Both known for their beauty, alertness, and popular white coats, American Eskimo Dogs (Eskies) and Samoyeds (Sammies) can appear similar to the untrained eye. Though the two breeds look alike to some, there are key characteristics that set them apart. Both breeds come with a different history, functionality, and physical appearance.
Making History Around the World
The American Eskimo Dog dates back to the 1800s when they came to America with German immigrants. There was a Nordic breed called the German Spitz, which was bred to be an all-around farm dog. During the early 1900s, show business and circus acts became very popular. In these acts, the German Spitz performed gracefully, using agility, intelligence, and looked to earn a standing ovation from the crowd.
“Though some think the Eskie was bred to perform circus acts, they were actually bred to be all-around farm dogs. The characteristics and temperament that made them good at all of the required tasks on the farm—herders, hunters, haulers, guardians, and companion dogs—made them good at circus tricks as well,” says Karen Scholz, breeder and former president of the American Eskimo Dog Club of America. Around the start of World War I, anti-German sentiment and a Spitz kennel in Ohio changed the breed name from German Spitz to American Eskimo Dog. The breed was registered by the AKC in 1995.
The name Samoyed originates from Samoyede, a group of nomadic people. When migrating to the area of Siberia, sub-zero temperatures were extremely common. “They were primarily used for herding reindeer, but as they are multi-talented, they were also used for hunting and pulling smaller sledges that the nomadic people used,” Cheri Hollenback, breeder and former president of the Samoyed Club of America, states.
In the late 1700s, the Samoyed breed was introduced in the UK. “The dogs weren’t always pure white, but it wasn’t until they were imported into the UK that they became white, biscuit, or cream-colored,” Hollenback says. The Samoyed breed was registered by the AKC in 1906.
Both the American Eskimo Dog and Samoyed breeds are recognized most frequently by their white coats. Eskies have a straight, double coat that stands off of their body. Their undercoat is dense and shorter than their longer guard hair. They come in two colors—white-and-biscuit and white.
Sammies, on the other hand, have more color variety in their breed. They come in four colors—white, biscuit, cream, and white-and-biscuit. The Samoyed breed also has a double coat, but their undercoat consists of a thick wool that is covered by a harsh guard, outer coat. Both Eskies and Sammies have a rough covering around their neck and shoulders, but this is often more predominant in males than females.
Two Breeds, Multiple Functions
Samoyeds and American Eskimo Dogs also have different functionalities. Contrary to their name, Eskies do not trace back to Indigenous cultures. They were bred to perform many chores as farm dogs, making them an extremely versatile breed.
“They love just being with you and also love to be given a job. They are happy to snuggle on the couch, but also excel at agility, obedience, AKC Rally, herding, and barn hunt or going on walks,” states Scholz. They present a picture of alertness, agility, and strength. In comparison, Sammies have a stance that suggests alertness, dignity, and happiness.
With a history of being a working breed, Samoyeds are larger. “The easiest discernment to tell the breeds apart is their size difference,” says Hollenback. The American Eskimo Dog has three size categories, with the largest category being 19 inches. The smallest a Samoyed can be is 19 inches. The differences in their sizes explain the differences in their jobs. American Eskimo Dogs do best performing herding tasks, while Samoyeds do best pulling sledges or protecting their owners in sub-zero temperatures.
More Than Just Fluff
Within the American Eskimo Dog breed, “there are some different personality types,” Scholz says. “Some are more ‘laid-back’ and some are more ‘active.’ When working with a breeder, I suggest you tell them about your lifestyle and plans for the dog. The breeder can then watch the litter as it matures and pair the right puppy with the right home.”
Eskies are easy to please and are very social. They are independent and are not needy but will get into mischief if neglected. Sammies have a smile (upturned corners of the mouth) that keeps them from drooling. Eskies are recognized by a broad muzzle, broad shoulders, and oval-shaped eyes. “Then you start getting into eye shape, Sammies have an almond-shaped eye. Eskies offer an oval eye that isn’t set to be slanted,” Hollenback says.
Temperament and True Companionship
Though there are distinct functionalities and appearance differences between the two breeds, they are both lovely companions. “I continue to be astounded by how versatile American Eskimo Dogs are. I love the breed and especially their companionship. They will follow you from room to room and not let you out of their sight. If I’ve been traveling and unable to have them with me, I don’t feel complete,” says Scholz. Eskies are playful yet smart and move with a bold gait. This personality stems back through history beginning on the farm to the circus.
Back to their roots of herding and pulling sleds for their companions, Samoyeds remain true to their history. “Their personalities are so unique in each individual dog, but of course there are some commonalities,” Hollenback says. Sammies “have a strong desire to be with people and a willingness to try anything once.”
Even though both breeds come from different heritages and have different functionalities and different personalities, they are both beautiful companions. Today, both breeds stay true to their history and continue to pronounce themselves as easy to please.