The Samoyed

The nomadic Samoyede tribe of Northwestern Siberia domesticated their dogs of the same name to herd reindeer, haul sledges, and guard their possessions. They loved their dogs and thus treated them like family; they were one of the first people to bring their dogs inside their dwellings for extra warmth and companionship. The Samoyed proved to be loyal and hard working in bitterly harsh and unforgiving conditions—they needed each other for survival, which sealed the bond between man and beast. Originally, they were called “Bjelkier,” which meant “white dogs that breed white.” At the end of the 19th century, their name was changed by the English zoologist, Ernest Kilburn-Scott, who became the founder of the breed in England, and decided they should have the name of the people who played such an important role in their existence and domestication. The word “Samoyed” has 2 different pronunciations, both are correct and accepted. In the USA, the normal pronunciation is “Sam-oy-ed” 3 distinct syllables with the “oy” as in “oil”, but in Europe and at Westminster, “Samoyed” is pronounced “Sammy-ed,” which sounds more like 2 syllables and the “oy” is not pronounced.

Proven through DNA testing, Samoyeds are one of the fourteen oldest breeds of dog* known to man. They are white, biscuit, cream or a combination of those colors with silver tips on the end of their fur that glisten in the sunshine. Males stand approximately 23½” tall at the withers and they weigh about 55-65#. Females stand approximately 21½” tall and weigh about 45-55#. Their head is wedge-shaped, their eyes are dark in color, almond shaped, and outlined in black. A purebred Samoyed should never have blue eyes. Their nose is preferably black, but can also be brown, liver or Dudley. The lips should be black for preference and curved upward at the corners of the mouth revealing that “Sammy smile” they are so famous for.

When talking with some Samoyed enthusiasts, you may hear that Samoyeds used to black, but this is not true. It is a rumor with no merit — remember, they are the “White dogs that breed white” and this has always been the case. Looking into the history of the area where the Samoyeds lived, there were dogs that resembled the Samoyed. These dogs were brown and white, black and white, and even all black. It is believed these “Samoyed type look-a-likes” were Ostiak and Laika dogs out of the Archangel territory—not related to the Samoyed at all. Samoyeds have always been white, cream, biscuit or a combination of those colors only. As Samoyeds resided in the northwestern section of Siberia, which had the most bitter cold temperatures (dropping to -40 degrees Fahrenheit at times), they were isolated from other dogs, as well as from wolves and jackals. Because of this isolation, Samoyeds bred true with no influence of wolf or jackal in their bloodlines. They are the truest form of dog in the world today.

The Samoyed gained acclaim in the late Nineteenth Century when selected for expeditions to the Artic and Antarctic poles. The advantage the Samoyed had over larger sledge pulling dogs was their ability to survive on less food and water and the strength they had in their chest and forelegs for pulling, as well as their desire to please their family and accomplish any task that was asked of them. The Samoyed’s devotion and strong will aided man in conquering the poles and many of the Samoyed strains today, in the United States and England, are descendants of the dogs on those pole expeditions.

In 1906, the first Samoyed, an import from Russia, was registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC). In 2005, Samoyeds ranked 75th in registration numbers out of the 154 breeds of dogs recognized by the AKC. They are perhaps the most beautiful breed in the world, but Samoyeds are not just another “pretty face.” The Samoyed truly is the total dog. They compete in a wide range of activities to include sled pulling, agility, rally, weight-pulling, and herding, as well as conformation shows.

The Samoyed adapts well to their environment, whether a snowy tundra or a tropical paradise; you can find these dogs in cold and warm climates alike — they are true survivors in every sense of the word. Samoyeds have long been associated with the Christmas/Winter season because of their thick, white fur and smiling, happy face. They do keep the spirit of the holiday alive year round.

* The fourteen ancient breeds of dogs include the Afghan Hound, Akita, Alaskan Malamute, Basenji, Chow Chow, Lhasa Apso, Pekingese, Saluki, Samoyed, Shar Pei, Shiba Inu, Shih Tzu, Siberian Husky, and the Tibetan Terrier.
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