Samoyed dog

Samoyed dog

The Samoyed (/ˈsæməjɛd/ SAM-ə-yed or /səˈmɔɪ.ɛd/ sə-MOY-ed;[1] Russian: Самое́дская соба́ка or Самое́д) is a breed of medium-sized herding dogs with thick, white, double-layer coats. They are a spitz-type dog which takes its name from the Samoyedic peoples of Siberia. Descending from the Nenets Herding Laika, they are a domesticated animal that assists in herding, hunting, protection and sled-pulling.

Samoyed dogs are most often white, and can have a brown tint to their double-layer coat which is naturally dirt-repellent. They are known to be used in expeditions in both Arctic and Antarctic regions and have a friendly and agreeable disposition.

Other namesBjelkier / Samoiedskaya Sobaka
Heightmales : 51–56 cm (20–22 in) / females : 46–51 cm (18–20 in) 
Weightmales : 20–30 kilograms (44–66 lb) / females : 16–20 kilograms (35–44 lb)
Life span12–14 years


The progenitor of the Samoyeds was the Nenets Herding Laika, a reindeer herding spitz commonly used throughout northern Siberia, especially the Nenets people who were pejoratively referred to as Samoyeds at that time.[2][3][4] DNA evidence confirms that Samoyeds are a basal breed that predates the emergence of the modern breeds in the 19th century.[5] A genomic study of two dog specimens that are nearly 100 years old and obtained from the Nenets people on the Yamal Peninsula found that these are related to two specimens dated 2,000 years old and 850 years old, which suggests continuity of the lineage in this region. The two 100 year old dogs were closely related with the Samoyed breed, which indicates that the ancient arctic lineage lives on in the modern Samoyed dog.[6]

During preparation for the Fram expedition to the North Pole in 1893–1896, 33 dogs were purchased from the Nenets people. While 28 of these dogs would go to the North Pole, none of them survived. The remaining dogs, including pups born during the voyage, were left aboard the ship. In April of 1893 the bitch had another litter, most of them white. According to Nansen's notes "...all the dogs were strong, tough and excellent at pulling sleds; they worked very well in hunting Polar bears [as well]." These dogs would become the original Samoyeds.[3][7]

Appearance and characteristics

The AKC Standard requires 45–65 pounds (20–29 kg) and 21–23.5 inches (53–60 cm) at the shoulder for males, and 35–50 pounds (16–23 kg) and 19–21 inches (48–53 cm) for females.[8] 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. Samoyeds with eyes of other colors like blue exist but are not allowed in the show ring. The Samoyed 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 have a light to dark brown tint (known as "biscuit") to a greater or lesser extent. The tint is usually on the ears but can be visible on the whole body.

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 Alaskan Malamute, the Samoyed tail is held actually touching the back. It is not usually held in a tight curl, or held flag-like; it is usually 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.

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 fewer allergens, care should be taken for severe allergies.[9]

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.

Life expectancy for the breed is about 12–13 years.[10]


Samoyeds' friendly and affable 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".[11] 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. According to the Samoyed Club of America, when Samoyeds become bored, they may become destructive or start to dig.[12] 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 can compete in dog agility trials, carting, obedience, showmanship, flyball, tracking, mushing and herding events. Herding instincts and trainability can be measured at non-competitive herding tests. Samoyeds exhibiting basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in herding trials.[13]


Samoyed hereditary glomerulopathy

The breed can be affected by a genetic disease known as Samoyed hereditary glomerulopathy, a kidney 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.[14] 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[15] do not go on to develop kidney 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 kidney failure.

Clinically, proteinuria is found in both sexes from the age of three to four months; in dogs older than this, kidney 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 stopped.[14][16][17][18]

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.[19]

Other health concerns

For the Samoyeds several breed-specific hereditary diseases are described in the veterinary literature:

  • 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, autoantibodies to insulin were found in affected dogs. Several genetic markers are being discussed as possible causes.[20][21]
  • 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.[22][23]
  • Short legs in conjunction with eye abnormalities: a genetic defect at the COL2A1 locusleads to disproportionate dwarfism due to 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. they occur in heterozygous dogs); the other symptoms are recessive, so they only come to expression in homozygous dogs. These conditions have no effect on the expression of the protein opticin.[24][25][26]
  • Pulmonary stenosis occurs more frequently in Samoyeds in comparison with other breeds. The disease can cause shortness of breath, cardiac arrhythmias and rapid fatigue when moving, and increases the risk of congestive heart failure.[27]
  • Hip dysplasia is also a concern for Samoyeds.[28]
  • The breed can also be affected by sebaceous adenitis, an uncommon idiopathic autoimmune skin disease.[29]

Related Breed