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16 Jan, 2010 10:15

“Tsar’s hunting” tradition in vogue again

Traditional Russian hunting in the manner of the 19th century is re-enacted in the Moscow region.

This weekend, Muscovites will have a unique chance to glimpse into the lives of past Russian noblemen in a large-scale hunt featuring more than one hundred horses.

Russian organizers, who have arranged the two-day “Tsar’s hunting” event in the city of Mozhaysk, about 100 km west of Moscow, say the aim of the hunt is not to kill animals but to revive the atmosphere of the 19th century tradition.

A total of 60 riders on horseback, dressed in traditional costumes and accompanied by packs of Borzois – the so-called “Russian Wolfhounds” – will take part in the weekend hunt.

Organizers say the hunt is not just a thrilling experience but a serious test of each hunter’s readiness. Participants, including both amateur riders as well as experienced hunters, will have to race and gallop for several hours.

Hunting with Borzois was a popular pastime for the Russian aristocracy in Tsarist Russia. It became particularly widespread in the 18th and 19th centuries after the reign of Empress Anna, Peter the Second and Empress Elizabeth. The Borzois were particularly favored by the Tsar and his entourage. The dogs could not be purchased, but only given as gifts by the emperors.

Russian TV-presenter Viktoria Bonya says the hunt opens unknown depths of her soul.

“For me this is a unique experience,” Bonya said. “All my life I was afraid of horses, it was a great fear – now, you see, my horse kisses me! It’s so nice to ride on her! And – the important thing is that we are just hunting but not killing any animals.”