Borzoi in History

Great Ones: Ch. Vigow of Romanoff

Louis J. Murr’s favorite puppy, Vigow of Romanoff, whelped in 1933, is often called “the Greatest Borzoi Ever Bred.”

By Kerrin Winter-Churchill | Posted: July 15, 2015 4 p.m. PST

Ch. Vigow of Romanoff
Junior dazzled Mrs. Hartley Dodge for his first Best in Show at the National Capital Kennel Club show and was never defeated in the breed.

Ch. Vigow of Romanoff

Call Name: Junior
Breeder/Owner/Handler: Mr. Louis J. Murr
Sire: Ch. Vigow O’Valley Farm
Dam: Zanoza of Recall
Whelped: January 7, 1933
Died: June 29, 1938
AKC Best American Bred Dog: 1935 & 1936.
Best of Breed at Westminster Kennel Club: 1935, 1937 and 1938.
Best of Breed at Morris & Essex Kennel Club: 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937 and 1938.
Best of Breed: 77 times
Group First: 67 times
Best in Show: 21 times
Lasting legacy: served with his namesake sire as the gateway to the contemporary Borzoi.

On a wintery morning in January 1933, Zanoza of Recall whelped a litter of mostly whites that would skyrocket Louis J. Murr’s esteem among the elite in dogdom. How he rated them is anybody’s guess, but it is pretty certain that by 1934 Murr was having the time of his life presenting the youngsters, Zanoza, Karlick, Otrava, Akuratni and Vigow of Romanoff, to the fancy. Zanoza of Romanoff was retired with 11 points when suddenly dog show judges began to disqualify her for reasons that are not clear but may have had to do with a reported overbite — but the other pups performed with brilliance.

Beginning with the great Westminster dog show of 1934, Murr began a strategic campaign, and although Ch. Vigow O’Valley Farm took the breed that year at the Garden, his son, Otrava of Romanoff, went Winners Dog. After this Garden win, Murr decided to retire the first Vigow and concentrate on the sire’s children. He took Otrava to the Providence Kennel Club where he won the Breed and a Group First, just like his sire had done in both 1932 and 1933.

With Otrava’s career well underway, Murr turned his attention to his favorite puppy, the one he called ‘Junior.’ When Vigow of Romanoff went to Washington, D.C. for the National Capital Kennel Club show, Murr struck gold. On his very first time in the ring, Junior made a lifelong friend in judge Mr. T. B. Snyder, who put the young dog up over specials for the breed. He then swept the Hound Group and entered the Best in Show arena, where he dazzled none other than the great Mrs. Hartley Dodge, who gave the glorious, non-titled youngster the show’s top award. No higher blessing could have been granted, and the Borzoi fancy was stunned. Suddenly Ch. Vigow O’Valley Farm bowed to his son, and a new Borzoi was crowned. All hail Vigow of Romanoff, the new King of Romanoff!

Confident that this dog could go the distance, Murr took Junior to Morris & Essex, which also served as the parent club’s national specialty. Just as Murr had hoped, Junior went straight to the top, easily taking Best of Breed over specials, while his litter sister, Karlick of Romanoff, took Winners Bitch. Still without an AKC championship title, Junior went on to get a Hound Group First, which gave him the green light for a classic Best in Show line-up which included such dogs as the Irish Setter sire Ch. Higgins Red Coat and the Sealyham Terrier Ch. Gunside Babs that took Best in Show that year.

Romanoff Borzoi Kennels
Ch. Vigow O’Valley Farm (center) with his sons, Ch. Vigow of Romanoff (left) and Ch. Otrava of Romanoff.

From there Junior took Best of Breed and Group First at Greenwich Kennel Club, then repeated the winning pattern at the Troy Horse Show the next month. Junior’s second Best in Show came in Concord, N.H. at the old Profile Kennel Club show. From there he swept the Breed and the Group at the Delaware County Kennel Club and the Eastern States Exposition, with his littermate, Akuratni, taking Best of Winners both times. Satisfied with Junior’s achievements, Murr pulled him for a while to let brother Akuratni have a chance at the purple. In the Romanoff tradition, Akuratni stooped to conquer both Best of Breed and Group First at both the Hudson County Kennel Club and at the old Bronx Kennel Club dog shows late in the fall of 1934.

By the time of Westminster in 1935, everyone in the fancy knew that Junior was a real contender for the Best in Show spotlights, but of course, there’s no such thing as a slam dunk Westminster. Our hero easily won the breed that year but had a tougher time in the Hound Group. From The New York Times we gain a perspective on the judging: “Going over these dogs more closely, Dr. Jarrett matched one against the other.” Originally the frontrunner, the Dachshund Ch. Feri Flottenberg, fell back, but “Vigow of Romanoff yielded ground more slowly and succeeded in remaining ahead of the Harrier but behind the Greyhound.”

AKC correspondent Arthur Frederick Jones was more eloquent in the AKC Gazette, where he wrote, “Dr. Henry Jarrett made the awards in the Hound Group, selecting as the best that smoothly turned Greyhound Southball Moonstone, which despite its quality, did not surpass the Russian Wolfhound, Ch. Vigow of Romanoff by such a wide margin.” The Greyhound was owned by Halcyon Kennels, famous for their imported show dogs, and handled by the masterful Percy Roberts. [The Greyhound had also won Best in Show at Crufts the previous year. — Ed.] With these odds in favor of the Greyhound, we have to wonder if Junior was defeated strictly dog to dog since Murr, as a self-employed, middle-class American handling his own dogs, certainly had less money and perhaps a little less polish than the Halcyon/Roberts team.

Wonder all you will, we’ll never know. But as a true breeder, Murr’s primary interest was promoting his bloodlines, and with Otrava taking Best of Winners and “Vigow Junior” taking Best of Breed, we have to believe Murr left Madison Square Garden whistling a happy tune.


From the November 2004 issue of Dogs in Review magazine.