The Sheepdogs of GISELLE

Don’t have time to write a review right now, but last week I saw basically three Giselles (two inside the auditorium, and one on the screen in the lobby 🙂 ). I saw Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes (my favorites), Hee Seo and David Hallberg (it was Seo’s debut as Giselle), and on the lobby screen, I saw Alina Cojocaru (guesting from the Royal) and, again, Hallberg. Anyway, I snapped this picture of the Afghan sheepdogs ABT uses in the first act, outside, during intermission, getting ready to leave with their trainer. So cute – and I thought they deserved attention: they do hard work in that ballet under those harsh lights, trying hard to stifle barks, walking, then sitting when told – behaving so well!


  1. They’re actually Russian Wolfhounds. I chatted with the owner/wrangler after a rehearsal. They’re from New Jersey & several pairs rotate.

    • The two pictured here are my dogs, Myrra and Gordislav (“Goguy”) who actually live in Montoursville, PA.
      🙂 They are now called Borzoi, essentially the Russian word for ‘swift’ (they can run 30+ miles per hour).

  2. I’m pretty sure those are actually borzoi, which are a breed of hound (they were bred to hunt wolves among other things). You probably wouldn’t want to try herding sheep with them!

    They are definitely adorable though. And so fun to see in Giselle! 🙂

  3. Are borzoi the same as Russian wolfhounds? A couple people on Twitter told me they were borzoi as well, which I looked up and, according to Wikipedia at least, they are a cross between a sheepdog and a greyhound. So I was half right 🙂

  4. I LOVE these dogs! Borzois, or Russian Borzois are just that… sighthounds that originated from Russia. You’re all correct. They’re very aristocratic and gorgeous.. I went to a production of Giselle at Teatro dell’Opera Roma and was delighted when the dogs got fidgety and barked. The whole audience chuckled. Besides being a wonderful ballet, the inclusion of sighthounds is one of the reasons why Giselle is my favorite production… seriously. I also have a whippet (a less furry and smaller sized version of these dogs) so I’m biased.

  5. These are my dogs, Myrra and Gordislav! 🙂 Yes, they are Borzoi; until 1936, the Borzoi was known as the Russian Wolfhound in America. It is thought that they were developed by crossing Arabian greyhounds (not the greyhounds known in the USA today) with a thick-coated, Russian breed, likely a herding type of dog, to provide them with coat to help them survive the harsh winters. The Borzoi was bred by the Russian aristocracy for hundreds of years and was developed to hunt wolves, fox and hare over the open plains of Russia, often in hunting parties of more than 100 dogs.

  6. Yes, they are definitely borzoi and borzoi actually rarely bark…most anyway. It was a very long time ago that a russian herding dog was incorporated into the breed. No one knows what breed…it is like a long ago rumor. These are coursing and hunting dogs and very elegant and sweet. There are also two borzoi that appear in The Hunger Games…briefly. Pink Floyd had a borzoi sing with them on stage at one of their concerts. They are also often used in high end advertisements as they are very elegant.

  7. Thanks for the fascinating info, you guys! Debra, your dogs are beautiful. Oh, I miss seeing them at ABT…

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