Valyet's Zolotaya Zaria
Silkenswift Borzoi Foundation Bitch

or Things I learned from Aurora about breeding Borzoi

by Bonnie Dalzell (c)1995

Larger Picture of Aurora
Pedigree of Valyet's Zolotaya Zaria.

 ][  Statistics of Valyet's Zolotaya Zaria.

"Valyet" was the kennel name used by Harold and Jean Y W Lau of San Jose, California. Zolotaya Zaria is Russian for "Golden Dawn" and "Aurora" was a glorious golden color. When her coat was newly grown each hair was tipped with white so that she shimmered in the sun.

Aurora was a sound, basic Borzoi bitch with a lovely long head. As I have learned more about breeding Borzoi I have come to appreciate her type as invaluable to a breeding program. She was sound, well muscled and possessed of many small beauties of type: very dark eyes, scissors bite, all her teeth, good feet, well muscled body, bladed bone, a nice long head, a straight very long tail. She had a very fast, driving side gait. Showing her always left me with the impression of going out with a standardbred horse. You felt you could not move fast enough to break her trot into a canter.

Her major show fault was that she never grew any length of coat. Partially this was because she came in season every 5 months and she would shed after each season whether or not she had a litter. She did not have extreme allergies, hers was not the chewed off look, merely the short furred look. At one show in Boston a fellow Borzoi fancier accused me of having a Saluki cross, this was a person whose only Borzoi was a large male.

It happened that during her prime show years in New England, that the show seasons (spring and fall) and her shed out periods had a high degree of overlap. Needless to say we did not have much success in the ring although she did receive ribbons in large classes. However there was almost always a bitch in the ring with a fuller coat. She won a point in her youth. Later when she was nine she took WB for 2 points under Col Pede on the day her grandson Ch Silkenswift Indiana Jones took WD & BOW to finish his title. However the idea of taking a nine year old around for the rest of her points seemed sort of pathetic and not too long after that she developed some mammary lumps and I had her spayed as part of the treatment for the tumors, thus ending her show career. She lived to be 14 so the treatment was fairly successful.

On the coursing field Aurora decided that the idea was to chase the other dogs off and then catch the lure. Her major accomplishment was to earn an ASFA dismissal.

She was so well obedience trained (I went to years of classes with her) that we could act like we had a leash in our hand and she would gait and heel perfectly - it was a great party joke.

When actually in the obedience ring she tended to heel to the judge or, by her mere presence, to cause fights during the long down. She never participated in them but they always broke out between the two dogs "downing" on either side of her, who would start fighting. When the battle became really intense she would scoot up to the judge for protection. After a while I gave up on obedience trials also.

What a record! What Aurora was really good at, what she gloried in, was babies: human, canine, hers or other bitches'. For a long time she was the only Borzoi bitch in our breeding program and she and her pups taught me a lot about breeding Borzoi. For example: short coat is inherited as a dominant - about half her pups failed to produce the luxurious coats of the sires; dark eyes are recessive; high set ears and good tails do come through pretty strongly, so does the long side gait. Coursing interest is independent of willingness to interfere - thus Aurora (who would chase the lure on her own terms) became the most successful ancestress of lure coursing Borzoi in ASFA history. Another thing we learned was that no matter how nice and long your Borzoi's head is, if there is a lot of what I choose to call the "greyhound headed look" behind your dog, and you breed to something with that look, you will get it in the pups. Nice long heads have to be selected for, they do not pop up out of nowhere - but short broad heads with stops and dome shaped backskulls will surprise you a lot. In the long run (no matter what you are told about full dentitions in sire's bloodlines) you never can tell about missing teeth (worthy of an independent essay).

These were some of "Aurora's Lessons in Canine Reproduction and Genetics". She was certainly an excellent producer of brood bitches. Her daughters and granddaughters have been fertile, easy whelpers and excellent mothers. One can ask for no better foundation in a dog breeding program.

We got one really nice pup from her last litter, Silkenswift Ochtai Khan, LCM, CD, winner of the Pentathlon award at the National Specialty in Colorado. Ochtai is so inbred on Aurora that I have not used him on any of our Aurora descended Borzoi bitches. Aurora was his dam, granddam and great great granddam, or as we say "all of Aurora's genes except the second x-chromosome". We have four very nice unrelated-to-Aurora bitches now, Dolce Silkenswift Kyrie, Runyan's Silkenswift Banshee, LCM, Elandris Silkenswift Wyndstar (dam of Janis, Hal, Anubis and Ann Midgarden's Mistral) and my Sly daughter from Marjory Armstrong.

One interesting thing about Aurora was that she had a remarkable ability to be continent. If you didn't make her go outside she only needed to go about once every 30 hours. When she had pups she would stay with them for 23 1/2 hours a day. The 1/2 hour consisting of 2 15 minute sessions in which she would relieve herself, eat enormous amounts of food and gulp what seemed to be a couple of gallons of water. She did this even though we had the food and water in the puppy area with her. Her son Ochtai has inherited her capacity. Now that he is middle aged, if we don't make him get up in the morning he will stay up on the bed until 5 or 6 in the evening when bladder pressure finally drives him downstairs.

One of the things I decided to do in breeding Borzoi, was to breed for longevity. The way you do that is simple but requires discipline. You do not breed your Borzoi when they are young. Animals that develop health problems in middle age are not used in the breeding program. In most cases we wait until the Borzoi are 5 or more before breeding them. In extreme cases we haven't used a Borzoi until it was 8 or 9. In our own program we have never had any whelping problems that were due to age in the older mothers. Darkness had a c-section on her second litter but the pup that caused the c-section was a 2 and 1/2 pound pup and would have caused a c-section in any small bitch, regardless of age. She had no problem with her later litter (at 9 years of age).

Since most of the bitches used have a 4 or 5 years of an active coursing career, delaying breeding until 4 or 5 is easy, you don't want to cut into their running competition when they are in their prime anyway. A Borzoi that is exercised heavily into its middle years seems to stay in much better condition as it ages and live longer also. Look at the great ages achieved by Aurora (14), her daughter Hilary (15), Her daughter Dianna Darkstar (14), her grandchildren Rocky, Stripe and Tristan (14.5). Ariel Duncan's fine courser Zorya enjoyed a long life and her athletic daughter Locket (owned by Leigh Littleton) was still able to turn in a winning run or two at 10.

My only regret in this breeding strategy is that sometimes the pups are so nice that you wish that you had time to breed the bitch more than once or twice. On the other hand, it is such a relief not to have the time bomb involved in having a bunch of yearlings who's 2.5 year old dad or mom has just torsioned or developed juvenile-onset cardiomyopathy or wobbler's or epilepsy.

A lot of inherited things can show up in young adult dogs and the habit of having the average generation time in your pedigrees only be 2 years will come and get you after about three generations, which may account for why the average pure bred dog breeder stays in a breed only 5 years or so. (5 years is generally 3 generations).

The disadvantage of longevity is that you end up with a bunch of old dogs but we like them so that's ok although when you have a lot of dogs over 8 you also have to face the heartbreak of having a number die at the same time.

Looking over my records in my Borzoi database in 1994 - which has not received a complete update since last summer - I have 148 Borzoi who are descended from Aurora. Of these 69 have ASFA and/or Canadian Lure Coursing Titles including 17 with at least one LCM. There are 12 American Champions, 5 Canadian Champions, 9 CD's and a TD.

Almost all of our top coursing Borzoi come down from her; she is also the granddam of a number of conformation titled dogs, (it took me 2 generations to get away from the short coat). She had a number of pointed offspring but we ran into an incredible string of bad luck. For several years it seemed that if one of Aurora's pups became AKC pointed then something would kill it. In her first litter of 7, 4 of the pups (all in different homes) were killed by the same thing before they were three - being hit by an automobile. Another succumbed to the 4 wheeled menace by 5 and a sixth developed complications from an automobile fractured leg which killed her by 9.

Although the ratio of automobile killed pups has dropped in later litters (as a result of my paranoia) it is still my impression that being hit by cars is probably the major single cause of Borzoi mortality for people who only have 1 or 2 dogs. In 18 years we ourselves have only had one dog killed by a car (so far) but I am very paranoid about loose Borzoi. The one who was killed had developed a habit of leaping 6 foot fences if he heard shooting in the woods. He was from the ill fated first Aurora litter. The one pup in that litter who did not die of motor vehicle complications, Hilary, lived to be 15 - she passed away in the fall of 1991.

For my breeding program Aurora's most important offspring were Hilary Halfboot and Dianna Darkstar. Hilary was from her first litter, sired by the Kostenov line dog Lasakov Tobolskoi, F Ch and Dianna Darkstar was from her second litter sired by Ch Kostenov Sondheim. Aurora had two litters sired by our sweet Kristull male, Ch Kristull Llively Go Grendel but I sold the three best of those pups and two of them suffered from the "4 wheeled death with AKC points curse" the third was an important producer for Lindisfarne Borzoi in Canada. My personal favorite of her pups after Hilary, is Ochtai, her inbred son, whom we still have (Aurora was 9 when she had him) and he is now 11, but there will be no Ochtai pups, he has a high co-efficient of inbreeding (33%) and seems to have developed an auto immune reaction against his own sperm, so he is sterile. Grendel was important in our breeding program via pups out of the Aurora daughters Hilary and Sassy rather than Aurora herself.

One of the things that I am proud about in our breeding program is that, with only 3 exceptions, there are ASFA titled dogs from every litter we have bred, including the 4 single puppy litters. Unlike some of my competitors in lure coursing we have not had to breed 4 litters to get one litter with dogs that run. Our last three litters, bred over the past two years, have dogs that doing very well in coursing, and also in the conformation ring.

A selected list of my favorite Aurora descendants and some of their accomplishments.

Silkenswift Hilary Halfboot , LCM 2.
  • Ch Silkenswift Indiana Jones
  • Silkenswift Pye's Dark Design Cn FCh, LCM 6
  • Silkenswift Ochtai Khan , LCM, SC, CD. Ochtai is highly inbred on Aurora. He is - to the best of my knowledge - the youngest ASFA FCH having finished his field championship when he was 10 days over a year of age (3 trials - two weekends). He won the Pentathlon at the Colorado BCOA specialty. He enjoyed coursing through his 9th year when he finished his AKC Senior Coursing Title. Ochtai passed away in 1996.

  • Silkenswift Splendid Stripe , LCM. An Aurora granddaughter via Hilary's sister Sassy and sired by Ch Kristull Llively Go Grendel, Stripe is still with us at 13 1/2. She has 8 FCh offspring (2 LCM's), 7 from one litter (which ties a record with the Artleys). The 8th is from a 100% coursing titled litter of one.

  • Silkenswift Howff Ishtar LCM3, Cn FCh, SC, AKC coursing pointed, and for while - at 6 years of age! - the top oval racing Borzoi.
    At 8 she finished her Oval racing title. She had a series of 6 large races in which she was undefeated. At 8 age was slowing her down just a bit. She had her turn in the ASFA top 10. Ishtar died in March of 1995.
    Ishtar was out of Darkness and sired by Ch Windrift Kindred Spirit. As a brood bitch she founded a lineage of very swift, keen running Borzoi. She is the mother of Blaze.

  • Silkenswift Crystal Echo SC, LCM, AKC coursing major. Crystal is a ways down from Aurora (7 generations). She finished her LCM November 9, 1991 at 18 months of age. Her birth date was May 9, 1990. She won the first AKC Lure Coursing Major points at the first AKC Lure Coursing trial. She died suddenly in April of 1993. I think she may have been bitten by a black widow spider.

    This is just a sample because there are so many really nice Aurora descendants I could write a book on them.

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