Documenting the Ancient Origins of the Samoyed

By Pam Barbe | February 3, 2012


Archaeological evidence indicates that the Samoyed has an extremely ancient inception, dating back at least to 5500 BCE. Excavations of Copper Age Botai culture settlements of horse herders in northern Kazakhstan have yielded numerous ritual dog burials that provide proof of the antiquity of Samoyeds. The shape, size and proportions of the Botai dog skulls and skeletons are remarkably close to those of modern Samoyeds. These findings support earlier DNA studies that identify the Samoyed as one of the 14 oldest breeds (Parker, et al. 2004).


Sandra Olsen is the Head of Anthropology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, in Pittsburgh, PA, where she has worked since 1991. She is also a research associate professor of Anthropology and Neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Olsen received her BA in Anthropology at Wichita State University, MA in Anthropology at the University of Arizona, and Ph.D. in Archaeology at the University of London. She also served as a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Her specialty is Zooarchaeology, the study of the roles of animals in the lives of ancient peoples. Since 1993, she has been directing fieldwork in Kazakhstan, focusing on identifying the oldest known domestic horses. Her work has taken her around the world to Russia, Greece, Cyprus, France, England, and the American Southwest. Most recently, she has been working in Saudi Arabia, tracking the arrival of the horse on the Arabian Peninsula. She has edited three books and written over 50 articles.

For a pdf of Dr. Olsen’s book chapter, contact Pam Barbe

This event was sponsored by SCARF in Pigeon Forge, TN