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The Samoyed (known in Europe as the Bjelkier) is a fluffy, white, spitz-type dog bred originally to help herd and pull sleds. They are friendly and affectionate dogs who thrive on human company.
Samoyeds have a distinctive white, fluffy double coat. The topcoat has long, coarse, straight white/silver hair which protects the undercoat. The undercoat is made up of short, dense, soft fur which keeps the dog warm and is shed heavily one or two times a year – however, the dog sheds smaller amounts year-round.
Typically, Samoyeds have black or brown eyes, but blue and other coloured eyes can occur. Ears are thick, fluffy, triangular and erect. They are usually the same colour as the rest of the dog’s coat, but can occasionally have a brown tinge around the tips. Like many other spitz-type dogs, the Samoyed has a thick, fluffy tail curled over the back with which some dogs have been known to cover their noses during colder weather. When comfortable and relaxed, the Samoyed’s tail falls, but will return to a curl when they are more alert.
Healthy male Samoyeds tend to weigh between 23 – 30 kg and stand at 51 – 60 cm tall. Females weigh in around 17 – 25 kg and stand between 46 and 53 cm tall.
The Samoyed’s lifespan is between 12 and 14 years.
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Aggression is very rare in Samoyeds, who are known for their friendly disposition and playfulness (which they maintain even in their old age). Their gentle and trusting nature makes them poor guard dogs, but they will often bark to alert their owners to strangers. The Samoyed gets along great with children and thrives on human companionship. It can live peacefully with other dogs and cats, but due to its history as a herding and hunting dog, owners should be watchful of the Samoyed with small animals. If left alone for too long, the dog may become destructive, but with enough mental and physical activity and assertive leadership, the Samoyed will be a lively, sociable and well-rounded companion. The Samoyed is a very intelligent breed, but can be a bit stubborn when being trained.
Like all dogs, the Samoyed does require some exercise, but they are generally not as active as other large breeds, and are quite happy to relax with their owners. Exercise is necessary, however, in order to mentally stimulate the dog so they do not get bored. A daily walk should be sufficient.
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The Samoyed is one of the oldest dog breeds (bred for over 3,000 years), named after the reindeer-herding Samoyedic peoples of Siberia. Though originally bred to hunt and herd reindeer and haul sleds, the Samoyedic peoples allowed the dogs to join in family activities at the end of the day and to help keep them warm. This early treatment of the breed has led them to become the trusting and loyal dogs they are today. The Samoyedic peoples led nomadic lives and were therefore reliant on their dogs for their working abilities and companionship.
It was not until 1889 that the Samoyed was brought out of Siberia and into England by an explorer named Robert Scott. England then became the centre of the breeding efforts which led to the modern Samoyed – only 12 dogs are credited with the foundation of the breed today.
Sir Ernest Shackleton, who travelled to Antarctica, brought Samoyeds on his journey where they suffered terribly and only the fittest dogs survived.
Queen Alexandra was a fan of the breed and many modern English and American Samoyeds are descended from her breeding stock.
The Samoyed was recognised by the UK Kennel Club in 1909 and by the American Kennel Club in 1923.