On 6th December 2009 in Moscow there took place one of the biggest exhibitions of the RPB at which a number of dogs were exhibited.

Breed expert Jean Clare, well known to many Borzoi lovers, was invited to perform the assessment and deliver her expertise.

Jean Clare, the owner of the worldwide known affix “Ryazan”, is a practising veterinarian with years of experience, an expert for whom the task before her was to judge   one of the biggest and most prestigious world exhibitions.

According to the catalogue there were 76 dogs entered.  69 dogs were present for the expert.  7 dogs were, for various reasons, absent.

For the owners of the dogs a good opinion was formed regarding the quality of the judging, and each owner received a detailed copy of the description of their charge (protégé) showing all merits and faults of each given dog.  It was really not possible to be in disagreement with the critiques because in Jean’s descriptions nothing was concealed and all was brought together down to the last hair, everything was factual and clearly set out.   The proprietors were not offended by the reports they received, even though a few owners had received “excellent” at other shows with their dogs and at this show “very good”.  All were in agreement with the observations made by Jean for each dog in the descriptions. 

From both the internet and from personal conversation, I can say that the opinion of the majority of dog owners is that they are happy with Jean Clare’s expertise. A high professionalism, a quality high expertise, attentiveness, and a genuine goodwill towards the dogs and their owners – these were the qualities conceded by the largest portion of the exhibitors who took part.

Seldom does such a level of pro come to Russia, with not only a great knowledge of the subject at their disposal and very definite and clear interpretation of the RBB Standard, but also excellent acquaintanceship of the functional significance that these dogs have as hunting dogs.  That is why a good decision could be composed. 

At the request of the show organizers Jelena Akopova and Irina Bogreyeva, Jean said she was agreeable to answer questions that interested Russian Borzoi lovers.  On 7th December a four hour discussion was held in which Jean answered questions which the owners of Russian dogs put forward in a warm and friendly atmosphere.

I have taken the trouble to make a note of the main questions and answers.  I can imagine that the result of this discussion will be of interest to more than just a few of our Borzoi friends. 

With love from Russia, Natalya Grebetskya


Q: Your opinion about the quality of dogs presented at the show?

A: In general it was fairly high. Unfortunately some owners failed to handle their dogs properly so it was difficult to assess them. I was trying to do the dogs justice and give them the marks they would earn if shown properly. However it would be good if the owners paid more attention to this and learned how to exhibit their dogs correctly, and also got the dogs accustomed to it. The dogs need to be stood to best advantage for the judge at all times, to emphasise their good points and try to disguise their failings. Exhibitors should ensure they make the best use of the ring when moving their dogs, especially when the space is very restricted, as it was at this show.


Q: What did you particularly like about the exhibited dogs?

A: Their teeth. Virtually all of them had excellent, sparkling clean white teeth. It also looked as if this was their natural state, not the result of cleaning. The teeth were big and strong, and almost all exhibits had correct bites and full dentition. The lower jaws were of good depth and width giving ample room for the incisors. The most pleasing point was that there were no misplaced tight canines as one sees in some European countries. I consider this to be a very serious fault as it can be painful for the dog.


Q: In the UK, does it happen that a bitch is mated to more than one dog, and puppies are then genetically tested to determine from which sire they originate?

A: I have heard about it happening in the USA, but not in the UK. It would be possible, but I think in the UK it is more likely to happen accidentally rather than deliberately.


Q: Is there a sperm bank for dogs? Is it being used often?

A: It is possible to freeze and store sperm, but to use AI for a mating in this country would require special permission from the Kennel Club, unlike many other countries where AI is used routinely. Here we can use semen imported from abroad, provided the dog has already sired a litter naturally and surgical insemination is not used. Import regulations also apply for the semen.


Q: What do you think about cloning Borzois?

A: I don’t think it makes sense, as the cloned animal most certainly will not be an exact copy of the original one, especially as nervous system and temperament goes, due to differences in rearing, feeding and so on. Also it would take away all the skill and fun of breeding, and hardly anyone would be able to afford it.


Q: Do judges in the UK count teeth at the shows? Will missing teeth affect the dog’s placement?

A: Not really, usually only the bite and canines get looked at. The UK standard does not strictly penalise missing teeth. I don’t count teeth, but I always check to make sure most of the pre-molars are present, i.e there are no large gaps between the teeth. I think all judges should do this, as if a dog has a large number of missing teeth the ability to hold the prey would be compromised.

Q: Your personal colour preference for a Borzoi?

A: I personally prefer red, but it will never affect my judging or choice of a dog to breed.

Q: What do you think about speckled Borzois, especially if it is of a colour different from the main colours? Does the UK standard disallow any colours in Borzois?

A: Any colour is allowed, and speckling is not penalised.


Q: Even completely black or grey dogs, without a single white hair, are not penalised?

A: No, as long as they are correspond to the standard and are healthy. In fact we do not have any dogs of these colour patterns in the UK, they are more common in the States.


Q: As a vet, have you ever come across hip dysplasia in Borzois?

A: Yes, but very rarely.


Q: What is the average life span for a Borzoi in the UK?

A: 9-11 years, though I have seen one who has lived to 16 years.


Q: How many puppies should a healthy Borzoi bitch produce?

A: 6-10 on average.


Q: Is the maximum number of puppies regulated in the UK?

A: No, but some breeders prefer to keep max 6-8. Some breeders used to cull large litters but nowadays I think it is more common to try to rear all the pups, using supplementary feeding if necessary.


Q: How many Borzois are there currently in the UK?

A: There are no exact statistics, but approximating from the number of puppies registered each year, probably around 2000-3000.


Q: Is there any increase in tick-borne diseases in the UK now that the quarantine is cancelled?

A: Some new diseases have appeared here for the first time, not necessarily tick-borne, partly due to the increased movement of dogs since quarantine ended.


Q: Why is your kennel called Ryazan?

A: No particular reason. I just looked at the map of Russia and picked a name which appealed to me, and also was reasonably easy to pronounce. It is also quite short and goes well with most names.

Q: Why in the UK are you not using the classic Russian Borzoi names, such as Vikhr, Buyan, Vyuga, Strela?

A: Because we can’t pronounce them properly. Some of my dogs have simple Russian names like Igor or Natasha, but even Igor was often mispronounced.


Q: According to UK regulations, how old can a Borzoi bitch be to be mated?

A: 1 year old. A bitch must also not be over 8 years old when she gives birth, unless special permission has previously been obtained.


Q: When do bitches in your kennel have their first season, and how often do they come in season?

A: 1-1.5 years old, usually every 6-7 months.


Q: How many generations do you think it takes to correct the head shape in Borzois? What about body and legs?

A:  For the head – one generation with a correct choice of partner. It is more difficult with the other two though – sometimes a lifetime is not enough. So I would always prefer to breed to a dog with a correct body and legs, even if its head is not perfect, rather than a dog with pretty head, but faults in construction.

Q: What do you think about Borzois being aggressive towards people?

A: I do not think this is acceptable, especially in countries like UK, where most Borzois are companion dogs and are not used for hunting. I was very pleased that not a single Borzoi at the show here was aggressive, even though the ring was small, and they had to wait for several hours in the crowd where they could not even sit or lay down. There were no signs of aggression to either people or other dogs, and that was very positive.

Q: Were there any faults here at the show common to many dogs?

A: Nothing which would be too prominent, but many dogs had a straight upper arm. However I do not know the dogs here so well, so I can’t say if those with such faults were related, or if it was non-related dogs. There were also a few with poor feet.


Q: Is close inbreeding allowed in the UK?

A: Breeding a parent to a son/daughter or breeding full siblings is not allowed.


Q: Does one see an incorrect bite, or missing testicles, in UK Borzois?

A: Unfortunately yes, like everywhere in the world – such animals would be sold cheaper as pets, into good homes.

European Borzoi no. 51 April-June 2010