Russian Borzoi Hunting
At the entrance to their hunting territory I was greeted by absolutely white Russian greyhounds, who treated me like the closest relative. As if they knew me for many years. Carefully sniffed my pockets, but, apparently, nothing good on the smell there was not found. Then they were interested in the photo bag. But, having familiarized themselves with the smells of its content, they lost interest in me. Again they began to rush one after another around the yard. Three of them were my elbow height. They, it seemed, didn’t even run in fluffy snow, but, as it were, flew over it, so long and graceful were their jumps.
It turned out that all three Russian greyhounds are relatives. Mother and two sons. That’s the way they look alike. Mother’s name is Andromache. She’s eight years old. Two sons – Rurik and Radzivil. They are four and a half years old. Even having shot a whole series of photos of their running around, I could not distinguish them from each other. I only knew where my mother was, because when we entered the room, she collapsed right under my legs, closing her eyes, but sometimes listening for what we talk about this for so many hours in a row with breeders. And we talked about them and about their ancient breed, which goes back centuries.
How the breed was created
All my life I have been hunting with hounds, with greyhounds I have met only a few times. Therefore, before our meeting, read the literature about them. I myself am a historian in one of the formations, as if I again plunged into the distant past. The history of the greyhounds was so rich that only a few evenings had to be spent to get acquainted with it. For example, what historical figures are associated with it. The great Prince of Kiev, Yaroslav the Wise, Tsar Ivan the Terrible, Danish King Christian II, French monarchs – Charlemagne, Francis I, Henry IV – simply cannot name all the crowned lovers of the hound hunting.
But we are in this case interested in the history of Russian hounds. It, unfortunately, is not fully understood. Some believe that it began almost in the eleventh century, others date the appearance of the Russian borzois at a much later time.
The fact is that the Slavs did not have and could not have hounds in the real sense of the word, they believe, because the area itself, inhabited by the Slavs, was then covered with dense forests. And to hunt with hounds in such forests is simply impossible. Nowhere is there a single description of such a harassment and the adjective “hound” was used until the XI century only to denote the speed and agility of horses. In Kiev and Novgorod princes, in the opinion of many historians, there could only be hunting dogs, which were distinguished not so much by speed as by force and malice. Greyhounds were replaced by swift birds of prey, falcons, hawks and golden eagles, who were able to quickly take a hare, a fox or even a wolf to the princes and their warriors. This way of hunting is often mentioned in annals.
Greyhounds in Russia
From the sixteenth century, chroniclers no longer talk about fishing and hunting, but about dogmakers, dog hunting, hunting with dogs. Although the hunt hunting in Tatar style existed even before Vasily III (father of Ivan the Terrible), who was an avid lover of baiting the greyhounds and even became fatally ill in hunting in 1533.
The historian Herberstein in his notes on Muscovy describes in detail the great prince hunts with greyhounds. In general, the hunt was the same as now. The fur-bearing animal was driven out of the forest with the help of large face dogs and hounds, which barked loudly. The field has already begun hounding a hare or fox with dogs with fluffy ears and tails. They were lowered from the pack standing on the edge of the riders. These dogs were not capable of a long race, but were very fast and angry. These are oriental lop-eared greyhounds that had long hair only on the ears and the rule, that is, Kurdish greyhounds.
Only in the second half of the XVI century begins the withdrawal of a new – Russian – breed. Kurdish greyhounds brought from sufficiently warm Tatar countries did not correspond to the cool climate of Russia and the conditions of “waiting” hunting. By the end of the sixteenth century, the Yaroslavl and Kostroma nobles developed a new breed of greyhounds with long hair all over their bodies, a mane around their necks and standing or semi-erect ears. Over time, for the majority of greyhounds, like a breed that does not have to constantly strain their ears and ear muscles, their ends began to gradually bend back, they were pressed to the back of the head. Ears slightly raised only in minutes of excitement.
In a word, the genealogy of the Russian greyhounds is quite confused. With the formation of this breed has played a big role, for example, the blood of the wolf, the so-called northern dog, some species of huskies. The breed was created deliberately, sometimes for many decades and even centuries. Up to the present. A huge role in the history of the Russian borzoi was played by many historical events.