The history of the Samoyed


It was the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen with his sled dogs, lead by a female Samoyed named Etah, who first set foot on the South Pole. This shot was taken on 14 December 1911. - Courtesy National Library of Australia.

In 2004, using modern DNA testing, it was confirmed that the Samoyed is one of only fourteen ancient canine breeds showing the fewest genetic differences from wolves. 

It is believed that the Bjelkier dogs, as they were previously called, initially became attached to nomadic people in Central Asia. Over time the tribe, with their dogs, migrated through Mongolia and up into the Taymyr Peninsula, the northernmost tip of Siberia in the Arctic Circle.

Unlike other dogs, the Bjelkier developed a close personal relationship as well as a working relationship with their human companions; being taken into their large tents to provide extra warmth to family members, particularly children. By day, they were equally suited to herding and sledding. 

In more modern times, still occupying this remote part of the world, the Bjelkier continued to breed true. The name itself means white which breeds white. Without any human intervention these wonderful dogs were consistently able to pass on the characteristic fluffy white fur with silver tips that gleamed in the northern light.

It was the Western explorers in the late 19th Century who called the dogs Samoyede, named after the tribesmen who so often steadfastly refused to part with their dogs. Nevertheless, as a result of the Polar expeditions, this strong yet beautiful dog was introduced to the West and gradually became recognised as a breed; first by the Kennel Club in England and then by the American Kennel Club. It was these kennel clubs which dropped the final “e” and, in 1923 and 1947, respectively formalised the Standards for the breed we now know as the Samoyed.

The Attraction of the Samoyed

Mindy at variety

The Coat - What attracts most people to the Samoyed is the pleasure of stroking such a lavish coat. It can be pure white, white and biscuit or cream.

The outer coat or guard hairs are silver tipped, tough, soil resistant and water repellent. The undercoat is woolly and can become very dense in the winter months. This double layer acts as an effective insulator in both hot and cold climates.

Once or twice a year the Samoyed “blows” this coat, losing most of the undercoat. The coat itself has no odour; the only natural scent on the Samoyed comes from the musk exuded between the toe pads which are used for marking scent.

The face - If the coat doesn’t win you over, the facial characteristics will. The Samoyed has a wedge-shaped head with small heavily furred, not too long and slightly rounded ears. Medium to dark brown eyes are set behind almond-shaped black eyelids which form an effective barrier to the glare of sun or snow. The leathery nose tip is almost pure black when young and fades to shades of brown in the ageing dog. The lips are black and the tongue a rich pink.  The mouth curves upward at the corners forming a smile that is never far away.

The body - The outward beauty of the Samoyed belies the strength beneath.  The Samoyed has strong musculature supported by a deep but not too broad chest and heavy skeleton which is atypical for a dog of this size. In spite of this structural strength the Samoyed is graceful, agile and elegant in movement. Kyro at the show

Safety - While aggression is not unknown, it is rare and it is not innate. For hundreds of years aggressive traits have been bred out of these dogs; living as they did so intimately with the Samoyede people.

Humour - Watch closely and you will see the comic element in a Samoyed’s reaction to everyday situations. The smile, the tilt of the head, the backward turn of the head with an impish look, the prancing gait; all indicative of the Samoyed’s celebration of life.

Companionship - The Samoyed is alert, expressive, intelligent and full of affection. Get into a routine at home and the Samoyed will match your movements and keep time for you. 

If lunch is at midday your Samoyed will never let you forget. The Samoyed will remember it is time for a walk or a nap. He will constantly communicate with you by paw and nose as well as voice. Many an owner will tell of a cup of coffee being bounced out of hand by a nudging nose when a Samoyed is left out of the conversation. The Samoyed rejoices in being part of your life.

The one, true Samoyed - Finally, the Samoyed is a breed like no other.  It should never be aligned with the breed sometimes referred to as Japanese Spitz. The Samoyed is unique and relatively untouched by human breeding practices. 

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