Get to Know the Samoyed: From Russia with Love

Always smiling and ever beguiling, the Samoyed dog breed is one of Russia's greatest treasures.


The Samoyed is the only breed of dog whose name makes him appear he lives in the past tense. But while this polar white dog with the big smile has a rich past (which includes being identified through DNA studies as one of the most ancient breeds still in existence), he’s more of a forward-thinking fellow.

More interesting things about Samoyeds

  • Don’t say “Se-MOID,” say “SAM-ey-yed” or “Se-MOY-ed.”
  • The Samoyed dog was developed by the nomadic Samoyede people of Siberia to control and guard their reindeer, pull sledges and help hunt large game. The dogs, then called bjelkiers, lived in the tents and slept with the children to help keep them warm.
  • Early Samoyeds, including the first imports to England in the late 19th century, weren’t just white but came in a variety of colors.
  • Queen Alexandra was one of the breed’s earliest proponents, and many of today’s Sammies can be traced back to her dogs.
  • Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen popularized Samoyeds as sled dogs; his 1895 expedition to the North Pole made world news. Like many early polar explorers, his plan relied on feeding the dogs who died en route to the survivors. Yikes.

  • Samoyeds were part of polar expeditions conducted by Shackleton, Scott and Amundsen. Roald Amundsen used a dog team led by a Samoyed named Etah on the first expedition to reach the South Pole.
  • The first recognized Samoyed came to America in 1906 as a gift from Russia’s Grand Duke Nicholas, although Russian fur trappers probably brought others before then.
  • Samoyeds are known as the smiling breed because they look like they are smiling.

  • Shed Samoyed fur is often used for knitting. It is hypoallergenic, very soft and very warm. The fur is also used to make artificial fishing lures.
  • Samoyeds are seldom used in highly competitive all-breed sled racing anymore because they are not as fast as Alaskan Huskies bred just for racing.
  • They seldom bark, but they do howl and make a variety of “talking” sounds.
  • The Japanese anime series Maison Ikkoku featured a Samoyed called Soichiro.
  • Samoyeds are part of the Spitz family of dogs, which have in common thick double coats, pricked ears and curled tails.

  • The Samoyed is categorized in the Working group by the AKC.
  • They may be confused with the American Eskimo Dog, but the Samoyed is larger.
  • It’s hard to believe, but no Samoyed has ever won Best in Show or even the Working group at the Westminster dog show.
  • They are currently the 67th most popular AKC breed, just what they were 10 years ago!
  • Owners include Karen Carpenter, James Garner, Denis Leary, Mickey Rourke, Helen Hunt, and Patrick Wayne.

Do you own a Samoyed? Have you spent time with one? Let’s hear what you think about this fascinating breed in the comments! And if you have a favorite breed you’d like us to write about, let us know that, too!

Interested in other breed profiles? Find dozens of them here.

About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart