by Karen Sanders
The Silken Windhound -- a small to medium-sized sight hound with long, silky hair -- is a rare beauty. With only 1,200 of them registered in the world right now, you're not likely to cross paths with one at your local dog park. But if you do, chances are you'd like to find the nearest breeder.
History of the Silken Windhound
Silken Windhounds were developed by Texas Borzoi breeder Francie Stull. In 1975, Stull decided she wanted a smaller hound with a good temperament that still possessed all the poise and sporting abilities of larger sight hounds. The resulting blend of Borzoi and Whippet -- with a bit of Sheltie -- is a unique breed we've come to love.
Although the United Kennel Club recognized the Silken Windhound as a registered breed on March 18, 2011, the American Kennel Club still has not. The AKC advises that the breed has not been in existence long enough to establish breed type and to meet AKC criteria for the group's Foundation Stock Service, entry to which is a requirement for the breed to attain club recognition. Criteria for registering in the stock service include three-generation pedigrees recorded in the FSS, an official breed standard and an active breed club.
It's Easy to Care for the Silken Windhound
Silken Windhounds don't have an undercoat, so they can't be out in the cold for very long. This lack of an undercoat, however, often helps with allergies because they don't get the dander that's common to most dog breeds, and they don't shed much. They also don't get that doggie smell when their fur gets wet, and mud or dirt falls off that silky hair when it dries. They're generally very low-maintenance.A Family Dog by Nature
Silkens are kind of like Velcro; they stick with you. Basically, whatever you're doing, they're doing too. But they're not guard dogs -- in fact, some won't even bark -- and they're by no means a violent breed.
As a result, Silken Windhounds make wonderful family dogs. It kills their spirit if they aren't part of the family. Sometimes they bond with one person in particular, but they get along with the whole family, including other pets. As sight hounds, they're tempted to run after small animals outside, but they learn quickly that a cat or dog is part of the family.
The breed is also very gentle. Their average weight is between 26 and 40 pounds, so when they jump on you, it feels like butterflies. That's why some people find that they're great therapy dogs. Their silky hair is nice to pet, they're pretty to look at, and they aren't very pushy. They have a calm, happy disposition and are easy to teach.
The Silken Windhound at Play
Silkens are great activity dogs and love to do things with you -- especially walks and hikes. They aren't like Border Collies in that they need to have a job all the time, but they do enjoy all kinds of activities, such as flyball, agility, obedience and K9 Nose Work.
The breed is athletic and ideal for runners. I suggest taking them out twice a day, once in the morning and again in the evening. They love to play too, and they like having lots of toys. My dogs have a favorite game we call "Rabbit," which involves them chasing each other, and they wrestle a lot. Silkens like a little room to run, but they're not constantly hyper. The only negative aspect of Silkens: They really need to be on a leash, which should be the case with any dog that's off your property.
A Long-lived Breed
Silken Windhounds don't have many health concerns, and we're trying to keep it that way. As far as I've seen, their life expectancy is between 14 and 18 years. A lot of Borzoi owners are getting into Silkens because the life expectancy is so much higher. They also don't have the hip problems of many larger breeds.
If you're considering purchasing a Silken Windhound, I recommend meeting the breed and breeder and visiting the kennel where the dog is raised before buying. As a breeder, I always request references from the potential owners and provide references of my own. You can find breeders on the International Silken Windhound Society website.
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Pets | Dogs: The Silken Windhound: A Low-maintenance Beauty