The Working Samoyed

History

The Samoyed has only been known in the Western World for a little over 100 years. Samoyeds were used by early polar explorers in both the Arctic and Antarctic. They were appreciated for their qualities of intelligence, endurance and adaptability which made them an excellent choice for the job of hauling sleds. These valiant dogs endured terrible hardships serving man in his quest for the poles. Tales of heroic polar exploits have led to the modern perception that the Samoyed is nothing more than a sled dog.  
Click here to download or read online The South Pole; an account of the Norwegian Antarctic expedition in the 'Fram', 1910 to 1912 [ read | download ] and you can also do the same for Sir Ernest Shackleton C.V.O.: South: the Story of Shackleton's last expedition 1914-1917read | download ]

The reality is quite different. The breed is named after a remnant of one of the earliest tribes of Central Asia. After many thousands of years of migration, the people we now call the Samoyedes, along with their faithful dogs, eventually settled in the vast arctic regions of North Western Siberia and Northern Russia more than 2,000 years ago.

Somewhere along the way, they learned to domesticate the wild caribou that they had previously hunted - the animal we now know as the reindeer. In the bleak Arctic tundra, their former agricultural skills were of no use and the tribe regressed to a primitive lifestyle revolving around their reindeer. The deer supplied most of the essentials of life. As well as providing a source of food, their hides were used for clothing, shelter, beds and rugs. Vast herds of reindeer were required to support this lifestyle.

Despite domestication, the reindeer and the Samoyede people still needed to travel the traditional migration routes in search of the main food source for the herds, a lichen known as Reindeer Moss. Vast tracts of land were grazed and the people had to move camp often. The biannual treks - north to the tundras for summer, and south to the forests for winter - could easily cover 1,000 kilometres or more. It would not have been possible for men on foot to control and muster the herds without the Samoyed Dog.

The dogs were sometimes used for draught work, particularly for hauling small boats along river banks when the annual thaw created an immense network of rivers and streams. Generally, however, with the pulling power of herds of reindeer at their disposal, the people used the deer for the job of hauling their possessions. A dog able to herd deer would be wasted in harness, and in any case, the original mobile home, a structure of wood and reindeer hide, known as a choom, was far too heavy for a dog team. The dogs herded, guarded, fought off wolves, caught fish and hunted bears. They occasionally hauled, but reindeer did this more efficiently.

And Now ....

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