venerdì 14 dicembre 2018

Interessante articolo sul Chart Polski

Chart Polski

 This text is based on the article of M. and I. Szmurlo in “Polish Heritage” (Soft Vision Oficyna Wydawnicza – Poland 2000).

F. et Ph. Duponcheel-Vandenbussche

Chart Polski

 Chart Polski or polish sighthound is one of the oldest breeds of hunting dogs. It originates from oriental sighthounds and shows many features in common with the present day saluki, e.g. featherings, colours and cranial properties, as revealed by detailed anatomical studies.  Sighthounds and hunting with them was popular in Poland as long ago as in the 12th century. The oldest polish chronicles mentioned that large sums of money were spent by nobles on sighthounds, and the dictionary of medieval Polish language quotes as many as 300 words, relating to those dogs. The first description of a sighthound, however, is more recent and dates from 1600. According to its author, Gostomski, a good sighthound “should have powerful loins, nicely arched ; lean quarters, compact feet, head like that of a pike, sickle shaped tail and smooth coat”.  Hunting itself was described in “Hunting with hounds” by Jan Ostrorog (1608) and versificated “The Hunter” by Bielawki (1595). By that time the breed had been already quite well established. A theory of its origin was put forward by Xavier Przezdziecki in his book “Le destin des Lévriers” (1984) :  “In the same time when greyhounds in England were selected to developing extreme speed on relatively short distances to catch hare, the Poles were selecting their sighthounds to be capable of chasing their prey – hares, foxes, wolves and bustards – in vast, dry steppes. Polish sighthound was supposed to show strength, endurance, stamina and versatility to some extend.” One has to remember, that Poland at that time covered large parts of present day Ukraine.  Polish sighthound cannot have descended from greyhound or Russian borzoi, as none of those had been known in the area when the local breed had been developed. Borsois were brought to Russia not earlier than in 1556, when Ivan the Terrible conquered Cossacks and Mongolian tribes. On the other hand, when Prince Nicolai Nicolaievitsch visited dog show in Paris in 1895, “La Nature”, reporting that visit, wrote on his sighthounds : “… These short-coated sighthounds originated from Poland and were brought into Russia with the troops of The False Demetrius, invading the country in 1505. These dogs are larger and more robust than greyhounds and their coat is distinctly longer.”

 Numerous remarks on the breed can be found in Polish hunting literature. It must have been well known, as it is usually referred to as “common”, “ordinary” or just “chart”, whereas other sighthounds were always accurately named.. among the most popular breeds Kozlowski (1823) listed : Turkish sighthound, also known at egyptian, italian, scottish and the ordinary, or polish one, which is rather hairy. According to this author, Scottish and polish breeds were not very different. Belke (1848) describing italian greyhound of those days, wrote that it is much smaller than our ordinary breed. Generally, polish sighthound was described as tall and strong, though there were considerable differences concerning its coat. Bobiatynski stated that it was short coated, while some other authors claimed it long coated or “hairy”. To quote Tyszkiewicz (1881) : “There are two varieties of polish sighthounds, both short coated, yet one can be distinguished by moustache, beard and cloak, which the dog bristles, when in good mood.”  The best description remains that by Kozlowski in “Sylwan” : “A well made (polish) sighthound is tall, what means 3 feet and 6 inches from its toe tip to its top of head, and its length from nose to tail tip is 4 feet and 2-3 inches. Its head is small and flat, with well marked back skull, muzzle long, slightly convex and by no mean snipey, should resemble that of a pike and open wide, with strong and sharp teeth to catch prey. Eyes clear, ears short, narrow and semidropped. Trunk long and slender, well muscled. It was good breast, long withers, back broad and somewhat arched, distinct waist. Legs long and lean, well muscled, thighs short, second thighs thin and sinewy, pasterns short, toes compact and arched. Tail is long, tapering to its end and sickle shaped. Coat of different colours, one can find fawn with white throat, pure white, black, dappled and dun.”  Russian authors, writing on sighthounds and hunting, obviously distinguished between polish and other varieties. In fact, Sabanyeiev (1892) left such a detailed description, that it can be still regarded as standard. Motchevanov (1873) claimed polish sighthound similar to greyhound, but taller and heavier.  Many paintings of the 19th century show sighthounds, which are extremely uniform in type. Moreover, they still look very much alike the sighthound painted by von Westerfelt on several occasions about 1651. That dog, belonging to Prince Radziwill, was tall, short coated, yet with some featherings. The best known paintings are these by Juliusz Kossak. According to Lipinska, who had carried out a detailed study (1979), dogs painted by Kossak “… were tall, strong and muscular, size 75 cms and more. Proportions : height and length approximately equal. Head narrow, skull to muzzle ratio 1:1, distinct stop, ears similar to those of greyhound. Neck long, well muscled, no arch. Topline nicely arched and this arch reaches its highest point closer to withers than what we see in English greyhounds, croup gently sloping, broad, chest
deep and long with well sprung ribs (…) Tail long, sickle shaped, with longer feathers, coat somewhat longer on buttoks.  Hunting with sighthounds was very popular, not only in Ukrainian steppes, but virtually in any area, except for mountains and deep forests. Hare was a common prey in Central Poland, but hunting wolves in Podole brought greatest excitement. Two dogs were used to catch hare, while three would do to capture a wolf and keep it alive for the hunter. Polish sighthounds were – and still are – more obedient than other sighthounds, and usually ran free by horses, going for prey on command and coming back, when called with horn.  By the end of the 19th century, following enclosures and decline of large estates, at least in Central Poland, hunting with sighthounds and their population had gradually decreased. Even bigger decline was to come after the First War. Only few sighthounds kennels remained, most of them in Podole and Ukraine. A few years later new game law restricted hunting with sighthounds to grounds of at least 10000 acres and that meant an ultimate end for dogs. The last refuge for them in central part of the country were two estates near Kielce. In Olesno, belonging to the Niemojewskis, this form of hunting was preserved as long as till the outbreak of the Second World War. Their dogs were distinctly smaller than those in Ukraine, as they hunted hare and fox in hilly areas. To quote Woyniewicz (1938) : “Who has not heard of the late Sergiusz Niemojewski and his son Konrad (…) Their estate well known for different hunting events, was especially famous for hunting with sighthounds, so carefully preserved and still traditionally ruled. It is a pity, that such events can rarely be seen nowadays, as this tradition has almost entirely vanished.”  Dogs were kennelled in braces, sometimes in trios. They were halloed only 2-3 times during one game, on returning rubbed with water and alcohol and relaxed on the following day.  The war and the years after it resulted in extinction of estates and dogs. New boundaries left Podole and Ukraine to the former Soviet Union. In Central Poland, however, some dogs survived and were kept by poachers. According to new game law, hunting with sighthounds became entirely forbidden. Any dog, which showed but the slightest resemblance to a sighthound could be (and usually was) shot on the spot. Poachers have selected deliberately their dogs and kept them pure, as no other dogs could excel them in chasing hare. In fact, keeping pure-bred sighthounds has become a family tradition in the area, even though it has been continued in total conspiracy. Dogs were kept in cellars and attics, and never been seen by strangers. No wonder they have been almost forgotten, yet it is possible that some may still exist.  The first attempt to rescue the breed came in 1972, when dr Mroczkowski (himself a renowned Sealyham terrier breeder) published a letter in the popular weekly magazine “Przekroj”. He wrote that his Russian friends informed him there was a sighthound breed in the area of Rostov (Ukraine), known as “chortaia borzaia”. At that time the breed was in danger of extinction and was
commonly regarded as last survivors of polish sighthounds. The letter was accompanied with a photo of typical dog, not different to those, painted by Kossak. Over 50 people reacted, claiming their interest in purchasing such dogs, yet only one, Mr Czerniakowski, persevered in his idea and eventually went to Ukraine, where he purchased two bitches – Tajga and Strielka -, and one male – Elbrus -. Later he bred one litter (Elbrus – Tajga) and we bought our first bitch – Daria – from that litter. Soon after Mr Czerniakowski, badly disappointed with the attitude of the Kennel Club, gave his dogs away and did not continue breeding.  Apparently the Polish Kennel Club did not show any interest in breed restitution, and refused its registration. Moreover, all official statements denied any identity of chortaia borzaia and polish sighthound. Due to political circumstances at that time, it was impossible to carry out original plans. Luckily, we had already been well aware of poachers’dogs and decided to purchase some. The task was definitely not an easy one, as poachers were obviously suspicious. Eventually, though, we were able to purchase few typical specimens and place them in new homes. Meanwhile, Daria was bred to her father and produced the first litter to our “Celerrimus” kennel, where we have bred 29 litters since. The second litter out of Daria was by Misiek, purchased from poachers. Those dogs, together with some others, later brought from Ukraine or found in the country, formed a nucleus for further breeding. However, it was not until 1981, when the Kennel Club changed its attitude and established register for the breed under its present name. The provisional standard had already existed and it was accepted by FCI in 1989. Up to now, regretfully, the breed is not given full recognition and cannot be awarded CACIB (*).  The popularity of polish sighthounds remains restricted. Game law entirely prohibits hunting with them and – like most sighthounds – they are too demanding to be kept solely as pets. Polish sighthounds can be successfully trained for racing, where they can compete even with greyhounds. No other sighthound breed excel polish sighthound in coursing – this competition perfectly fits their agility and endurance. Personality of polish sighthound is somewhat different to that of other sighthounds – they show distinct guarding and protective instinct and can be successfully trained in obedience.  Our “Celerrimus” kennel remains the only one, which has been actively involved in breeding for years, while others have bred occasional litters only. Currently the breed is known and bred in many European countries, as well as in the USA and Canada.

Malgorzata and Izabella Szmurlo

(*) From March 1st 2001, the Chart Polski is entitled to get the CACIB in any       international FCI dog show.