The Samoyed dog takes its name from the Samoyedic peoples of Siberia. An alternate name for the breed, especially in Europe, is Bjelkier. These nomadic reindeer herders bred the fluffy, white, smiling dogs to help with the herding, to pull sleds when they moved, and to keep their owners warm at night by sleeping on top of them.
Males typically weigh 20-32.5 kg (44-65 lb), while females typically weigh 17-25 kg (37-55 lb).
Samoyed eyes are usually black or brown, and are almond in shape. Blue or other color eyes can occur but are not allowed in the show ring.
Samoyed ears are thick and covered with fur, triangular in shape, and erect.
The Samoyed tail is one of the breed's more distinguishing features. Like their Siberian Husky cousins, their tail is carried curled over their backs; however, unlike the Husky, the Samoyed tail is held actually touching the back in a tight curl. In cold weather, Samoyeds may sleep with their tails over their noses to provide additional warmth. Some Samoyeds have tails that fall straight down the backside, like many other breeds, but this prevents them from being show quality. However, almost all Samoyeds will allow their tails to fall when they are relaxed and at ease, as when being stroked, but will return their tails to a curl when more alert.
Samoyeds have a dense, double layer coat that is typically shed twice a year, although some shed only once a year. The top layer contains long, coarse, and straight guard hairs, which appear white but have a hint of silver coloring. This top layer keeps the undercoat relatively clean and free of debris. The under layer, or undercoat, consists of a dense, soft, and short fur that keeps the dog warm. The standard Samoyed may come in a mixture of biscuit and white coloring, although pure white and all biscuit dogs aren't uncommon. Males typically have larger ruffs than females.
Samoyeds are typically very good about grooming themselves, and upkeep as far as bathing is minimal. Dirt typically falls from the outer layer of fur with little work, making the dog deceptively easy to keep very clean looking. Puppy fur is more porous and will tend to take on the color of grass or mud if the dog spends a lot of time in appropriate environments.
An interesting characteristic of the breed is that these dogs have virtually no smell or "doggy odor" about them, making them especially well-suited to living indoors. The dense coat can make summer temperatures uncomfortable for them in warmer climates, and they prefer to be indoors where the air is cooled. The coat also acts as a natural repellent to fleas and ticks.
Samoyeds' friendly disposition makes them poor guard dogs, but excellent companions, especially for small children or even other dogs, and they remain playful into old age. Samoyeds are also known to be stubborn at times and difficult to train, due to unwillingness rather than lack of intelligence; they must be persuaded to obey commands. With their sled dog heritage, a Samoyed is not averse to pulling things, and an untrained Samoyed has no problem pulling its owner on a leash rather than walking alongside. They will instinctively act as herd dogs, and when playing with children, especially, will often attempt to turn and move them in a different direction. The breed is characterized by an alert and happy expression which has earned the nickname "Sammy smile."
Samoyeds are typically a hardy dog, but do have their share of health concerns.
Samoyed Herediatry Glomerulopathy
Samoyeds can be affected by a genetic disease known as "Samoyed Hereditary Glomerulopathy", a renal disease. The disease is known to be caused by an X-linked recessive faulty allele and therefore the disease is more severe in male Samoyeds. Carrier females do develop mild symptoms after 2-3 months of age, but do not go on to develop renal failure. The disease is caused by a defect in the structure of the type-IV collagen fibrils of the glomerular basement membrane. As a consequence, the collagen fibrils of the glomerular basement membrane are unable to form cross-links, so the structural integrity is weakened and the membrane is more prone to "wear-and-tear" damage. As the structure of the basement membrane begins to degenerate, plasma proteins are lost in the urine and symptoms begin to appear. Affected males appear healthy for the first 3 months of life, but then symptoms start to appear and worsen as the disease progresses: the dog becomes lethargic and muscle wastage occurs, as a result of proteinuria. From 3 months of age onwards, a reduced glomerular filtration rate is detected, indicative of progressive renal failure. Death from renal failure usually occurs by 15 months of age.
As yet there is no genetic screening test available for Samoyed Hereditary Glomerulopathy. Therefore, female Samoyeds known or suspected of being carriers of the disease should not be bred from. If a carrier female is mated with a healthy stud dog, the female offspring have a 50% chance of being carriers for the disease, and any male offspring have a 50% chance of being affected by the disease. The litter-mates of any affected Samoyeds should not be bred from in order to prevent the disease being passed on to future generations.
Other Health Concerns
Hip dysplasia is also a concern for Samoyeds as are eye problems such as cataracts and glaucoma and other retinal problems. Like other purebred dogs, Samoyeds are prone to diabetes and other diseases if their owners are not careful. Samoyeds will typically live 10 to 15 years.
In spring and autumn when moulting, the undercoat is renewed; then the old coat comes out in tufts. One can comb it deeply, with a metal comb, which will speed up the shedding process and allow the Samoyed to regain its usual appearance more quickly (without this he may walk about for several days with a hard bald back). Giving a bath itself has several disadvantages, soap or shampoo destroy the skin suint (an oily secretion which makes the coat shine) and remove the dog's own natural protection. Furthermore, water, trapped in the very thick undercoat, has difficulty evaporating and may remain in the fur. Any shampoo or soap left in the coat after bathing will almost always lead to a "hotspot" or a fungal infection within two weeks which is impossible to cure without shaving the affected location. They have to be groomed at least twice a year, more in the spring and autumn when they moult. To keep the Samoyed's coat gleaming, their diet must be looked after carefully and contain a good amount of eggs and cheese.
The Samoyed name quickly became obsolete for the Nenets people after the Russian Revolution (perceived as derogatory; see Nenets article). However, by then, Arctic explorers (for example, Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen) had brought enough of the dogs back to Europe to keep the name and to establish the breed both there and in the US.
Fridtjof Nansen believed that the use of sled dogs was the only effective way to explore the north and used Samoyeds on his polar expeditions. Unfortunately, his plan was disastrous to the animals, as he planned to feed the weaker dogs to the stronger ones as they died during the expedition. In the end, he lost almost all of his dogs due to his plan.
Roald Amundsen used a team of sled dogs led by a Samoyed named Etah on the first expedition to reach the South Pole.
Recent DNA analysis of the breed has led to the Samoyed being included amongst the fourteen most ancient dog breeds , along with Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, the Chow Chow, and 10 others of a diverse geographic background.The first Samoyed was brought to United States by fur traders in 1906. The Samoyeds have been bred and trained for at least 3,000 years.
- The breed is sometimes nicknamed "The Smiley Dog" because they usually have a permanent smiling look that makes them appear pleased to see everyone.
- While Samoyed are still used to pull sleds, they are seldom used for herding anymore. They also are usually not used for dogsled racing because of the emergence of breeds created specifically for the sport such as the Alaskan Husky.
- Samoyed fur is sometimes used as an alternative to wool in knitting and in flys for fly fishing.
- Kaifas and Suggen, the lead dogs for Fridtjof Nansen's North Pole expedition.
- Etah, the lead dog for Roald Amundsen's expedition to the South Pole, the first to reach the pole.
- Soichiro is the name of a Samoyed that belonged to one of the main characters in the popular Japanese anime, Maison Ikkoku. He was featured prominently throughout most of the series, and became a major character in his own right, often serving as comic relief.