The Samoyed is a large breed of herding dog, from the spitz group. It takes its name from the Samoyedic peoples of Siberia. These nomadic reindeer herders bred the fluffy white dogs to help with the herding, and to pull sleds when they moved. An alternate name for the breed, especially in Europe, is Bjelkier.
The UK Kennel Club Standard requires 51–56 centimetres (20–22 in) for males, and 46–51 centimetres (18–20 in) for females.
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. It is in the “brown and black section” in its family, the Spitz family.
Samoyed ears are thick and covered with fur, triangular in shape, and erect. They are almost always white but can often have a light to dark brown tint (known as “biscuit”), usually around the tips of the ears.
The Samoyed tail is one of the breed’s distinguishing features. Like the Alaskan Malamute, the tail is carried curled over the back; however, unlike the Malamute, the Samoyed tail is held actually touching the back. It should not be a tight curl or held flag-like; it should be carried lying over the back and to one side. In cold weather, Samoyeds may sleep with their tails over their noses to provide additional warmth. Almost all Samoyeds will allow their tails to fall when they are relaxed and at ease, as when being stroked or while eating, but will return their tails to a curl when more alert.
Breed Standard : Tail : Long and profusely coated, carried over the back and to the side when alert, sometimes dropped when at rest.
Samoyeds have a dense, double layer coat. The topcoat 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 undercoat typically sheds heavily once or twice a year, and this seasonal process is sometimes referred to as “blowing coat”. This does not mean the Samoyed will shed only during that time however; fine hairs (versus the dense clumps shed during seasonal shedding) will be shed all year round, and have a tendency to stick to cloth and float in the air. The standard Samoyed may come in a mixture of biscuit and white coloring, although pure white and all biscuit dogs are common. Males typically have larger ruffs than females. While this breed is touted as “hypoallergenic”, it does shed a fair amount and needs frequent grooming. While the breed may produce less allergens, care should be taken for severe allergies.
Samoyeds’ friendly disposition makes them poor guard dogs; an aggressive Samoyed is rare. The breed is characterized by an alert and happy expression which has earned the nicknames “Sammie smile” and “smiley dog.” With their tendency to bark, however, they can be diligent watch dogs, barking whenever something approaches their territory. Samoyeds are excellent companions, especially for small children or even other dogs, and they remain playful into old age. When Samoyeds become bored, they may begin to dig. 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. Samoyeds were also used to herd reindeer. 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.
Samoyeds can compete in dog agility trials, carting, obedience, showmanship, flyball, tracking, mushing and herding events. Herding instincts and trainability can be measured at noncompetitive herding tests. Samoyeds exhibiting basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in herding trials.
The Samoyed is a primitive dog belonging to the spitz or northern dog group, specifically the laikas: a Eurasian dog type used for a variety of purposes, namely hunting, herding, guarding, and sledding. The Samoyed is descended from the Nenets herding laika, a dog that comes in not only white, but also a wider variety of colors. Like many breeds, the Samoyed was bred from a small number of founders (in this case, from Siberia). The founder effect then led to a reduction in genetic diversity, which may explain why some Samoyeds today are affected by some genetic disorders.
Samoyed hereditary glomerulopathy
The breed 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 dominant faulty allele and therefore the disease is more severe in male Samoyeds. Also known as hereditary nephritis, it is caused by a nonsense mutation in codon 1027 of the COL4A5 gene on the X chromosome (glycine to stop codon), which is similar to Alport’s syndrome in humans.
Carrier females do develop mild symptoms after 2–3 months of age, but mostly 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 susceptible 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 three 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 three 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.
Clinically, proteinuria is found in both sexes from the age of three to four months; in dogs older than this, renal failure in combination with more or less pronounced hearing loss occurs swiftly and death at the age of 8 to 15 months is expected. In heterozygous females, the disease develops slowly. The disease can be treated to slow down the development by use of cyclosporine A and ACE inhibitors, but not be stopped.
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. A genetic test is available for this disease.
Other health concerns
For the Samoyeds in the veterinary literature several breed-specific hereditary diseases are described:
Diabetes mellitus similar but not identical to human Type I (insulin deficiency): The disease occurs in middle-aged Samoyeds, the mean age at diagnosis is seven years. The cause is a chronic inflammation of the pancreas and / or autoimmune destruction of beta cells of islets of Langerhans. Moreover, in affected dogs autoantibodies were found to insulin. Currently, several genetic markers are discussed as possible causes.
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) caused by a frameshift mutation in the RPRG locus of the X chromosome. The disease leads to a slowly progressive loss of vision, which eventually leads to blindness. The first symptoms appear between two and five years of age. The disease corresponds to the X-linked PRA type 3 in humans.
Short legs in conjunction with eye abnormalities: Due to a genetic defect at the COL2A1 locus occurs on disproportionate dwarfism with short limbs in connection with cataracts, malformations of the retina and / or retinal detachment, liquefaction of the vitreous and a persistent hyaloid artery. The malformations of the retina are dominant (i.e. before coming in heterozygous dogs); the other symptoms are recessive, so they only come to expression in homozygous affected dogs. A connection with Opticin is not.
Pulmonary stenosis occurs more frequently in Samoyeds in comparison with other breeds. The disease can cause shortness of breath, cardiac arrhythmias and tiring on motion and increases the risk of congestive heart failure.
Hip dysplasia is also a concern for Samoyeds.
The breed can also be affected by sebaceous adenitis, an uncommon idiopathic autoimmune skin disease.
Life expectancy is about 12–13 years.
Samoyeds are descended from the Nenets herding laika, a spitz-type dog from Siberia used for sledding, herding, guarding, and keeping their owners warm.
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. His plan to feed the weaker dogs to the stronger ones as the former died during the expedition ultimately consumed nearly all of his dogs.
The Samoyed has been identified as a basal breed that predates the emergence of the modern breeds in the 19th Century.
Use of fur
Shed Samoyed fur is sometimes used as an alternative to wool in knitting, with a texture similar to angora. The fur is sometimes also used for the creation of artificial flies for fly fishing. Samoyed fur sweaters have been reported to handle temperatures well below freezing.