Borzois — long-snouted, tall, wispy sighthounds — are everywhere, if you look hard enough. You can see them in a slice of pizza, a pencil, the clouds and, more recently, on your For You page.
The dog breed has intrigued people on the internet for years, with their distinctive features capturing the hearts of curious viewers. According to meme database Know Your Meme, "memes using borzois as an exploitable started in October 2020, most notably on Instagram, inspired by dog influencers on the platform." Now, over the past two months, videos showing Borzois, and inanimate objects that look like them, have taken over TikTok. The videos, soundtracked by a Miss Piggy cover of FKA Twigs’ “Cellophane,” capture a sadness and a silliness that resonate with many online users.
Jacob Chattman, a longtime Borzoi owner and content creator, said Borzois "embody the existential crisis of being way too aware of everything."
“I think it fits the internet age, too, because we’re all kind of like alone behind our phones and behind our computers, just kind of contemplating existence through these little windows and we’re all kind of like, 'Ugh, what’s happening?'” Chattman said of the appeal of Borzois on TikTok.
Chattman said Borzois often "look like they're recollecting something terribly embarrassing." Memes of them capture a familiar mood for Extremely Online people, who are constantly bombarded with too much information about themselves and other people.
Chattman has been posting humorous and educational videos of his Borzois since 2015, including a viral Vine of Esper, his “little Russian lady” who died last March. His TikTok account for his four Borzois, esperborzoi, has 1.8 million followers. He has made several viral videos with the “Cellophane” cover, which he said he was alerted to around Christmas last month. Throughout his years of posting his dogs, people have always remarked on his Borzois’ all-knowing looks.
“They seem like fairy creatures or magical beings that shouldn’t exist in our world currently, but they do and they’re trying to find their place,” he said.
Lily Kambourian, who posted a TikTok of her Borzoi Eris as part of the trend, said that although Borzois look “forlorn and wistful,” they also have a “happiness” in their face. Kambourian said that Borzois “just bring joy to people,” even in the context of a sad meme. Sad Borzois, Kambourian said, have recontextualized “Cellophane,” a devastating song in its original form, for many people.
“We’ve had people comment, like, ‘Oh God, last year when the sound was on my page, I was deep in my emotions, and now this year, I just see it everywhere and I can’t stop laughing because it’s just being used so differently,'” Kambourian said.
Sad-looking Borzois have garnered millions of views on TikTok, but the trend actually started with a different sighthound, the Silken Windhound.
Madison Kelly posted a video of her Silken, Sugar, taking a “sad bath” on Dec. 11, 2022, using the “Cellophane” audio. Her video received over 14 million views. The sound was then taken over by owners of Borzois and other sighthounds showing off the sad faces of their “long dogs,” as Kelly calls them.
Kelly didn’t expect her video to start a trend, but said long dogs have a “memeable lore” that is primed for virality. Like Chattman, Kelly said many sighthounds have a “magical” quality to them.
“They just have such a different personality than other dogs,” Kelly said. “They just seem like they know something. People say that she looks like she tells riddles.”
The Borzois’ air of omnipotence, Chattman said, is perhaps why TikTok users are seeing them everywhere — in every triangular object in their households. Chattman said his dogs have been compared to socks and bike seats by followers.
“Borzois are everywhere if you look hard enough — they’re always watching,” he said.