The Samoyed, despite its many unique qualifications, belongs to a larger subcategory of dog known as the Spitz breeds. The Spitz breeds in general are characterized as having long thick fur and pointed ears or muzzles, with a tail that usually curves over and above the dog's back. Aside from this general physical description, however, dogs in the Spitz breed category tend to share much more in common.
Though their exact origins are largely a matter of mystery, most Spitz breeds seem to originate from somewhere within the Arctic circle. This is reflected in the Samoyed, as they originally hail from the Siberian tundra. They're sometimes called primitive dogs because their body structure most closely resembles that of the domesticated dog's ancestor, the wolf, out of any breed category. In recent times, there has even been an attempt by breeders to return to the Spitz breed's wolf-life origins by cross-breeding Spitz dogs with wolves. This kind of breeding has been responsible for the creation of several modern breeds, such as the Alaskan Malamute.
The Spitz breeds all seem to be equally well suited for life as working dogs, suggesting a commonality of background in modern times as well as antiquity. In particular, they seem to have been developed by humans for three major purposes: hunting, herding, and sledding. Though the Samoyed was used primarily for the latter two reasons, many Spitz breeds proved to be excellent hunters, including the Karelian Bear Dog and the Norwegian Elkhound.
All Spitz breeds retain, like the Samoyed, their two-stage coat (coarse wool-like undercoat with long and silky outer coat) that enables them to thrive in even the coldest of climates. They have small and compact extremities such as ears that keep their blood circulating at a more rapid clip even in their large bodies and reduces their risk for frostbite.
Though most all Spitz breeds are characterized by their loyalty and make excellent pets under the right circumstances, there are a few breeds that technically qualify as Spitz that were bred specifically for the purpose of owning as pets rather than having been adapted to it. These include the Pomeranian, and the Keeshond, which is a smaller and more energetic version of the classic German Spitz.
In modern times, the Spitz breeds thrive all over the world in a variety of environments and in a wide number of social roles. Though they all still share a common ancestry that is evident in their very appearance, today's Spitz has evolved to include many different specimens from the Akita Inu that is so popular in Japan to the compact but powerful Chow Chow; from the massive and wolf-like Alaskan Malamute to the tiny and spirited Papillon. The Spitz breeds, as distinct as they are similar, truly offer up some of the finest specimens in the world of dogs.