THE HISTORY OF THE SAMOYED BREED
The Samoyed is considered one of the oldest and most beautiful breeds in existence! Despite its attractive appearance and look of elegance (with its tail carried over the back), the Samoyed is a very hardy breed. Originally from the north of Russia and Siberia, the Samoyed pulled sledges and herded reindeer for the Samoyed tribes, those responsible for the breed's formation. Although not known for its hunting skill, by working in a pack, the Samoyed could frighten and contain even the great polar bear!
In addition, because of his double coat, the Samoyed was probably used from early times to warm his master and family in cold weather. Man harnessed the Samoyed's enthusiasm, adaptability for work in harsh climates, intelligence and ability to understand him and made the Samoyed into a working partner. In return, the Samoyed received food, friendship, and was welcomed into the caves or tents at night as an ally. From its beginnings thousands of years ago, the Samoyed has a long and historically significant association with man.
Over time, pure white, cream, all biscuit, or white and biscuit became the acceptable coat colors. (See the Official Standard for the Samoyed in The Complete Dog Book of the American Kennel Club as referenced at the end of this article.) The early Samoyeds contained black as well as brown dogs. Although many of today's Samoyeds are groomed to perfection, particularly the Samoyeds exhibited in the conformation show ring, it may be hard to believe that the early Samoyed dogs were probably heavily matted in sections, although the sun served as a bleaching agent.
The Polar Expeditions and Royal Connections
The polar expeditions demonstrated the versatility and true working nature of the Samoyed and the contributions made by the Samoyeds are unmatched in the canine world. Samoyeds featured prominently in the Arctic and Antarctic polar expeditions of Abruzzi, Amundson, Jackson-Harmsworth, Nansen, and Shackelton between 1870 and 1912. Dogs were procured from Siberia for the expeditions and were called "Samoyeds" as they came from the land where the Samoyede tribe lived. With the passing of time, the "e" was dropped from "Samoyede."
The draft animals proved more capable than ponies, horses, oxen, or mules in the Arctic and Antarctic and, on a per weight basis, did not consume as much food and could travel longer distances before tiring.
Because of its adaptability to cold temperatures, a cousin of the Samoyed, the Laika dog, was the first canine used in outer space; this occurred when the Russians launched a Sputnik satellite on November 3, 1957 with a Laika dog aboard as the lone passenger. A beautiful breed, the Samoyed appeared in the courts of Czar Alexander III of Russia and Queen Alexandra of England over a century ago.
The First Imports into the United States
The first Samoyed registered with The American Kennel Club in the United States, Russian Champion Moustan of Argenteau, came from St. Petersburg, Russia from Grand Duke Nicholas, a brother of the Czar. Survivors and descendants of the polar expedition sledge teams were bred in England for their beauty as well as their working attributes. Ms. Clara Kilburn-Scott was very instrumental in establishing the breed in England with her selective breeding of Samoyeds. It was around this time, that black and brown were eliminated from breeding pools although pictures remain of Peter the Great and his offspring (some were black) who competed successfully in the conformation ring in England. Almost all Samoyeds living today in the United States can be traced back to about 12 key dogs that were used in early breeding programs in England. One of the truly great sires in the breed was English Champion Kara Sea, who figured prominently in many breeding programs on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
There have been many important Samoyed kennels and breeders in the United States in the past 100 years but two kennels stand out above the others because of their overall contribution to the Breed. Since 2004, the American Kennel Club and the Samoyed Club of America protect both kennel names.
Ms. Helen Harris of Merion, Pennsylvania obtained a son of Kara Sea's (Ch. Siberian Nansen of Farningham of Snowland) in the 1930's and used him to establish her Snowland Kennel in the United States. Ms. Harris contributed greatly to the establishment of the breed in the United States and her Samoyeds figured prominently in the establishment of many long-standing and successful kennels, including that of Agnes Mason and her White Way Kennel in Sacramento, California.
White Way Kennel
Agnes Mason obtained Ch. Nianya of Snowland during the 1930's from Helen Harris out of the famous "N" litter of Ch. Siberian Nansen of Farningham of Snowland and Vida of Snowland. Ms. Mason was raised in Alaska and thus developed an appreciation for sled dogs and working dogs in general, well before she married and settled in California.
Through carefully planned acquisitions and breedings (from the Arctic, Kobe, Snowland, and Laika Kennels), Ms. Mason combined several strong lines in developing her foundation stock. Ms. Mason wanted to work her dogs in sledding and at some point met Lloyd Van Sickel who agreed to train her dogs. Prior to Rex of White Way's arrival in 1946 out of her own Ch. Herdsman's Faith and Ch. White Way of Kobe, Ms. Mason had developed a reputation as an outstanding breeder and conformation show exhibitor in addition to working her Samoyeds in harness.
Several of Ms. Mason's Samoyeds were trained to parachute from small aircraft to help out in rescue operations. Our research recently revealed members of the Samoyed Club of America frowned upon this at the time; however, being trained to parachute further demonstrates the adaptability and trainability of the Samoyed.
One of Ms. Mason's Samoyeds, Soldier Frosty of Rimini, helped in the war effort and received a Good Conduct Medal and a Victory Medal after World War II. Had Rex of White Way never lived,
Ms. Mason's contribution to the development of the Samoyed breed would still have been considered enormous.
Rex of White Way
Rex of White Way's legacy was to demonstrate how a well-trained and willing Samoyed could perform in many venues. Rex excelled as a working dog by serving as the lead dog on a regular 64 mile mail run over a 7,200 foot high mountain pass (The Targhee Pass) and by serving as lead dog on several historically significant rescue operations such as a Truckee, California plane crash rescue in 1949 and the City of San Francisco snowbound train rescue in the Sierra Mountains in 1952. Rex set a world record in weight pulling that meant he was the strongest dog in the world on a per pound basis as he pulled 1,870 pounds on freezing sleet and ice in Montana in 1953. Rex regularly appeared in rodeos, parades, and at fairs leading his team of Samoyeds. He was known as the "Blizzard King" for his ability to break trail under the most extreme weather conditions and was virtually unbeatable in races involving other Samoyeds during his prime. He also won many races leading Targhee Hounds. It has been reported that Rex's only peers in sled racing during his lifetime were crossbreeds.
The Samoyed Today
Samoyeds are enjoyed today for their beauty, companionship, intelligence, and working versatility. As a working dog, Samoyeds are used to herd sheep, ducks and cattle and can be found in races and weight pulls held throughout the U.S. Owners regularly enjoy working their Samoyeds in backpacking, skijoring, scootering and hiking in addition to the AKC sponsored obedience and agility events. For others, AKC conformation shows provide an opportunity to show their dogs in competition against other Samoyeds and other breeds.
Prepared by Jim & Celinda Cheskawich April 4, 2005/updated 8/28/07 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Kauai, HI and Woodland, WA …To be continued…
1. Personal Collection of Western Kennel World Magazines (1938-1958)
San Francisco, CA, Vera Lawrence, Editor of the Samoyed Column
2. Original Pages of Gertrude Adams' Private Collection
(1910-1970 articles, memorabilia & notes)
3. March 2004 Interview Notes with Lloyd Van Sickel
Klamath Falls, OR
4. The New Complete Samoyed by Robert and Dolly Ward, 1985
Howell Book House, New York City
5. The Dog Lovers' Book by Edwin Noble, Undated (circa 1904)
Dana, Estes & Co., Boston
6. Farthest North by Dr. Fridtjof Nansen, 1897,
Harper and Brothers Publishers, New York and London
7. The Complete Dog Book, American Kennel Club, 1998
Howell Book House, New York City
8. Organization for the Working Samoyed Newsletter (Judy Schirber Publisher) and
Team and Trail Magazine Articles by Mel Fishback Riley (1970-1979)
9. Samoyed Club of America (SCA) Bulletins, Samoyed Club of America
Wright City, MO, 1977-2004
10. Samoyed Quarterly Magazine, Arvada, CO
Hofflin Publishing, 1977-2004
11. Samoyeds by W. Lavallin Puxley, 1947
Lund Humphries, London, England
12. Brazilian Pet Magazine, No 308 Caes and Cia, Fabio Bense Publisher Contact
Winter 2004-5, Cheskawich Co-Written magazine article on Samoyeds
13. The Complete Pedigree Book of American Champion Samoyeds, 1907-1971, Volume One and Two, Trustees of the Goodrich Fund
Strauss Printing Company, Madison, WI, 1975
14. Samoyed Champion Pedigrees, Weir, Hoernig, and Van Ornum, 1977
The Bastion Press, Olympia, WA
15. All About the Samoyed, Beryl and Geoff Grounds, 1998
Kingdom Books, England
16. The Samoyed, Sanford and Green, 1989
Crestwood House, NYC
17 The Samoyed Today, Pam Taylor, 2000
Ringpress Books, Gloucestershire, Eng.
18. This is the Samoyed, Joan Brearley, 1975
TFH Publications, Neptune City, NJ
19. The Samoyed, The Samoyed Association, 1995
Geoff Grounds, Rivers Media Services, Ltd., England
20. The Samoyed, The Samoyed Association, Undated (circa 1945)
Thames Valley Printing Co., England
21. The Samoyed, The Samoyed Association, 1955
22. The Samoyed, The Samoyed Association, 1971
23. The Samoyed (New Zealand), 1961
The Cliff Press Company, Hastings, NZ
24. Your Samoyed, Jan Kauzlarich, 1977
Denlinger's, Fairfax, VA
25. Hutchinson on Samoyeds, Walter Hutchinson, Reprinted 1976
Donald R. Hoflin, Arvada, CO
26. The Samoyed, Anna Katherine Nicholas, 1990
TFH Publications, Neptune City, NJ
27. Samoyed Club of America Historical Archival Materials
Maintained by Steve Loper, Yelm, WA
28. Our Friends The Samoyed & Keeshond Rowland Johns
Methuen & Co LTD London England 1936
29. The Frozen North M Douglas
De Wolfe, Fiske & Co. 1900