Borzoi Neck and Forequarters

Some of the points in Borzoi body and running gear are almost generic in sighthounds, as all of the sighthound breeds were designed to run at high speed, and most of them to hunt game of some sort. Differences in size and pelage among sighthound are heavily predicated on the size and strength of the game, and the climate in which they originated.

In this segment, we will move past the head into the details of body structure. Since we've explored topline in depth, it will be mentioned only as is pertinent to the rest of the body.

Figure 13.

The Borzoi neck is "clean, free from throatiness," meaning no dewlap and "slightly arched" meaning just behind the occiput, which is more noticeable in males than in bitches. It is "very powerful" meaning strong and muscular, to strike and hold a dangerous animal larger than itself.

"Well set on" means blending into the shoulder smoothly (Figure1, Figure 2, Figure 13) not at an abrupt angle to the withers. A neck not "well set on" is jarring to the eye and hand and goes with poorer shoulders.

Length of neck is also not specified. In the Standard it used to say "shorter than that of the Greyhound", but references to other breeds were taken out of the Standard in 1972. The Borzoi does not stoop to its work, so it does not need a very long neck to reach its classic prey, the wolf. A very short neck is unsightly and may be caused by bad shoulder placement, but beware of the optical illusion, as a heavy ruff, particularly on males, makes the neck appear shorter. The "buffalo hump" over the shoulders, that cannot be groomed out of all colors, makes the neck look short as well. A "well set on" neck appears longer because of the smooth transition to the shoulders and topline. (Figure 13. red dog)

Shoulders are to be "sloping", which describes the angulation both from the side view and from the front, in that the scapula should slope inwards toward the spine making them "fine at the withers". Coarse shoulders have blades that sit wide apart and feel rough when you run your hand down the neck and into the topline. The highest point of the scapula is level with or very slightly above the vertebrae in an excellent dog.

Shoulder placement is critical to many things. Shoulders set far forward on the ribcage, which is an increasingly common problem in nearly all breeds, throw the dog out of balance, effectively lengthening the body, shortening the neck, causing the dog to be cut up in the front and straightening out the whole front assembly.

The upper arm is a straighter bone in sighthounds than in other breeds and should be long in keeping with the scapula. LENGTH of upper arm is far more important to reach at the trot and the gallop than is shoulder angulation. A short upper arm fails to bring the elbow back in proper alignment with the withers, affecting the dog's center of gravity.

Since 60% of a dog's standing weight is over the front, and many times over its body weight is transmitted through the shoulder on each landing step of the double suspension gallop, shoulder construction should be a high priority in breeding and judging.

The chest is described as "rather narrow" a somewhat misleading description as it means rather narrow as compared to the working and herding type dogs of the day when the original Russian standard was written. Rather narrow connotes sighthound build in general as a family, and does not mean two legs coming out of the same hole. You should be able to get a flat hand on the brisket, between the front legs. The dog to the left has proper width to his chest for an adult male. Too wide is a judgment call made by weighing dog's height against his width and muscle attachment of upper arm and elbows.

"Great depth of brisket" again is a sighthound family trait. The lowest part of the chest should reach nearly to the point of elbow from the side, and the depth must extend back a bit before curving smoothly into a tucked up loin. (Figure 1) The tucked up loin is another sighthound trait and one that the breed is losing. The chest should always be deeper in a mature animal, but well constructed puppies will show signs of it as well.

The ribs should curve smoothly and gradually upward. When they don't, but angle sharply up from the lowest part of the chest, like a fish's belly to the tail, you have the condition called "herring gut". This is usually caused by a deformity in dogs called a fused xyphoid process, where the ribs bunch together in a point at the junction where the longer ribs come together and start their transition to the shorter
and unattached ribs preceding the lumbar (loin) vertebrae. On a thin dog, you can actually hook your hand around this point.

As the dog grows, the underline smoothes out slightly as muscle and fat pad the area and soon will be disguised by hair. What this deformity does, is leave an area of the internal organs unsupported and unprotected, as opposed to a normal ribcage. This is not as uncommon as you may think and is easily seen on Whippets, Greyhounds and Smooth Dachshunds. I most recently found it on a Beagle. On Dachshunds, it can be the cause of short keel.

A Borzoi's ribs are to be "slightly sprung". The spring occurs at the top of the rib as it arches away laterally from the spine. The slight spring is important to allow capacity for lung expansion and heart room, items critical to the athlete. Far too many Borzoi have slab sides, the "angelfish" look. As you might guess, this often occurs on very tall, narrow dogs. While ribs are to be "very deep", there is a
functional limit, and a chest below the elbow (seldom seen) would be very detrimental to turning ability. However, chests that don't come anywhere near the elbow are very common and are frequently hidden by coat.

The forelegs, from the front, should have straight bones; the bone being bladed, with the narrower edge foreword, not round bone. In reality, the actual bone is fairly round in all dogs, but the large vein that runs up and crosses over the front of the foreleg combined with thin, fine skin and silky, smooth coat gives it the bladed look. What we do not want to see is coarse, common or padded front legs.

Though the "elbows have free play" meaning not tied in or restricted, a more common problem is out at the elbows. Borzoi frequently carry a lot of hair on their elbows, particularly males, so look carefully to make certain you don't penalize a dog unfairly, being deceived by coat.