Roald Amundsen was a Norwegian explorer who mounted a drive to Antarctica in 1911 at the same time Robert Scott was preparing his journey to the South Pole. Both reached the pole within 30 days of each other, but it was Amundsen who reached the South Pole before Scott because he was meticulous when it came to planning and executing his expedition. Amundsen studied the native people of Siberia to learn how they survived in the harsh climate they lived in. Careful attention was paid to the clothes they wore, the food they ate, and the dog breed they used to herd reindeer and pull heavy sleds in an unforgiving environment – the Samoyed. His attention to detail is what earned him the title as the first polar explorer to reach the South Pole, and his choice in dog breeds is one reason why he succeeded and lived to tell about it. Unfortunately, Scott and his team perished in the arctic cold. Other explorers to Antarctica and the Arctic took teams of Samoyeds with them because they were reliable and hard working dogs capable of surviving subzero temperatures of both poles.
In 2011, a 33,000 year old dog was found in a cave in the Siberian Altai mountains. It’s the earliest fossil that’s been found showing evidence of the domestication of dogs. In 2009, a 36,000 year old dog skull was found in Belgium. The debate of exactly when and where dogs first became domesticated is still being hotly debated, but the one thing researchers can agree on is an analyst of mitochondrial DNA has found 14 dog breeds more ancient than all the other breeds. And the only modern breed closest to primitive dogs is the Samoyed. There is no wolf or fox ancestry found in their gene pool.
The migration of early man began many thousands of years ago from the Fertile Crescent. As stronger tribes took over regions, they drove other people from the land to insure there was enough food for the ones that stayed. The lesser tribes were constantly pushed farther north into a more inhospitable environment. Becoming nomadic, these tribes migrated north and took their families, livestock, and dogs with them. They eventually settled along the Arctic Ocean and throughout Northeastern Siberia and were known as the Samoyede tribes. The Samoyed is named after these hardy people who used their dogs to hunt seal, herd reindeer, pull sleds, guard their homes and herds, protect them from wolves and polar bears, babysit their children, and as a companion pet to help keep them warm.
Because the people were so dependent on their working dogs for survival, their relationship was an equal partnership of trust and loyalty. The bond between dogs and their family was close. The canines were treated as a member of the family and were allowed to sleep in the tents with their owners. The Samoyede people combed out the dog’s wooly undercoat, spun it into yarn, and used it to make warm clothing. Without their dogs, the people wouldn’t have been able to survive on the land they chose to call home.
The Sammie is a beautiful breed with black lips that curl up at the corners into a “Sammy smile.” His black nose and dark eyes are highlighted by a fluffy dense white coat. The Samoyed is gentle, loyal, alert, intelligent, happy, affectionate, playful, enjoys being around his family, and is very fond of kids. The breed is a good watchdog with a strong prey drive and may chase small animals, including cats. He shouldn’t be allowed to roam around off leash, and doesn’t do well left alone in the backyard or locked in a kennel.
This is a working breed and is happiest when he has a job to do. Agility, tracking, herding, sledding, weight pulling, conformation, skijoring, and hiking are just some of the activities the Samoyed excels at, and are good ways to keep his mind busy so he doesn’t get bored. A Samoyed can be a handful, especially for first time dog owners, so make sure you do your homework on breeders and the breed before bringing one home.
The Samoyed has a long lasting kinship with humans going back through the pages of time to the first dogs. The breed hasn’t changed in looks or temperament over the years as they continue to hold on to their early roots as a faithful, happy, smart, and confident reindeer herder, and companion pet that contributed greatly to the survival of people who settled in the harsh environment of Siberia.
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