PetMD Editorial
Written by:
PetMD Editorial
Published: July 8, 2009

The Samoyed is a breed that has a characteristic "smile," formed by a slight upturning at the corners of the mouth. It is a hardy working dog, bred for herding and pulling sleds, and will even turn its experience to the family’s children, playfully herding them.

Physical Characteristics

The compact, muscular, and strong body of the breed is short but long. The Samoyed resembles spitz dogs in its combination of strength, dignity, agility, and grace. Its agile and quick stride has a good drive and reach. The Samoyed's lively expression, meanwhile, is characterized by its smile, formed by the mouth’s upturned corners.

The weather-resistant and heavy double coat comprises a thick and soft undercoat and a straight outer coat, which shines like silver.

Personality and Temperament

The Samoyed bonds very closely with its family. It is generally friendly with other dogs, pets, and strangers. Indoors it remains calm, but this occasionally mischievous and clever dog requires daily mental and physical workout, barking and digging up holes when bored.

It responds well to its owner and is willing to please, but may be stubborn and independent at times. It also has a tendency to herd children. The mild and playful Samoyed, however, makes a perfect companion for a kid or a person belonging to any age group.


The Samoyed is fond of cold weather, herding, and pulling. Even though it can live outside in cold and temperate climates, it prefers to stay in the house, sharing human companionship. This active and lively breed requires exercise daily, in the form of a jog, a long walk or a spirited game. Its dense coat, meanwhile, should be combed and brushed two or three times a week, and daily during the shedding season.


The Samoyed, which has an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years, occasionally is troubled with progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and diabetes. The minor health issues affecting the breed include hypothyroidism, gastric torsion, and cataract, while a major health concern is canine hip dysplasia (CHD). To identify some of these issues, a veterinarian may recommend hip, eye, and thyroid tests, or a DNA exam for to confirm PRA in the dog.

History and Background

The Samoyed breed is named after the nomadic Samoyed group of people, who came from central Asia to northwestern Siberia. They were solely dependent on reindeer for their food, thus they had to move constantly with the herd, to ensure the reindeer had enough food for themselves. They used hardy and powerful spitz dogs for herding and protecting the reindeer from ferocious Arctic predators. These dogs were treated like family members, lived in the nomads’ tents and kept the kids warm in bed. Sometimes they were helpful in hauling sledges and boats and hunting bears.

During the late 1800s, the Samoyed dog breed began to arrive in England. However, not all of the early imports were the unmixed white breed which is common today. One of these early imports was gifted to Queen Alexandra, who worked hard to promote the Samoyed. Interestingly, there are many modern pedigrees that can be traced back from this dog.

The first Samoyed was brought to the United States in 1906, a gift from Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia. At the time, the breed became well known for its ability to outperform other sledge dogs, and in the early 20th century, Samoyed dogs would become members of various sledge teams on expedition to the South Pole and Antarctica.

Since World War II, American dog fanciers have made the Samoyed quite popular, attracted to the breed for its glossy, refined appearance and brave feats.

The Samoyed people may have settled down long ago, but the Samoyed dog breed continues to be spread out throughout the world.

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