A golden tie pin was shining in an immaculately tied scarf, which was sliding underneath a steel-coloured raincoat. The shoelaces were obediently lining in the shoes, which were emitting the scent of a shoe polish. The wind, if blowing, seemed to stop for a split second just to look in awe at that view.The view, which was truly fabulous in the times of Polish communism.
This pin and those shoes belonged to an elegant elderly man. Whenever I saw him from the gate of a pre-war tenement house, being just a little girl, I was starting to dream to be able to walk one day the same way he was doing it. But my dreams weren’t about his tie pin or his polished shoes; I wasn’t either dreaming about calmness, which was undoubtedly this man’s companion. My sight was riveted to one particular view, which made everything else shine.
The proudly marching borzois, just like ballet dancers, were beating the air with their strong paws. The movement of their long, slightly waving fur could be only compared to the movement of a silk shawl hanging on a line, being gently caressed by a gentle summer breeze. A delicate hump, so characteristic of this breed, made the view breathtakingly fluid and graceful. And the tail, carried with immense gracefulness, resembled those beautiful fans from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights
proud, elegant and refined dogs
Such is their story. A borzoi is a dog that we see when thinking about the Tsar’s Russia. This is a dog that thanks to its passionate lovers survived the Bolshevik quest to annihilate this breed, as borzois are immediately associated with the Tsar’s court and wolf hunting. This is also belonging to the upper class, this is blue blood, which was so much in disagreement with the aims of the then Russia.
Wolf hunting and the Tsar’s courts. That’s the explanation for the complexity of the borzoi’s character. On one hand that’s a dog characterized by extreme gracefulness and its predilection for home comfort, on the other hand we have its hot-blooded nature and forcing through the air in the moments of freedom and game chasing.
In the old times, borzoi did not resemble in the slightest the modern representative of this breed. Borzois used to be far more massive with short and definitely rougher coat. Its advantages were highly appreciated by hunting lovers who, seeing borzois’ gracefulness and the finesse of movement, were experimenting with the mixing of other breeds’ blood to achieve an increasingly delicate, fluid appearance.
And the story about the most distinguished borzois and the place that contributed to the breed development and improvement started in the following way:
One day, tsarina Catherina generously donated a huge area of land in the Tulsk Provence to the famous Russian banker named Lasarieff. He was also known as the one who provided the third biggest diamond in the world to the crown collection of the Russian Tsars. Lasarieff erected there a breathtaking estate, which was inherited by his daughter. Her husband, a great hunting lover, started to breed borzois there. That was the beginning of the biggest and probably the most renown Borzoi kennel – Perchino. The hunting estate, in those times being the biggest in the world, experienced stormy ups and downs. Once, its glory tended to be undeniable and the guests were truly enchanted by its view. Then came moments when the estate was in a deplorable condition, as it was divided and sold by merchants. It was only Grand Prince Nikolai Nikolayevich, a keen hunter and a hunting lover, who gathered in Perchino the most beautiful, the fastest and the most courageous borzois. Then Perchino became the place of the most famous hunting events.
In many respects Perchino is a model kennel and in such a way dogs were treated there. Each building in the kennel had it own supervisor. His duties included preparing the food for dogs and feeding them twice a day. He was also responsible for cleaning their muzzles after meals, talking dogs to their running area, walking them, brushing them everyday and transferring them to different boxes. That was supposed to secure those dogs’ better cooperation during hunting.
Dogs were placed in particular buildings according to their age and hue, as a great attention was paid to the appearance and the colour of individual packs. In Perchino one also could find dog wet nurses, who used to feed puppies despite the fact that numerous litters were limited anyway. The kennel put a lot of pressure on the quality of dogs, that is why the puppies left were of the superior quality and thus carefully monitored. Raised is separate buildings, dogs were provided with separate running areas, which were sowed with oats every single morning. Also, special sand hillocks were built so that dogs could play and dig freely.
Six-month old dogs were taken to their first trial hunting. There was a widespread practice of releasing a gagged wolf, just to protect inexperienced dog hunters against injuries. With the help of careful supervision, an excellent hunter was raised that at the very beginning belonged to the group of truly priceless goods, as it couldn’t be purchased. Most frequently, it was offered as a precious gift indicating that the recipient cherished great respect, dignity and high social position. Later, the borzoi’s enormous price caused that it was mainly possessed by the members of higher social classes and the gentry. Due to the growing interest concerning that breed’s appearance and potential use together with the increasing possibility of visiting Russia, many kennels in Europe and in the world can boast about their dogs originating from that superb kennel, and the ones who are more versed about the breed can easily recognize a dog with a typical Perchino head.
Therefore, whenever being in the vicinity of a borzoi, it shouldn’t be surprising for us to feel the scent of game or the smell of a hunting estate, to hear the baying of hunting-eager packs or finally to experience all-present lavish luxury. This is the dog with an elusive aura of a different world and we must be aware that having it as our companion we definitely get much more than just a faithful friend.
It is a cold evening, and tiny Dumka is sitting on my lap. My first borzoi litter. I am holding in my hands a pile of yellowed typed pages, which used to belong to that gentleman, that passionate lover of this breed, who used to stroll with his three borzois. The gentleman is gone now so are his three borzois. What is left is the love to this breed. I felt a warm teardrop coming down my cheek. Dreams do come true, I suppose. I guess I am lucky.