are, as a breed, worthless watchdogs.

Their quiet demeanor as adults is part of the reason that people are able and tempted to keep several as house dogs. Most Borzoi of either sex get along together, even with visiting dogs. Raised with cats, they learn easily what is game and what is not.

This gentle nature with people and most animals is one of the most valuable qualities they have, as a dog of Borzoi size, strength and swiftness could inflict terrible damage if he WASN'T gentle.

In judging, please do not reward a dog of poor temperament, as it is very untypical and sets a bad example for what can be tolerated inthe breed. A wiggly untrained puppy is different from a stiff and leaning dog with "that look" in its eyes. Use a gentle hand, as Borzoi, with so little body fat, are very body sensitive. Also, do not approach them tentatively, or with hand cupped under their nose, as the longer
headed, or slightly down faced dogs, will have to pull back to see what is in your hand to eat. (remember sighthounds?)

Since there are various lameness causing bone ailments, if a dog is lame in your ring EXCUSE IT from the ring. Far too many medically unsound dogs finish, because every third judge assumes it is minor or will go away.

If you haven't done so already, get to a lure coursing event. You cannot understand sighthounds fully until you have seen them doing what they are bred to do; high speed pursuit. You will see that the elastic smooth trot that we covet in the ring from proper shoulders, topline and angulation, translates well to long elastic strides with speed, agility and endurance on the field.

Dogs with wide and straight shoulders, can sprint, but can't make the turns. Rigid, bouncy show ring trotters will wear themselves out on the field with an energy-wasting up and down motion in the gallop. Form definitely followed function in creating the sighthounds, and faddish or careless changes to their form most definitely affects their basic function.

Above all remember that last paragraph of the Standard:

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.

Patti Widick Neale