Hortaya Borzaya

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Hortaya Borzaya

A large Sighthound, the Hortaya Borzaya is similar in appearance to a Greyhound, though with longer fur and a wider face. Still used today in rural Eurasia, they have evolved to hunt a variety of prey, and are content to run all day long, rarely needing a break.

Known to be sweet and gentle with people, they can integrate well into most families. Equally, they enjoy being part of a dog pack, and will live placidly alongside other dogs. True athletes, the Hortaya Borzaya needs an outdoor lifestyle with plenty of exercise.

About & History

The Hortaya Borzaya, pronounced ‘chorta-yah borsa-yah’, is also known by the shortened name of ‘Chortaj’. Hortaya means ‘shorthaired’, while Borzaya loosely translates to mean ‘fast’. This Sighthound developed within the Eurasian Steppe, north of the Black Sea, many hundreds of years go. Throughout the years, the breed has spread to Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. It is not internationally recognised and is rarely seen outside of its countries of origin.

A traditional working dog, the Hortaya Borzaya is used by people in the countryside who hunt for food rather than sport. They are hardly ever spotted within cities and are a truly rural breed. They hunt by sight, are incredibly speedy, and will bring home their catch; perhaps a rabbit or a hare, for their master to eat.

The Hortaya Borzaya have had to build up great stamina and endurance over the years, allowing them to hunt over barren and vast lands, several times a day. The dog must be strong and large in order to hunt fierce predators, such as wolves – though are required to have a gentle bite, so as to not damage the valuable furs after they have efficiently killed their prey.

One of the main attributes of the breed is their general health and hardiness. Unlike many modern breeds who have been inbred for aesthetic purposes, the Hortaya Borzaya is not bred to look a certain way, but rather for its ability. They are thus less prone to genetic health conditions and generally have a very good quality of life.

In 1951, the Russian Kynologial Federation released the first breed standard in the USSR. It is believed that there are only around 3,000 of this dog breed in existence in the world. They mainly exist within remote parts of rural Russia, while a handful are owned by Russians who have emigrated. There are known to be a small number in other European countries, such as Germany and Finland. It is thought that in 2005 the first Hortaya Borzaya was exported to the USA. These dogs have been seen performing in activities, such as agility and coursing.


Hortaya Borzaya Large Photo

The Hortaya Borzaya is a large and athletic Sighthound, which exhibits a great physical variability within the breed. In fact, there are five recognised types of Hortaya Borzaya, and even more sub-types.

Typically, the male will stand at 65-75cm to the withers, while the female stands shorter at 61-71cm. Their weight can range from 18kg to 35kg, and the general rule of thumb is that the Hortaya Borzaya is heavier than it looks. Their bodies are elegant, muscular and well-developed and are covered with a thin and elastic skin.

The Hortaya Borzaya is similar in appearance to a Greyhound, though their face more closely resembles that of a Borzoi. Their head is long and wedge-shaped, with narrow and short ears that flop back in line with their neck. They have dark, large eyes, that portray an alert though calm expression. Their neck is long and thick, and they have a notably deep chest that reaches the elbows when standing. This sizeable chest is needed in order to accommodate their large lungs. Athletic, they should be lean all over, with a tucked in abdomen. Their tail is long and thin, with a characteristic curl at the end.

Their fur is short (about 2.5cm), though dense, keeping them warm in the winter months. They may have a variety of markings, and come in a selection of different colours including:

  • White
  • Black
  • Cream
  • Red
  • Sable
  • Brindle

Dilute colours or irregular marking are not encouraged. Their gait should be fluid and effortless at all times – watching a Hortaya Borzaya gallop swiftly is a sight to behold.

Character & Temperament

The Hortaya Borzaya is known for being friendly and tolerant of humans. Aggression is not common within the breed. They tend to have a ‘pack instinct’ and enjoy the opportunity to live among other dogs. Importantly, they will not hunt animals they are not supposed to and can get along well with other pets and livestock. This is a trait that is critical for a farm dog. Regardless, an owner should be sensible when around small and fast prey when outside. A Hortaya Borzaya that is not on a lead, may not understand that a squirrel in the park is not for hunting.

Independent and aloof at times, early socialisation is key if the Hortaya Borzaya is to fully integrate as a family pet. While alert and vigilant, they would not make a good guard dog, due to their friendly nature.


Photo of Hortaya Borzaya puppy
Hortaya / Wikipedia.org

Only those members of the breed that were easily trainable would have been kept on by the farmer, and the Hortaya Borzaya is typically a dutiful student. They are a smart dog, who can be taught obedience and skills from a young age. While known to be inherently good hunters, several of the breed have competed internationally in coursing, racing and agility. Indeed, there is no reason why this intelligent dog could not excel in a variety of disciplines.

It is thought that, while the Hortaya Borzaya is primarily a Sighthound, they can also hunt prey by scent once they have gone out of sight. This would indicate that the breed would also be suitable for competitions such as tracking and trailing.


It is widely accepted that the Hortaya Borzaya is a very healthy breed. This is likely, in part, due to the fact that they have not been selectively inbred for their appearance or pedigree and, in part, due to the life of hard graft they have endured over the centuries. While it is a sad fact that many of the breed are killed by predators when out hunting, in the absence of this misfortune, most will live well into their teens; a fabulous feat for a dog of their size. Not only will they live to their teens, they will be working and reproducing for much of their life.

It is often said that the Hortaya Borzaya cannot tolerate rich or high protein diets, as they have evolved over the years to survive on scraps from the table and on meals, such as bread and oats. A juvenile dog will require a specialised diet.

In the absence of any scientific study, and with a paucity of anecdotal evidence, it is difficult to know which, if any, medical conditions the Hortaya Borzaya is prone to. In the author’s opinion, because of their deep chest, it is quite plausible that they would be predisposed to a condition called ‘GDV’ or bloat. This is a life-threatening medical disorder in which the stomach rotates on its axis, trapping food and gas inside. Without veterinary intervention, an affected animal will die.

With such a small population, it is critical that this breed remains in good health. An animal affected with a known inherited condition should not be bred from.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Hortaya Borzaya is a dog that is built to live alongside nature, running in the great outdoors. They will not be satisfied if contained within a small home or fenced-in garden. They have evolved to run large distances and relish the opportunity to do so when possible. It is said that they can run several kilometres after prey, rest for a short time, then run the same distance all over again. This can go on for hours, with many dogs hunting up to 10 times in the same day. The Hortaya Borzaya is no couch potato!


They are a typically low maintenance breed, needing brushing only once or twice a week. Like all dogs, you should get them used to general handling, tooth brushing, ear checking and claw clipping from a young age.

Famous Hortaya Borzayas

An incredibly rare breed, there are no famous examples of the Hortaya Borzaya in existence just yet. They are even very rarely spotted on the photo sharing site, Instagram, however, a couple of posts may give you a small insight to the life of this rare breed.


There are no well-known Hortaya Borzaya crossbreeds.

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