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10 Happy Facts About the Samoyed

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It's impossible to resist the fox-like charm of the Samoyed. Learn more about these fluffy dogs and their history in the tundra.

1. THEY COME FROM SIBERIA.

As their name suggests, these dogs served as companions to the Samoyed people who lived in Siberia. The working canines pulled sleds, hunted game, and herded reindeer. But they were just as useful inside the home: the friendly dogs played with the children and kept their owners warm with their fluffy coats. 

2. EXPLORERS USED THEM ON THEIR TRIPS TO THE POLES. 

In the 19th century, adventurers acquired some of these dogs to help them on expeditions to the North and South Poles. Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen chose Sammies for his trip to the North Pole in 1893 because of  their endurance and trainability. Although his trip was not successful (he didn’t pack enough food), the dogs proved to be excellent sled dogs. English explorer Robert Scott and Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen also used the dogs on their expeditions to the South Pole. Scott had a team of 33 dogs; Amundsen had 52. Amundsen beat Scott to the Pole with his team, led by a Samoyed named Etah.

3. THEY’RE CLOSELY RELATED TO WOLVES. 

The Samoyed is a spitz breed, meaning they're part of group of dogs closely related to wolves. You can always spot one by their fox-like faces and curly tails (other examples include shiba inus, American akitas, and chow chows). In 2011 scientists discovered a 33,000-year-old fossil of a dog. The fossil—named the ‘Altai dog’ after the mountain range it was discovered on—is from a dog/wolf hybrid that seems to have been more dog than wolf. After conducting DNA testing, researchers found that the modern breed most closely related to this ancient hybrid is the Samoyed. 

4. THEY SING ...

Possibly due to the Samoyed’s genetic closeness to wolves, the breed is known to howl. Their melodious yodels sound a lot like singing. You can get most Sammys to sing just by playing them some music or starting to howl yourself—the dogs love to harmonize. 

5. ... AND SMILE.

As if the singing wasn’t cute enough, the dogs also smile. Dubbed the “Sammy smile,” the happy dogs have lips that naturally curve upwards. People love the Sammy smile so much, you're just a quick web search away from a number of photo roundups dedicated to their gleeful mugs. 

6. THEY’RE ODORLESS. 

Unlike certain breeds (we’re looking at you, basset hounds), the Samoyed is a stink-free pooch. You don’t need to bathe Sammys as much as you would other dogs, but frequent brushings are a must to keep their fur from matting. 

7. YOU CAN MAKE CLOTHES FROM THEIR EXTRA FUR. 

Samoyeds have a thick double coat. The bottom is soft and wool-like while the top is coarse and straight. The dogs shed so much that many owners have gotten in the habit of collecting all the excess fur. This surplus can be spun into a yarn that can be used to make clothing. The material is warm and strong (and not to mention odorless), making it a great alternative to sheep’s wool. The Potomac Valley Samoyed Club takes fur donations, which they then use to create everything from scarves to mittens. One crafter claims that a medium-sized paper bag of fur yielded a large shawl and three pairs of baby booties. 

8. THERE ARE TWO WAYS TO PRONOUNCE THEIR NAME.

You can say Sammy-ed or Sah-moy-ed; either is correct. 

9. THEY’RE PACK ANIMALS.

Samoyeds are pack animals by nature, so they don’t do well by themselves. Sammies left alone are known to wreak havoc on their homes out of boredom and aggravation. 

10. QUEEN ALEXANDRA WAS A FAN. 

Alexandra of Denmark was an avid supporter of the breed, and kept a collection of them in the royal kennel. As a 1903 issue of Country Life explains: 

“…and the Queen is distinctly a judicious fancier of dogs, who provides for them well in kennel without coddling, and, pays to them a sufficient amount of personal attention. Moreover the pictures show that the Samoyed is alike fascinating in puppyhood and a noble dog when adult."

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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Freak Out After Pooping?
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Cats often exhibit some very peculiar behavior, from getting into deadly combat situations with their own tail to pouncing on unsuspecting humans. Among their most curious habits: running from their litter box like a greyhound after moving their bowels. Are they running from their own fecal matter? Has waste elimination prompted a sense of euphoria?

Experts—if anyone is said to qualify as an expert in post-poop moods—aren’t exactly sure, but they’ve presented a number of entertaining theories. From a biological standpoint, some animal behaviorists suspect that a cat bolting after a deposit might stem from fears that a predator could track them based on the smell of their waste. But researchers are quick to note that they haven’t observed cats run from their BMs in the wild.

Biology also has a little bit to do with another theory, which postulates that cats used to getting their rear ends licked by their mother after defecating as kittens are showing off their independence by sprinting away, their butts having taken on self-cleaning properties in adulthood.

Not convinced? You might find another idea more plausible: Both humans and cats have a vagus nerve running from their brain stem. In both species, the nerve can be stimulated by defecation, leading to a pleasurable sensation and what some have labeled “poo-phoria,” or post-poop elation. In running, the cat may simply be working off excess energy brought on by stimulation of the nerve.

Less interesting is the notion that notoriously hygienic cats may simply want to shake off excess litter or fecal matter by running a 100-meter dash, or that a digestive problem has led to some discomfort they’re attempting to flee from. The fact is, so little research has been done in the field of pooping cat mania that there’s no universally accepted answer. Like so much of what makes cats tick, a definitive motivation will have to remain a mystery.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Animals
Listen to the Impossibly Adorable Sounds of a Baby Sloth
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Sometimes baby sloths seem almost too adorable to be real. But the little muppet-faced treasures don't just look cute—turns out they sound cute, too. We know what you're thinking: How could you have gone your whole life without knowing what these precious creatures sound like? Well, fear not: Just in time for International Sloth Day (today), we have some footage of how the tiny mammals express themselves—and it's a lot of squeaking. (Or maybe that's you squealing?)

The sloths featured in the heart-obliterating video below come from the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica. The institution rescues orphaned sloths, rehabilitates them, and gets them ready to be released back into the wild.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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