English Español Deutsch Français 日本語


Dog Breeds

Borzoi are former aristocratic Russian dogs who love to run and relax quietly at home. Formerly known as the "Russian wolfhound," these sighthounds are quick on their feet and regal in appearance.

Borzoi Overview

PET HEIGHT 26 to null inches
PET WEIGHT 60 to 105 pounds
LIFESPAN 9 to 14 years
GOOD WITH children, families
TEMPERAMENT aloof, friendly, gentle, willful
BREED SIZE large (61-100 lbs.)
COLORS black, blue, brown / chocolate / liver, cream, fawn, gold / yellow, gray, red, white
PATTERNS bicolor, black and tan, brindle, flecked / ticked / speckled, sable, spotted, tricolor
OTHER TRAITS cold weather tolerant, good hiking companion, requires lots of grooming

The borzoi (pronounced BOR-zoy) is an aristocratic dog, both in appearance and origin: She was bred as a sprinter for hunting wolves in Russia, and eventually became a symbol of the Russian aristocracy. Borzois are tall, quiet, gentle dogs who do best with access to plenty of space for running. While not especially common in the United States, their long, elegant lines and silky coat are instantly recognizable and they were especially popular with Hollywood stars in the 1920s and '30s.

In the English-speaking world, the breed was called the "Russian wolfhound" until 1936, when they were renamed the borzoi, after the Russian word for "swift."


The first thing you'll notice about a borzoi is her size: These are not small dogs. Male pups are 28 inches and taller, weighing from 75–105 pounds, while the females are 26 inches and up, weighing in at 60–85 pounds. Streamlined and leggy, the borzoi was built for bounding through fields at high speeds (they can reach 35–40 mph).

With their silky fur, Roman-nosed faces, and gracefully curved tails, borzoi are known for their elegant looks—it's what made them popular with early Hollywood stars as well as luxury advertising. According to the breed standard, borzoi can come in any color or combination of colors and should have a medium-long coat that is silky and flat or wavy (but never wooly).


"They call them the aristocrat of dogs," says Karen Staudt-Cartabona, a borzoi breeder with over 50 years of experience. "They're very calm dogs and they're very easygoing."

While borzoi are active dogs, she explains, they're not playful the way other dogs can be. She suggests avoiding the dog park and spending time with your pup in the backyard or on a walk instead.

In general, borzoi are friendy animals and get along well with other dogs, though they can be wary of strangers. It's also possible for them to get along with cats if they've been properly introduced and raised alongside feline friends.

Borzoi are gentle with children in general, though the Borzoi Club of America (BCA) cautions that small children should be taught how to be careful with dogs—because borzoi are so large, they could accidentally knock down a small child (and feel really bad about it!). Older, less active borzoi could be a good companion for seniors—they don't have the jumpy greeting tendencies that some other breeds have.

That calm demeanor extends to barking, too: Borzoi are not big talkers. "In fact, sometimes people will call me up and they'll say, 'You know, I think there's something wrong with my borzoi, he never barks,'" Staudt-Cartabona says.

Living Needs

Because borzoi are running dogs, a home with a large, fenced-in yard is best for the breed. Apartment-dwellers should be dedicated to providing regular, thorough exercise for a borzoi. They're excellent companions for active families looking for a hiking dog or a running buddy (though, your borzoi should always be kept on a leash; she is so fast that, if she darts, you probably won't catch her).

She's also a star at dog sports, and will love to get her paws moving in agility classes, nose work, rally, dock diving, and obedience, according to the BCA. And once she's worn herself out, she's a quiet, calm companion at home. Some even say borzoi are couch potatoes who like to snuggle up and put their heads in your lap.

Borzoi are tolerant of cold weather—historically, their coats protected them from frigid Russian winters—but they don't do particularly well in the heat. If you live in a warm climate, aim to exercise your dog at the coolest hours of the day, look for indoor dog parks, and offer cooling water playtime (like a kiddie pool!) for your dog. She should always have access to water, shade, and AC to avoid heat exhaustion—but you can hold the ice.


Grooming is a big part of caring for a borzoi: The BCA recommends brushing their coat once every couple of days, giving them occasional baths, and trimming their nails. The hair between their paw pads should also be trimmed regularly. The borzoi doesn't have a strong doggy odor so frequent bathing isn't required.

Training a borzoi requires some patience. The borzoi is smart, but also independent and strong-willed. They're not quite so eager to please or accepting of cues like, say, a German shepherd might be.

"They're not jump-through-hoop-type dogs," Staudt-Cartabona says. "I always say that they have sort of a cat temperament." Gentle persuasion, positive reinforcement, and patience are key.

Because borzoi can be a little shy around strangers, it's important to socialize your pup from an early age so she can grow to be a confident, friendly dog. Finding a borzoi puppy through a reputable breeder is one way to ensure your dog is socialized, even before she comes home.


In general, borzoi are relatively healthy dogs with a long life span (9–14 years) for their size. And while they don't have many health problems, according to the BCA, there are certain conditions borzoi parents need to look out for.

As a large, deep-chested dog, borzoi can experience gastric dilation volvulus, commonly known as bloat. This is a life-threatening medical emergency in which the dog's stomach fills with air and twists, cutting off blood flow. Dog owners should educate themselves on the symptoms of bloat and be prepared to take your dog to the veterinarian immediately. It's also important to talk with your vet about prevention methods.

Hip and shoulder dysplasia, genetic conditions that cause the joints to partially dislocate, are rarely found in the breed. Although if they do develop symptoms, while there is no cure, there are a variety of treatment options.


Borzoi got their start as hunters of foxes, boars, hares, and wolves (yes, really!). Russian royalty and nobles bred and maintained the breed starting in the 15th century, according to the American Kennel Club. But all of this changed in the 1860s, when serfdom was abolished and Russia's feudal system collapsed. This was when the great estates that housed borzoi kennels were divided and sold. The nobles could no longer support such extravagance, and borzoi numbers declined.

But it was the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 that nearly wiped out the breed: As symbols of the czar and old guard of aristocracy, the dogs were killed in vast numbers. After the revolution, Staudt-Cartabona says, there were fewer than 10 borzoi left in Moscow.

Luckily, well before the turn of the century, the borzoi had been brought to England and the U.S., where they were called the "Russian wolfhound" until being officially renamed the "borzoi" in 1936. In the 1990s, Russian breeders reached out to Staudt-Cartabona. She had been breeding borzoi for decades with a direct lineage to old Russian stock, and was able to help reestablish the breed in Russia.

Fun Facts

The word "borzoi" comes from the Russian word borzyi, which means "swift."
The borzoi's reputation for elegance made her something of a sensation during the Art Deco era. The breed was frequently depicted in illustrations of the day alongside fashionably-attired women, including a notable print by Russian-French artist Erté.
Stars of the silver screen soon caught on: French actress Sarah Bernhardt had a borzoi (who was painted lying at her feet in a famous portrait that now hangs in the Petit Palais in Paris). Midcentury movie star Mae West had two borzois, and Swedish-American actress Greta Garbo of the 1920s and '30s also had a borzoi.
Today, you can find the borzoi in one particularly ubiquitous location: Go to any bookstore and take a look at the spines of the books. See a familiar figure? Yep, publishing house Alfred A. Knopf's logo is a leaping borzoi.