History of Samoyeds
One of the oldest and purest ancient 14 domestic dog breeds dating back to 3000-5000 years and some research indicates possibly 8000 or more years. The Samoyed is a member of the Spitz family and closely related to wolves. In 2011 scientists discovered a 33,000-year-old fossil of a dog. The fossil was named the “Altai dog” after the mountain range it was discovered on. Genetic testing discovered that it was a dog/wolf hybrid but more dog than wolf. After further DNA testing researchers found that the modern Samoyed was the closest modern breed related to this ancient hybrid fossil.
The highly intelligent Samoyed was bred and developed for thousands of years by the nomadic Samoyede (now known as the Nenetsky) tribes in northeast Siberia (Taimyr Peninsula of Siberia) and north of the Arctic Circle (One of the coldest, harshest, and most difficult terrains to live on Earth).
Samoyeds were valued for their versatility as sled, herding, guard, and companion dogs. They herded reindeer, hunted game, and protected the Samoyede people against predators. Working in as a pack, they were even known to scare and contain the mighty Polar Bear. Their innate value to the Samoyede people, who depended largely upon their dogs for survival, meant they were regarded as members of the family, which contributed to the unique Samoyed disposition today. Aggressive Samoyed’s were not kept or bread. This led to a breed that was exceptionally friendly with people with very few aggressive issues.
They lived with the people, played with the children, and helped to keep them warm. Their undercoat was also spun to make wool for clothing. Even today the Samoyed wool is a favorite among weavers who produce beautiful clothing.
The Samoyeds were not seen outside of Russia, there country of origin, until the end of the 1800’s. The breed was first introduced to Europe in 1889, where they are sometimes known as the Bjelkier (meaning: “White dog that breeds white”). It was from Europe that the Samoyed was bred and spread throughout the world. The first Samoyed came to America in 1904 when the Princess de Montyglyon brought it as her companion and was given to her by the Russian Czar’s brother, the Grand Duke of Russia.
The Samoyed breed was later introduced to the USA in 1906 and recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) the same year that they were introduced. The first Standard for the breed was adopted in England in 1909. The original Samoyed Club of America was organized in 1923 and adopted the American Samoyed breed standard the same year. The first Samoyed was registered in Canada in 1924. The first Canadian bred Samoyeds were born in 1928 (Sired by Jack Frost Farningham). The First Samoyed Specialty to award points in Canada was in 1958. The first Samoyed Specialty was hosted by the Samoyed Association of Canada in 1975 and has been honouring the breed since 1964.
Samoyeds have a place in history as the sled dogs often used by polar explorers. The Samoyed draft dogs proved more capable than ponies, horses, oxen, or mules in the Arctic and Antarctic and, on a per weight basis, did not consume as much food and could travel longer distances before tiring. Their contributions to the Polar expeditions were truly unmatched. Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen chose Samoyeds for his trip to the North Pole in 1893 and they proved excellent sled dogs with tremendous endurance, strength, durability, and trainability. Unfortunately, his trip not being successful due to not packing enough food.
A Samoyed named Antarctic Buck is said to be the very first brought to England. Ernest Kilburn-Scott, a breed founder in the UK acquired Antarctic Buck from an Australian Sydney Zoo in 1906 where he had lived for 6 years. Ernest brought him to England in 1908.
There is a story that Antarctic Buck was employed on the NewnesBorchgrevinnk ss Southern Cross English led Expedition 1899/1900 to the South pole and Antarctic Buck had the greatest impact on the expedition. Apparently, Carsten Borchgrevink was a Norwegian who lived in Australia and led said English Expedition.
Earnest Shackleton Expedition
In 1907-1909 Sir E H Shackleton led his famous Antarctic expedition with Samoyed dogs he obtained from the descendants of Antarctic Buck and other Samoyeds (from a breeder in New Zealand) used in the Newnes/Borchgrevink Expedition.
In 1911, English explorer Robert Scott and Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen also used Samoyeds for there Antarctic expeditions. Scott’s team had a team of 33 dogs and Amundsen had team of 52.
Amundsen beat Scott to the south pole with his team led by a Samoyed named Etah, A true polar Pack leader. Etah was the first dog to set paw on the South Pole. They endured terrible hardship along with the explorers they helped over 99 days and 2976 km of travel to the South Pole. They are such a hardy dog built for extreme northern conditions that they were among the only dogs that survived the Arctic and Antarctic expeditions (12 dogs survived). The surviving dogs from the expeditions were given as gifts to the royal family. Etah, became the treasured pet of Princess de Montyglyon (Belgian Countess), Countess Mercy d’Argenteau. Etah, was in fact a female and lived out a long, full, and happy life.
Alexandra of Denmark who later became the Queen of the UK received a Samoyed as a gift. She fell in love with her dog and the breed. She became a passionate Samoyed fancier and breeder. She worked to promote awareness of the breed and how they became well known. Many of the English and American Samoyeds today have an origin tracing back to Queen Alexandra’s kennels.
For further history of the Samoyed breed please see these articles: