The name Samoyed comes from the Samoyede, a semi-nomadic people from Asia who migrated to Siberia a thousand years ago. They bred dogs for hard work in the coldest habitable places on earth. In the Siberian town of Oymyakon, for instance, temperatures of minus-60 degrees are common. The Samoyede people lived in tents and huddled for warmth with their dog packs during the Arctic nights. This type of human-canine cooperation for mutual survival forged a tight bond between Samoyeds and people. When not sledging heavy loads across vast expanses of Siberia, Samoyed dogs earned their feed as watchdogs and hunters.
Samoyeds were originally used for hunting, herding reindeer, and hauling sledges for the Samoyede people in Siberia. Fridtjof Nansen believed that the use of sled dogs was the only effective way to explore the north and used Samoyeds on his polar expeditions. The Samoyed has been identified as a basal breed that predates the emergence of the modern breeds in the 19th Century.