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Samoyeds are among the world’s most ancient breeds, with a history stretching back more than 5,000 years. As the last Ice Age disappeared, wild reindeer became the key source of food for people living across northern Eurasia. One group, known as the Nenets or Samoyeds, survived by herding and breeding domestic reindeer on the Russian tundra. Their working partners were beautiful white multi-purpose dogs, who were named for the people they served for centuries. Here are 10 things you probably didn't know about Samoyeds:

  1. The Samoyed is one of the 14 ancient breeds most genetically similar to the wolf and has not been dramatically changed by human selective breeding. Exceptionally social, intelligent, loyal, and vocal, Samoyeds possess the famous Samoyed smile, seen by the upward curling lips even with the mouth closed!

    Samoyed close-up
    Courtesy Margarita Liddicoat

  2. The breed is also known for its magnificent double coat of white, cream, or biscuit. The breed standard notes that the coat should “glisten with a silver sheen.”

    Samoyeds by water
    Courtesy Dana Thomas

  3. Samoyeds “blow” or shed the undercoat twice a year. There is no such thing as a 100 percent hypoallergenic dog breed and most of those breeds considered best for allergy sufferers are non-shedding breeds. People with allergies interested in acquiring a Samoyed would do well to expose themselves to Samoyeds before deciding to purchase one. They do indeed shed.


  4. There's another unusual feature about the coat. Even experienced Samoyed owners are continually amazed how their muddy, filthy dogs clean up relatively easily once the mud is rinsed off and the dogs are dried. Samoyeds with proper stand-off coats are said to be “Teflon” dogs because the dirt doesn't stick. A forced air driver works wonders in blowing out dirt and dust from Samoyed coats.

    Samoyed played in dirt
    Courtesy Jan Young

  5. Samoyeds are very smart, get bored easily, and thrive when given tasks to complete. It takes an owner talented in training to bring out their best. They have achieved MACH titles in agility, high in trial obedience awards, have bested traditional herding breeds in herding trials, and are crowd-pleasing favorites in appearances pulling Santa's sleigh, weight-pulling, or posing for photo-ops whenever out in public.

    Samoyed in an event
    Courtesy Cathi Winkles

    Samoyed herding sheep
    Courtesy Cheryl Lynn West

  6. Samoyeds also excel at lure coursing.


  7. They make exceptional therapy dogs and are innately gentle with children and senior citizens alike.

    Samoyed therapy dog

    Samoyed in sunglasses
    Courtesy Penny Sorenson

  8. Historically kept in the their nomadic owners' animal-skin chums (teepee-like tents), Samoyeds thrive with close human contact. It is not a breed that does well kept apart from the human family. These dogs tend to get along well with other pets, but common sense should prevail when introducing animals to each other. And remember that dogs are like children—they need to know and understand the rules of the household.

    Samoyed kisses
    Courtesy Helen Corlew

  9. They have lots of energy and need sufficient exercise. They make terrific walking companions; some enjoy swimming. Most love the snow.

    Samoyed pulling sled
    Courtesy GloriJean Harper

  10. The Samoyed is a genetically healthy breed. The Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) requirements as stipulated by the Samoyed Club of America for Samoyeds includes OFA or CERF registered eye exams, OFA, OVC, or PennHIPP hip evaluations, XL-PRA and RD/OSD DNA tests, and OFA congenital cardiac evaluation. The Samoyed Club of America Education and Research Foundation (SCARF) is an invaluable resource for Samoyed owners. Those seeking to add a Samoyed to their family should ensure that the breeder they choose (and who chooses them) is an SCA member who has signed the club's code of ethics and who breeds the healthiest and best possible representations of the breed.

Lori Chapek-Carleton is the corresponding secretary of the Samoyed Club of America.

Header image courtesy Andrew D'Antonio

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