Samoyeds are descended from the Nenets herding laika, a spitz-type dog from Siberia used for sledding, herding, guarding, and keeping their owners warm. Roald Amundsen used a team of sled dogs led by a Samoyed named Etah on the first expedition to reach the South Pole.
The eyes are usually black or brown and are almond in shape. Blue or other color eyes can occur but are not allowed in the show ring.
Samoyed ears are thick and covered with fur, triangular in shape, and erect. They are almost always white but can often have a light to dark brown tint (known as “biscuit”), usually around the tips of the ears. The Samoyed tail is one of the breed’s more distinguishing features. Like the Alaskan Malamute, the tail is carried curled over the back; however, unlike the Malamute, the Samoyed tail is held actually touching the back.. 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 is typically shed heavily once or twice a year, and this seasonal process is sometimes referred to as “blowing coat”.
Samoyeds’ friendly disposition makes them poor guard dogs; an aggressive Samoyed is rare. 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. When Samoyeds become bored, they may begin to dig. 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 were also used to herd reindeer. They will instinctively act as herd dogs, and when playing with children, especially, will often attempt to turn and move them in a different direction. The breed is characterized by an alert and happy expression which has earned the nicknames “Sammie smile” and “smiley dog.
The Samoyed is prone to Progressive retinal atrophy, diabetes, hip dysplasia and skin allergies.