The Samoyed, otherwise referred to as a Spitz, is one of the worlds’ oldest dog breed and gets its name from the nomadic Samoyed people who came from Asia to North West Siberia in the 19th century. The original breed was used for herding reindeer, hunting bears and towing boats and sledges. They were also guardians and good at alerting and barking, but not necessarily aggressive or protective. Their double-layered fur coat made them excellent at coping with the cold Arctic conditions and families often used the dogs to sleep with their young children to keep them warm at night. This early socialisation with children and the family has led to the good natured temperament of the breed today.
This wonderful photo shows some of the dogs on an expedition. The fur colour was a mix of white and brown originally. These were the dogs of choice for the explorers.
The KC website states that occasionally the dogs were slaughtered to provide clothing for the people on expeditions. The breed has extra thick fur between its toes making it excellent at coping with walking and running on snow.
One of the most famous Samoyeds is called “Antarctic Buck”. There appears to be some myth and mystery around this dog, and it is reputed to have been used the UK for breeding having come from Sydney Zoo, according to the KC. It must have been very hot for him in Sydney. However the NSW Samoyed Club say this has never been proven and Antarctic Buck may have come from other sources. The story goes that he was kept in the zoo for 6 years before Mr Kilburn Morris bought him and shipped him over. Antarctic Buck was kept in quarantine and then survived 1 show before dying from distemper. He did have a litter and 5 puppies survived.
The first Samoyed to enter the UK is reported as having belonged to Queen Alexander*. She was particularly fond of the breed and did much to promote it. The lineage of her dog can still be traced back from the pedigrees of today.
Another famous Samoyed is Etah. Etah went to the South Pole in 1911. Of the 52 dogs that went on the trip, only 12 survived, and Etah is reputed to be the first canine to cross the line! This was the first successful trip to the South Pole, taking 99 days and covering 1860 miles. Etah went on to become a pet of a princess.
The Samoyed was a popular sled dog and was favoured for expeditions to the South Pole and Antarctica. This gallantry and story, combined with the good looks made for a popular breed in America from the times after WW2.
The breed today has a playful and affectionate temperament. It is very good with other pets and strangers and tolerates other dogs reasonably well. The breed thrives in the cold weather and does not tolerate hot conditions. It requires daily grooming. The Samoyed is good with children, clever, independent and occasionally stubborn. Its herding history can lead it to herd children.
The characteristics of this breed were desirable over other dogs in the pastoral group because it has the ability to cope in the harshest of conditions, yet is a good family pet and great with children, and not aggressive or hard to handle. The good looks were also appealing and this has stood until today.
Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds by Caroline Coile.