Interview with Hound Group Breeder Karen Staudt-Cartabona – Majenkir Borzoi Kennel
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Karen Staudt-Cartabona: Majenkir Borzoi Kennels are located high on a hill in beautiful Swartswood, New Jersey, overlooking Swartswood Lake and State Park. We are surrounded on three sides by protected, preserved lands, which make this private area the ideal place for a kennel. The bloodline’s foundation bitch, CH Tanya Majenkir of Kalevala CD ROM, was purchased in 1963. Her first litter came a few years later. “Tanya” was the foundation and is still the cornerstone behind all Majenkir Borzoi. She was the result of a brother/sister mating and was genetically prepotent for many fine features that came down from the Russian hunting dogs imported from Russia a few short generations before her. Her granddam was a coursing hunter who lost several toes in a bear trap and was unable to hunt. Alcyone Delvos was sent East to become a brood bitch for Elizabeth Allison. Louie Murr was quite impressed with her quality and allowed her to be bred to one of his last remaining stud dogs; Vigow II, end product of his famous Romanoff Kennel.
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
Karen Staudt-Cartabona: Majenkir Borzoi LLC Reg. is licensed with the USDA to keep compliant with New Jersey rules and regulations for keeping, and especially for breeding, dogs. Many New Jersey townships have a six-dog limit and breeding restrictions.
At present, we have 12 adults, while over the decades there were often 30 or more adults. I was able to maintain several lines and variations within the breed.
Which show dogs from the past have been my noteworthy winners?
Karen Staudt-Cartabona: This is difficult to answer, since there have been so many generations of top winners since the start in the 1960s.
Tanya’s second litter was successful. After realizing the weaknesses apparent in the first litter, I searched for and found a more suitable stud dog. Tauskey produced CH MAJENKIR SVERKAI SNOW STAG, CD ROMX. As a team, and with help from so many who were so gracious with their knowledge and help, I learned to handle and present my dog. He began winning and I was hooked for life. Snow Stag was a BCOA National BOB winner and became a ROM sire.
CH MAJENKIR GYRFALCON, FLD CH ROMX, a No. 1 Borzoi and, to date, the Top-Producing Borzoi in breed history. “Gerry” was every breeder’s dream both in the show ring and as a stud dog—and as my companion. Gerry set what is now known worldwide as the Majenkir type.
In 2003, a group calling themselves “Friends of Majenkir” commissioned an original bronze by Kay Collins to perpetuate Gerry’s memory. One of the three copies is now on permanent display at the AKC Museum of the Dog in New York City. One of Gerry’s sons, also a multiple No. 1 Borzoi in the 1990s, was an impressive winner. He is multiple BIS BISS CH MAJENKIR ARCTICUS ROMX, also among the top Borzoi producers.
MBIS MRBIS BISS GCH. MAJENKR BOOKSTOR VINTAGE GLAMOUR, No. 1 Borzoi National BOB winner, handled by Stuart McGraw. Co-owned and co-bred with Howard and Karen Spey.
The bloodline has produced top winners and producers worldwide for others, and continues to do so. A bitch of special note is the all-time top-winning No. 1 Borzoi and RBIS at Westminster KC, “Lucy,” sired by a Majenkir dog. (Max was also a top winner and producer in Japan.) Breed No. 1 BIS BISS CH MAJENKIR ORCHID ANNIE, owned by Dick and Alice Reese.
There have been unbroken generations of winners at Specialties, including the BCOA National, in both Breed and in the Classes, right through to the present. Also No. 1 Borzoi. Breeders continue today to establish their own successful winning kennels based on the bloodline.
Which have been my most influential sires and dams?
Karen Staudt-Cartabona: A majority of Majenkir show dogs over the decades, both sexes, have gone on to become Top Producers. The bloodline’s foundation is unique among dog breeds. Tanya was just a few generations away from Borzoi imported from the great Russian hunting kennels of aristocrats such as the Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich, who bred and hunted them, kenneling upwards of 100 Borzoi. The American Industrialist, Joseph Thomas, went to Russia in the early 1900s to visit these kennels. He was permitted to bring several quality Borzoi back to the US, with which he founded his legendary O’Valley Farm Kennel. A majority of Borzoi were destroyed during the Russian Revolution. If Joseph Thomas had not imported those dogs, there would not be the Borzoi as we know it today; a unique and true-life fairytale story.
I was told by my mentor, Louis Murr, Romanoff, to always stay with the main line, as it would never do me wrong. Not only has this been the base of my own kennel, Majenkir bloodlines and crosses have excelled in the show ring and on the coursing field on live game around the world.
If one looks back at pedigrees of a majority of top-winning Borzoi, the dogs often have Majenkir up close or a dash of the bloodline somewhere in their pedigree.
Can I talk a bit about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Karen Staudt-Cartabona: The pups are whelped in the house. Later they move to larger quarters and into the puppy house which has connecting runs. These open into larger and longer runs as the pups grow. Exercise is always a priority. The adults are kept in long kennel runs, each over 100 ft., the entire area sloping gently upward. The base is crushed stone. The runs open onto a large exercise field where the dogs are run daily in small groups. They are turned out in all-weather, except extreme heat.
Individual houses have metal kenneling separating each side with a center aisle; each holds two to four dogs. The Borzoi sleep on raised palettes or “clamshell” beds.
What is my “process” for selecting show puppies? At what age do I make my decisions?
Karen Staudt-Cartabona: Evaluation begins the moment a pup is born into my hands. The better-quality pups are usually self-evident. I look at head profiles and depth, length and thickness of tails, and width of hock. Then I watch their movement as they mature. I make my final selections at 8 weeks. In the main line, invariably what you see is what you will get at maturity. Other bloodlines, many of which were outcrosses, were introduced over the years. They matured quite differently, and I have gotten more surprises.
I select for layback of shoulder assembly, concentrating on the length and arm set under the pups; this, combined with a long sweep to the rear from stifle to hock, and that low, wide hock. Shoulders take four generations to set and can be lost in one generation. Of course, the entire dog is important, but these are among my must-haves.
How do I prepare my pups for the show ring? Does my breed require any special preparation?
Karen Staudt-Cartabona: The young dogs are fast learners. I take youngsters with an adult to a local show or shopping center. A calm and outgoing temperament is indispensable. Borzoi overall are very adaptable and easy to train, although there are wide variations within the breed. While young dogs are often a bit hesitant, any shyness is unacceptable.
I have watched grooming evolve into major importance. Borzoi coats, if permitted to dry naturally, have large, soft curls—quite beautiful and unique to the breed. Most show dogs are blown dry, and meticulously scissored and sculpted.
Can I share my thoughts on how my breed is currently presented in the show ring?
Karen Staudt-Cartabona: While most Borzoi are shown on a proper loose lead, which enables them to move out correctly, there is more of a tendency to “string them up.” When set up, this will show more length of neck while destroying proper shoulder placement and losing that lovely arch to the crest of the neck. Tight lead gaiting presents more “flash” going around, while giving the Borzoi too much of a gaited horse movement; a high head with restricted or hackneyed movement. Correct movement is always that which covers the most amount of ground with the least amount of effort.
Are there any health-related concerns within my breed? Any special nutritional needs?
Karen Staudt-Cartabona: I have always found the breed quite healthy overall. Anything living may occasionally produce or be subject to cardiac issues. Vet-checking pups and health testing of adults will keep these issues under control. I also believe that the closer to the AKC Breed Standard the Hound is, the fewer problems will be encountered. For example, the breed does not have HD. This is due to strong hereditary muscling in the powerful rear, keeping those hips in their deep sockets. Stiff toplines will develop orthopedic problems, as the entire spine assembly is off. The Breed Standard stresses the importance of form following function. Following this guideline will decrease possible orthopedic problems.
I feed a predominately raw beef diet. I have fed many dietary variations over the years and have learned that Borzoi do not do well on kibble-based diets, especially one containing corn. Among my large collection of books and articles covering Borzoi-related historical facts, most of the experts, including Joseph Thomas whose mentoring came directly from those Russian breeders, give the same advice for raising and feeding pups and adults. They stress exercise, while feeding meat and avoiding corn products.
I often liken the Borzoi to a Polar Bear. They were specifically bred to survive frigid temperatures and to hunt over frozen steppes in Russian winters. They do well as outside dogs, though even with the best of care and attention it becomes difficult to breed, raise, and show them in the hotter areas of the country. As happens with most Sighthounds, they do not do well in a handler’s string. Most of the top Sighthounds have had a dedicated handler who understands and can provide the individual care and exercise needed. Many of the handlers are co-owners and even breeders.
In my opinion, is my breed in good condition overall? Any trends that warrant concern?
Karen Staudt-Cartabona: Sadly, too many of the preservation breeders have passed. While breeders still produce outstanding dogs, there seem to be fewer with an idea of what they are breeding for, except for that big, instant winner. When I read the comments on social media of those calling themselves breeders who are giving advice, I roll my eyes. Too many have no idea as to the future damage they are doing to the breed. There is so little linebreeding, or breeding for a continuation of a line. A major problem is with those who expect instant success while basing an entire breeding program on the original “heart” dog, regardless of whether that beloved dog is worthy or even suitable to pass on his genes. The dog carries their kennel name, so breeding him makes them a “breeder.” There is also “fad” breeding, such as selecting for odd coloring or especially breeding for size and excessive coat and fringing. While a tall, heavily coated male is an impressive sight in the ring, it is often the case that the larger dogs, while they may even have lovely type, are not functionally sound. This is proven in the coursing field, where an oversized dog is unable to accelerate, brake, and turn after live game. Majenkir show dogs have proven themselves by also winning and achieving titles in Open Field events.
Is my breed well-suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?
Karen Staudt-Cartabona: A true Borzoi has a unique Sighthound temperament, which I often describe as almost cat-like except that, contrary to cats, Borzoi are eager to please and are very gentle, loyal, and devoted. They are easy to housebreak and live with. Borzoi are subtly intelligent and often outwit their owners by playing dumb. They are never yappy, and will not chase and retrieve a ball endlessly. They thrive on long walks and especially enjoy a good run with another Sighthound. They are very dependable with children. They will hunt and course small animals but will accept the family cat when carefully introduced. The drawbacks to the breed are their need for exercise and seasonal shedding. The vacuum must run constantly!
Do I feel that my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Karen Staudt-Cartabona: No, not any longer. Too many breeders who had an identifiable type are gone, while breeders of today do not seem to have an in-depth or even clear understanding of what a Borzoi is and should be. They do not seem to realize that we need to continually look to and understand the AKC Standard as the blueprint for the points necessary to be selected for and preserved. Without this blueprint, we may have a Hound thought to be pretty—but it will not be a Borzoi.
For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever experienced with a Hound?
Karen Staudt-Cartabona: My daily life with them as a pack is amusing. The longer I am with these amazing Hounds, the more I learn about the subtleties of life among them and their interaction with each other. There is so much meaning in a slight glance or in just the raising of an eyebrow!