Interview with Hound Group Breeder Virginia Jones – Rivervue Borzoi
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Rivervue Borzoi – Virginia Jones: I currently reside just outside of Brighton, Michigan, on 13 acres in Green Oak Township on the beautiful Huron River, a National Water Trailway. I’ve owned and loved Borzoi for 31 years now and have been involved in breeding Borzoi on a small scale for 27 years.
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
Rivervue Borzoi – Virginia Jones: My kennel name is Rivervue, but originally, I bred Borzoi under the kennel prefix of Venice Shores for a few years until I moved to my current location. I breed very selectively so that I never have more than eight dogs of various ages to manage at a time. I currently have six Borzoi at my Rivervue kennel.
Which show dogs from the past have been my noteworthy winners?
Rivervue Borzoi – Virginia Jones: My very first Borzoi, AM/CAN CH Majenkir Bogatyr of Venice Shores JC (Bogey), had some incredible wins under my totally novice hands, and finished both his American and Canadian championships and Junior Courser title at a very young age.
BISS AM/CAN CH Borscana Vargavinter JC (Vinnie) completed both of his championships before he was two years of age and had many Specialty wins along the way.
Then along came MBISS MRBISS GCHS Aruzia Joyous Pennyroyal at Rivervue (Penny) who started her show career at six months, on the day, with a Best in Show Puppy and rapidly earned her championship, grand championships through Silver, multiple Best in Specialty wins, multiple Reserve Best in Show wins, and far too many Group wins and placements for me to even count! A bitch worth her weight in gold who just won Best in Specialty Show on May 28th at the Midwest Borzoi Club Specialty in conjunction with the Kalamazoo five-day cluster.
Which have been my most influential sires and dams?
Rivervue Borzoi – Virginia Jones: When it comes to sires, I would have to say that my first Borzoi, Bogey, has had the most influence on the breed. He was bred once to Majenkir Bellefleur and produced an all-champion litter. A son, AM/RUS CH Majenkir Novik Mily (Mily), was sent to Russia and produced several important litters there for different kennels, with offspring having much success in the show ring and on the field. Bogey was the first American-bred Borzoi to earn the Russian Hunting Championship title. He was returned to Majenkir kennel and produced an outstanding litter, with offspring seen in many pedigrees today. A littermate to Mily, Majenkir Mirabella, proved her worth as a brood bitch for Karen Staudt-Cartabona, producing three lovely litters for her resulting in a National Specialty Field Trial winner for the Raynbo Kennel, DC Majenkir Raynbo Dazzle, and 11 champions in total, with several that produced for Borzoi kennels here and in Canada.
Vinnie, imported from the famous Borscana Kennel of Sweden as a puppy, produced just two litters but was an incredibly prepotent sire, stamping his mark on his get. His first litter of six had only one surviving puppy after a horrific whelping that had me rethinking whether I had the stuffing to continue on this path. The surviving puppy, CH Venice Shores Angelina, completed her championship rapidly within two weekends with three 5-pt. majors on one weekend, and a 4-pt major and single point at her next show. His second litter of one female came 22 years later from frozen semen, producing my newest upcoming little star, Rivervue The Soloist (Natalie), four points and a Best of Breed win over Specials from the puppy classes. She earned both of her majors at the Kalamazoo 5-day Cluster the last weekend of May, again from the 9-12 Month Puppy Class, bringing her total points to 11.
My most influential dam has been CH Avalyn Silverbrite of Rivervue (Minnow). When bred to GCH Aruzia Moonstone of Rivervue (Stoney), she produced GCH Rivervue Coming on Strong (Brinda Lee), dam of Rivervue The Soloist, and CH Rivervue Gimmie Me Some Lovin (Spencer), Group winner under Borzoi breeder-judge, John Reeve-Newson. Both finished their championships by 15 months, with multiple BOB and Group wins and placements along the way.
Can I talk a bit about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Rivervue Borzoi – Virginia Jones: I have 13 acres of mostly wooded property with a kennel building attached to my house with four runs, a medium-sized fenced yard off the back of my home adjoining the kennel runs, and a two-acre fenced field on the opposite side of my kennels so that all of the runs open to the fenced field. Puppies are whelped in my bedroom at the foot of my bed, so I can sleep with one eye open and watch them at all times! They are raised in the house and are gradually introduced to the family of Borzoi one at a time. At 5 to 6 weeks, they start their outdoor investigation and have a covered kennel run and heated kennel to protect them from the elements. They all sleep in the house at night, up in the living room where they will learn house manners and meet visitors—lots of visitors of all ages for early socialization. At 10 to 12 weeks, we are off to go and see all the sights and sounds in and around the town, learning and experiencing as many new things as we can to stimulate all their senses and build their confidence so that they will blossom into secure and stable adults.
What is my “process” for selecting show puppies? At what age do I make my decisions?
Rivervue Borzoi – Virginia Jones: I love to study the outlines of the puppies when they are first born, but typically I evaluate my puppies between 8 and 9 weeks of age. The proportions, structure, angles, pigment, and personalities really show true at this age, and what I see at this age is what they will be as full-grown adults—just with a lot more silky, long coat! I spend hours watching them run and play to determine who uses themselves well when moving and who stands over themselves solidly. Final decisions are made when their adult teeth come in to assure they have good bites and full dentition. To date, I’ve never had a problem with either.
How do I prepare my pups for the show ring? Does my breed require any special preparation?
Rivervue Borzoi – Virginia Jones: I like to spend some time, early on, getting them used to bathing and grooming with lots of treats so that they learn to love their show baths and not fear the blow dryer or the nail Dremel. Borzoi require minimal trimming and should be shown primarily in their natural state. I take them to a few drop-in conformation classes so that they are familiar with stacking, moving, and being in a ring with other dogs, and being handled and touched by other people. I start examining bites, stacking, and getting brushed on a grooming table at a young age. Again, lots of treats are involved so that by the time they are old enough to show they are comfortable with the whole process. They learn while young that showing is a very rewarding experience for them!
Can I share my thoughts on how my breed is currently presented in the show ring?
Rivervue Borzoi – Virginia Jones: We have far more professional handlers now in the Borzoi rings, at any and every show, than we ever did when I started in the breed. Most people back then showed their own dogs and you quickly learned who the prominent breeders were in Borzoi so that it was not so difficult to approach breeders to help with mentoring. And I think that the lack of close contact with other breeders is a disservice to people hoping to become more involved in the breed. I think that along with the use of handlers came more extreme grooming, some almost to the point of looking sculpted. No one used a blow dryer on Borzoi back in the day! The owner-handler really has to put on their “A” game to be able to compete in the rings against so many handlers, and better quality dogs are often overlooked by their professionally handled counterparts.
Are there any health-related concerns within my breed? Any special nutritional needs?
Rivervue Borzoi – Virginia Jones: I learned much about the breed’s health as our Borzoi Club of America Health Chairman for almost 15 years, and I continue on as the Health Research Coordinator and Club Liaison to CHF, OFA, and MAF. As with any large, deep-chested breed, bloat and torsion are something to be mindful of as is heart disease. We also have incidences of Degenerative Myelopathy which we now have a marker test for screening. Cancer, of course, is a concern, with Osteosarcoma and Hemangiosarcoma being the most frequently seen cancers. Thyroid disease is of some concern as well in Borzoi. But having said all this, the Borzoi breed is, comparatively speaking, actually quite a relatively healthy breed.
For nutritional needs, caution must be minded not to supplement puppies or feed them puppy foods that most other breeds use. They are a very fast-growing breed and they have a lot of growing to do, from puppy to adult, so it’s important to pay close attention to any abnormal changes in the bones; like bowing or knuckling-over. These should be remedied very quickly with the appropriate balance of nutrition intended for a large breed of dog. Too much weight is never a good thing on a running hound and places too much strain on bones and organs. I’ve had my best success feeding a fish-based kibble, and also with raw feeding under the guidance of a nutritionist. Good quality nutrition is important to the total development and future of the dog in every aspect, so pinching pennies here is not where you want to save a buck. Skimp on the toys, fancy beds, leashes, and designer paraphernalia, and put your money where their mouth is!
In my opinion, is my breed in good condition overall? Any trends that warrant concern?
Rivervue Borzoi – Virginia Jones: As of the last couple of years, we have seen an increase in the number of dogs that have succumbed to sudden death, and also an increase in the number of lung lobe torsions. Both are concerning to me. Currently, we are working with the CHF and Texas A&M on moving a research grant forward to determine the genetic cause for sudden death in Borzoi, focusing on the association with Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). Trends unrelated to health that seem to be changing include many newer people to the breed who are far too focused on the color of the dog and not on the structure beneath that color. Any color is acceptable in our breed, but the lack of knowledge behind correct structure and movement of a fast-running sighthound is, by far, the most important knowledge to be obtained, and too few of our newer folks are seeking out education and mentorship. We have people jumping into breeding dogs way too quickly who do not have the depth of breed knowledge for this. This results in the majority of dogs in the ring being average, with few stand-outs, sometimes to the deterrent that the stand-outs look so different from the rest of the dogs in the ring that they are overlooked by judges who lack a depth of familiarity with our breed.
Is my breed well-suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?
Rivervue Borzoi – Virginia Jones: Borzoi are very well-suited to be a family dog. They adore their people and do very well with children. The owner needs to understand that, although they are a very large breed, they have a very soft temperament and need a soft touch when it comes to corrections. A heavy-handed, loud owner will end up with a fearful Borzoi. They learn quickly, but frequently ponder what is asked of them to see if there’s anything in it for them—or not. They are a breed that does extremely well with lots of reward and praise. They will never have the on-command demand of the Golden Retriever, but they are easily trainable with a patient owner who’s willing to find the right method that works for that dog. Borzoi are sighthounds, first and foremost, so they need a home with a large fenced-in yard to achieve their daily exercise needs. They should never be let off-leash in an uncontained area, as the risk of them spotting something to chase is far too great and they can cover many, many miles before they realize that they have no idea where they are. They are solely focused on the chase and neither see nor hear anything else. Borzoi are very docile in the house, which is great because, if this were not the case, that’s a lot of dog with a great potential to wipe out anything in its surroundings! They love their sofa time with their owners and will enjoy watching their favorite TV programs together with their owner. On the downside, they are shedding machines, so it’s best to say goodbye to your carpeting for a hard surface floor that can be easily “Swiffered” on a daily basis. They love to be brushed, and a regular schedule for this helps to keep the dog hair tumble weeds from dancing across your floors.
Do I feel that my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Rivervue Borzoi – Virginia Jones: Right now, I think everyone is calling themselves a “preservation breeder.” I’m not so sure they all understand exactly what this means. If they are simply adding to the total number of Borzoi, many believe that this is preserving the breed. We have very few breeders now who line-breed, unlike what we had in the 1980s and ‘90s. Mostly, it’s “52 Card Pickup.” While this may contribute to genetic diversity, it doesn’t do much for the predictability of retaining breed type. I used to be able to tell exactly which kennel a dog came from at a glance, but now we have mostly “generic” Borzoi. For breeders who focus on always breeding “up,” it becomes more and more difficult to find a kennel that is consistently producing something you may be lacking in your breeding program. I think this lack of conscious breeding is a significant detriment to our breed. Too many people feel the need to always breed to the latest National Specialty winner, hoping to produce the next big winner rather than focus on what their breeding program needs specifically to move forward… and seek out those dogs. I don’t believe that many spend much time studying pedigrees in both depth and breadth; a significant disservice to the breed.
For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever experienced with a Hound?
Rivervue Borzoi – Virginia Jones: The Borzoi dog is a natural comedian, so finding just one thing that is the most amusing would be very difficult. They will make you laugh with their antics every day, and in our troubled times this is certainly a blessing. They love to sleep on their backs—with legs going every which way—and with some part of their body most likely hanging off their bed or sofa. It is not unusual to see one sound asleep, butt on the couch and head draped across the floor. My dogs have all loved to watch TV, but their favorite show, by far, is watching the televised dog shows. All of them line up in front of the TV and watch the dogs go down and back. And when the Borzoi comes into the ring, they all jump up and down. I’ve had a few dogs that were singers, and this is really endearing. AM/CAN CH Borscanna Vargavinter JC had very discerning tastes in music. First and foremost, he adored Santana, and then, Bob Seager. I can remember one summer, on my way to a show, I was stopped at a traffic light with the windows open when the Santana song “Smooth” came on the radio. Vinnie began belting out the song much to the surprise of the person in the car next to me who began laughing hysterically! To this day, every time that song comes on the radio, I can hear him singing along!