The Chart Polski (pronounced Hart Pole Ski) is a breed of sighthound native to Poland. Although very similar in appearance to the English Greyhound, the Chart Polski is not descended from that breed. The Chart Polski has a long history in Poland, where it has traditionally been a favorite of the Polish nobility. The breed has always been used primarily as a hunting dog, running down prey with its great speed. At one point, there may have been multiple varieties of Chart Polski used for hunting different types of game, but there is currently only one. The Chart Polski is also known as the Polish Greyhound, Polish Sighthound, and Polish Coursing Dog.
Most of the Chart Polski’s origins are a complete mystery. The Chart Polski was developed prior to a time that written records were kept of dog breeding or dog history, meaning that much of the breed’s history has been lost to time. What is clear is that this is an old breed, and that it was primarily developed in Poland. The first definitive record of the breed comes from the year 1690, when the Polish writer Gostomski published the book, “Riding and Hunting.” “Riding and Hunting” provides a very detailed description of the Chart Polski, including the aspect, maintenance, and hunting methods of the breed most of which are accompanied by charts. This means that the breed was definitely present in Poland by the end of the 17th Century. There is some circumstantial and artistic evidence to suggest that the Chart Polski or similar dogs have been present in Poland since the 1100’s, but not enough to make any definitive conclusions.
There are several theories regarded the origins of the Chart Polski. At one time, it was theorized that the breed was descended from British Greyhounds which had been imported to Poland. However, the Chart Polski is considerably more similar to Asiatic sighthounds than the British Greyhound, and in any case the written evidence clearly shows that Polish breeders considered the Chart Polski to be entirely separate from British, Hungarian, and Russian Greyhounds. For example, several works from the 1830’s divide sighthounds in Poland into two groups, foreign sighthounds and Polish sighthounds, usually referred to as native, indigenous, or ancient sighthounds. It has also been suggested that the Chart Polski is descended from the Roman Vertragus, an ancient sighthound. However, there is virtually no evidence to support this theory, which is little more than pure speculation. Now it is almost universally accepted that the Chart Polski is descended from Asiatic Sighthounds. Sighthounds have been extremely popular in the Middle East and Central Asia for countless thousands of years, where they have long been treasured as hunting companions. In fact, Asiatic Sighthounds were probably the first group of dogs to be deliberately bred anywhere in the world. There is currently a major dispute among canine researchers and historians as to whether Asian Sighthounds were developed one time in Egypt and Mesopotamia or two separate times, once in the Middle East and again in central Asia. Either way, sighthounds came to be greatly favored with the nomadic tribes that wandered the steppes and plains of central Asia. There are many reasons to believe that the Chart Polski is descended from Asiatic sighthounds including appearance, temperament, and a long history of contact between Asia and Poland.
There are numerous possibilities for how the Chart Polski could have been introduced to Poland. Poland sits at the western edge of a massive system of plains which extends all the way to China. Nomads from these plains have repeated invaded what is now Poland, including the Slavic ancestors of the Poles themselves. Any of these nomads could have introduced their sighthounds to Poland. In the opinion of this writer, the most likely candidate was the Magyars. When the Magyars first entered Europe in 895, they brought several dog breeds with them. Among these was the Magyar Agar, a fleet footed sighthound that is quite similar to the Chart Polski. Throughout the centuries, the Magyars and Poles had a large amount of contact, even sharing a border for many years. Even if the nomads did not directly introduce the Chart Polski, they could have also done so indirectly. The Russian Empire, which bordered Poland to the East, was built largely by conquering nomadic Asian tribes. The Russian people had already acquired Asiatic sighthounds by the time that they first made contact with the Byzantine Empire, dogs that were remarkably similar in appearance to the modern Hortaya Borsaya or Shorthaired-Borzoi. It is also quite possible that the Chart Polski is the result of crossing several different types of sighthound, including the smaller and shorter haired Magyar Agar and the larger and longer-haired Russian Borzoi breeds.
For several centuries, the Chart Polski was heavily favored by the Polish nobility. The breed was primarily kept on large estates where it was used to hunt a variety of species, including rabbits, deer, and wolves. At one point, there were apparently several different types of Chart Polski, each of which specialized in hunting a different species. It is unclear how different each variety was, and when they disappeared. There also may have been a wire-coated variety of the Chart Polski, but this dog may also have been a different breed entirely. In any case, the breed had become unified into a single variety by the end of World War I since all mentions of Chart Polskis since that time only mention a single type. The 19th Century was probably the peak of the Chart Polski’s popularity. The breed makes frequent appearances in Polish literature, artwork, and sporting magazines throughout the 1800’s, including works by A. Wierusz-Kowalski, J. Kossak, and J. Brandt. For much of the 1800’s, Poland was not independent, but was rather split between Germany, the Russian Empire, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Although dominated by foreign powers, the Polish nobility retained their lands and titles in most regions. They continued to keep Chart Polskis, and these dogs were occasionally mentioned in German, Russian, and Austro-Hungarian literature and art as well.
As part of the peace settlements that followed the World War I, the Allied powers demanded that Poland become an independent nation once again. Newly independent Poland became a republic, and the traditional Polish nobility lost most of its power. However, the redistribution of lands and power was only partially complete by the time that World War II broke out, so the Chart Polski retained most of its previous status. World War II proved absolutely devastating to Poland, which was occupied by both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and heavily contested by both warring superpowers. Untold numbers of Poles perished during the war, at least 6 million. The nation’s economy essentially stopped during the war, and there was massive hardship. Most of the Polish nobility was forced to abandon their Chart Polskis, many of whom became strays. The breed may have gone entirely extinct were it not for the Polish lower and Middle Classes. They began to collect and keep any Chart Polskis that they could find. The dogs proved absolutely vital to the survival of many Polish families, who used them to hunt game for the dinner table, providing the only available source of protein. After World War II, Poland was dominated by the Communist Party and the Soviet Union, both of which heavily disfavored dog breeding. This was especially true of the Chart Polski, which was seen as a symbol of the aristocracy’s exploitation. Most of the families that had kept Chart Polskis during World War II ceased doing so after hostilities had ceased.
By the 1970’s, the Chart Polski had become quite rare. The breed was probably saved by Dr. Mroczowski who wrote an article about the breed in a popular Polish magazine. The article appealed to the Polish people to save an ancient and valuable part of their national heritage. A number of breeders were moved by this appeal and became determined to save the breed. Perhaps the most important of these breeders were Malgozata Szmurlo and Isabella Szmurlo, a brother and sister team who founded Celerrimus Kennels. Along with other breeders, the two combed the Polish countryside looking for the best surviving examples of the Chart Polski. In 1981, the first studbook for the breed was opened. As the 1980’s wore on, communist control was continuingly weakened and ties to the west were increasingly strengthened. By 1989, relations had thawed to such an extent that the breed earned full recognition with the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI).
In recent years, Poland has banned hunting with the Chart Polski. However, the breed is gaining popularity in track racing. Additionally, increasing numbers of Poles are discovering that the breed makes a well-mannered and affectionate family companion. Currently, breed numbers are rising steadily in Poland, and the breed’s future seems more secure in its homeland since prior to World War I. FCI recognition has greatly increased international knowledge and interest in the Chart Polski. In recent years, a few breed members have been exported to other countries including the United States. The Chart Polski Association of America (CPAA) was founded to protect and promote the breed in the U.S. In 1996, the United Kennel Club (UKC) granted full recognition to the Chart Polski as a member of the Sighthound and Pariah Group. The Chart Polski is not currently recognized with the American Kennel Club (AKC), nor does it appear that there are any immediate plans to change this situation. Although breed numbers are increasing outside of Poland, the Chart Polski remains very rare outside of its homeland.
The Chart Polski is very similar in appearance to other sighthound breeds, especially the British Greyhound, Saluki, and Hortaya Borsaya. Although most laymen would probably not be able to distinguish this breed from its better known relatives, those familiar with sighthounds can clearly distinguish the breed. The Chart Polski is a large breed in terms of height and body, but it is definitely not an especially heavy one. The average male stands between 27½ inches and 31½ inches tall at the shoulder, and the average female stands between 26½ and 29½ inches. This breed exhibits some size variation, and dogs two inches taller or shorter than these averages are not uncommon. Weight is heavily influenced by height, gender, and build, but most breed members weigh between 50 and 75 pounds. The Chart Polski is a very lean and slender breed. It is not uncommon for the ribs of these dogs to be clearly visible, which may lead some to think that it is emaciated. The tail of the Chart Polski is long. The end of the tail is heavily curved, sometimes even forming a full ring. When at rest the tail is usually carried down, but when the dog is in motion it is usually carried level with the body.
The head and face of the Chart Polski are very similar to those of other sighthounds. Both are long and quite narrow, with the muzzle being at least as long as the skull and sometimes longer. The skull and muzzle blend in very smoothly with each other, although their top lines are divergent. The muzzle itself tapers but never to the extent that it appears pointed, giving the breed one of the bluntest snouts of any sighthound. The lips of this breed are well-defined, but never pendulous. The nose of the Chart Polski is large, dark, and projects above the lips. The ears of this breed are medium-in-size, quite narrow, and set at eye level. The ears are quite variable and may either be erect, tipped, rose, or folded back. The eyes of the Chart Polski are large, almondAmong experts, the use of Almonds, or Almond derived products in pet food appears to have been met with mixed reviews. While some feel that there is no issue and that the ....-shaped, and set obliquely. Dark eyes are preferable, but the exact color ranges from dark brown to amber depending on the dog’s coat. The expression of the Chart Polski is lively and penetrating.
The coat of the Chart Polski is short, but significantly longer than that of the English Greyhound. The coat is springy to the touch and harsh, but should never be wiry. The coat is shortest on the belly and legs, and of varying lengths on the rest of the body. The tail is longest on the buttocks and tail, where it forms a modest but clearly noticeable breeching and brush. The Chart Polski has been bred almost exclusively for hunting ability, and color was not important. Any coloration or pattern is completely acceptable on Chart Polskis. Among the many that are seen are all solid colors, white with colored markings, tricolor, black and tan, brindle, and many others.
The Chart Polski has a temperament that is substantially different from that of most sighthounds, which are usually considerably softer tempered. This breed has a tendency to form very close bonds with its family, to whom it is intensely devoted. This breed is generally more affectionate than most sighthounds and slightly less reserved. When properly trained and socialized with children, most breed members are very gentle with them as well as being more tolerant of rough play than most sighthounds. Due to the breed’s dominance and stubbornness issues, this is not an ideal breed for a novice dog owner.
This is definitely a breed that prefers the company of its own family to strangers. Most of these dogs are highly suspicious of strangers, and without proper training and socialization can develop nervousness or aggression issues. Unlike most sighthounds, the Chart Polski is usually very protective and highly territorial. This breed makes a very effective watchdog that will deter most intruders with its barks and displays. The Chart Polski also makes an excellent guard dog and personal protection animal. Although they look slender, a Chart Polski is actually incredibly powerful, and breed members defending their properties and families are not animals to be messed with.
Bred exclusively as hunting dogs for centuries, the Chart Polski demonstrates an incredibly high degree of animal aggression. These dogs were bred to hunt, attack and kill any creature which they saw, and still have a tendency to do so. Many Chart Polskis are never trustworthy around small animals, even ones which they have known their entire lives. Unlike most sighthounds, Chart Polskis are usually extremely dog aggressive, and should probably be kept either as a single dog or in a home with a single member of the opposite sex. Many Chart Polskis feel compelled to chase and attack other dogs, probably as a result of the breed being used extensively to hunt wolves. Training and socialization can significantly reduce dog aggression issues, but they cannot eliminate them entirely.
Chart Polskis are natural hunters and lure coursers, and train for those activities very rapidly. Otherwise, this breed tends to be quite challenging to train. This is certainly not a breed that lives to please, and most of these dogs want to do their own thing. Many of these dogs are very stubborn, and some seem openly willful. This does not mean that the Chart Polski is untrainable, but it does mean that they require significantly more effort and patience to train than most breeds, and often with lesser results than might be desired. In particular, this breed is almost impossible to call back when on the chase. If one of these dogs begins a chase, it will probably continue until its prey either escapes or is killed, completely ignoring calls to return. Because of this tendency, breed members should be kept on a leash at all times when outside of a safely enclosed area.
This breed was bred to run, and greatly love to do so. Chart Polskis do best when provided with a regular opportunity to run freely in a safely enclosed area. This breed also requires a daily walk. As is the case with all dogs, unexercised Chart Polskis are likely to develop behavioral problems such as destructiveness, hyperactivity, over excitability, nervousness, and aggression. That being said, Chart Polskis require significantly less exercise than most breeds of their size, and most dedicated families will be able to meet this breed’s needs without being excessively burdened. Once they have received their necessary daily exercise, most of these dogs are very relaxed in the house, spending hours lazing about on the sofa. Because Chart Polskis require a regular opportunity to run around freely and most cannot be taken to dog parks due to aggression issues, this breed is not ideally suited for apartment life.
The Chart Polski is a very low maintenance breed. These dogs should never require professional grooming, only a regular brushing. Other than that, these dogs only require those routine maintenance procedures which are necessary for all breeds such as nail clipping and an occasional bath. There does not seem to be any reports on the breed’s shedding, but it is probably fair to assume that the Chart Polski does shed. Based on the dog’s coat, it would be fair to assume that this breed sheds less than most dogs, but more than most other sighthounds.
It does not appear that any health studies have been conducted on the Chart Polski, which makes it impossible to make any definitive statements on the breed’s health. Anecdotal reports seem to indicate that this breed is in excellent health, and no genetically inherited health problems are thought to occur at high rates in Chart Polskis. The Chart Polski has probably benefitted both from being an old breed with a sizable gene pool and for being bred entirely for hunting. Any genetic defects would have impaired the breed’s ability to hunt and would have been quickly eliminated from the gene pool Most breed members live to between 12 and 13 years, although it is far from uncommon for one of these dogs to reach an advanced age of 14 or 15.
Although skeletal and visual problems are not thought to occur at high rates in this breed it is highly advisable for owners to have their pets tested by both the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). The OFA and CERF perform genetic and other tests to identify potential health defects before they show up. This is especially valuable in the detection of conditions that do not show up until the dog has reached an advanced age, making it especially important for anyone considering breeding their dog to have them tested to prevent the spread of potential genetic conditions to its offspring.
Although health studies have not been conducted for the Chart Polski, a number have been on similar and closely related breeds. Some of the problems of greatest concern hound in those breeds include: