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Chow Chow

A red Chow Chow puppy
Other names Chow
Country of origin China
Weight Male 55 to 70 pounds(25 to 32 kilograms)
Female 45 to 60 pounds (20 to 27 kilograms)
Height Male 48–56 cm (19–22 in)
Female 46–51 cm (18–20 in)
Coat Thick and coarse
Color Red (light gold to deep red-brown)
Cinnamon (light tan to brown)
Blue (dark blue to gray)
Litter size 5
Life span 9–15 years

Chow Chow, or Chow, is a breed of dog that was first developed in Mongolia about 4,000 years ago and was later introduced into China,[1] where it is referred to as Songshi Quan (Pinyin: sōngshī quǎn 鬆獅犬), which literally means "puffy-lion dog."




The distinctive Chow features
A close-up of the Chow's characteristic blue-black tongue

The Chow is a sturdily built dog that is square in profile with broad skull and small, triangular, erect ears that are rounded at the tip. The breed has a very dense double coat that is either smooth or rough. The fur is particularly thick around the neck, giving the distinctive ruff or mane appearance. The coat may be one of five colors including red, black, blue, cinnamon/fawn, and cream.

Their eyes should be deep set and almond in shape. Chows are distinguished by their unusual blue-black/purple tongue and very straight hind legs, resulting in a rather stilted gait. The bluish color extends to the Chow's lips, which is the only dog breed with this distinctive bluish appearance in its lips and oral cavity (other dogs have black or a piebald pattern skin in their mouths). One other distinctive feature is their curly tail. It has thick hair and lays curled on its back. Their nose should be black (except the blue which can have a solid blue or slate colored nose). Any other tone is disqualification for showing in the United States under AKC breed standard. However, FCI countries do allow for a self-colored nose in the cream.[citation needed]

The blue-black/purple tongue gene appears to be dominant[citation needed], as almost all mixed breed dogs that come from a Chow retain the tongue color[citation needed]. This is not to say, however, that every mixed breed dog with spots of purple on the tongue is descended from chows as purple spots on the tongue can be found on a multitude of pure breed dogs[citation needed].


Chows of different coat colors

Today the Chow Chow is most commonly kept as a pet. Its keen sense of proprietorship over its home, paired with a sometimes disconcertingly serious approach to strangers, can be off-putting to those unfamiliar with the breed. However, displays of timidity and aggression are uncharacteristic of well-bred and well-socialized specimens. The Chow is extremely loyal to its own family and will bond tightly to its master. The Chow typically shows affection only with those it has bonds to, so new visitors to the home should not press their physical attention upon the resident Chow as it will not immediately accept strangers in the same manner as it does members of its own pack. Inexperienced dog owners should beware of how Chow Chows encounter those it perceives as strangers; their notoriety is so established that many homeowner's insurance companies will not cover dogs from this breed. Males and females typically co-habitate with less tension than those of the same gender, but it is not unheard of for multiple chows of both genders to live together peacefully in a home setting.

Chows are not a particularly active breed. Apartment life can suit them, if they are given enough opportunity for regularly-scheduled physical activity each day. The Chow Chow may appear to be independent and aloof for much of the day, keeping a comfortable distance from others while staying within earshot, or preferring to watch for strangers alone by the entrance. Owners still need to be prepared to take a Chow Chow for a brisk daily walk, even if they have a fenced yard, in order to meet the dog's needs for mental and physical stimulation. While the Chow exhibits low energy for most of the day, it will crave routine time to explore and play to maintain a happy and content disposition. They rank 77th in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs, being of the lowest degree of working/obedience intelligence. However, most Chow owners believe this is because the Chow has a different type of intelligence than that found in most dogs. Many Chows excel with positive reinforcement methods of training, particularly "Clicker Training", as the Chow is a natural problem solver and gets bored with endless, repetitive tasks. Unless the Chow is kept engaged, boredom sets in and the Chow will simply walk away or refuse to engage.


The Chow Chow is the dog breed most affected by elbow dysplasia. It is also prone to hip dysplasia, patellar luxation (slipping knee caps), thyroid disease, pemphigus foliaceus and ocular disorders such as entropion and ectropion. The risk of such disorders increases exponentially when a Chow is purchased from backyard breeders, pet stores and unscrupulous kennels that do not test their breeding stock for such genetic disorders. Thus, a potential Chow buyer should ask to see all health clearances for the parents of a litter up front. In the United States, these would be clearances from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation and Orthopedic Foundation for Animals; other countries will have other health testing schemes, and contacting the national canine registry association will provide that information. Reputable kennels should provide the new owner with a written and signed health warranty as well. Although there is no way to accurately predict the lifespan of an animal, one should expect the healthy Chow to live between 10 to 15 years.

An old chow chow

Chow Chows are also known to be very aggressive if not properly trained. Chow's are extremely territorial and will try to dominate any animal that attempts to overpower them, thus it is best to train them well as puppies.


Chow Chow is thought to be one of the oldest recognizable dog breeds, and recent DNA analysis confirms that it is one of the oldest breeds of dog.[2] Research indicates it is one of the first primitive breeds to evolve from the wolf, and is thought to have originated in the arid steppes of northern China/Mongolia. A Chinese bas-relief from 150 BC shows a hunting dog and a very friendly dog toward childern similar in appearance to the Chow. Later, Chow Chows were bred as general-purpose working dogs for hunting, herding, pulling and protection of the home. Some scholars claim the Chow was the original ancestor of the Samoyed, Norwegian Elkhound, Pomeranian and Keeshond [3].

In the United States, the Chow Chow was a highly popular pet among the rich and famous during the Roaring Twenties. President Calvin Coolidge and his wife owned a black Chow named Timmy.[4] Chow Chows were also popular in the 1930s and 1980s.

Etymology of Chow Name

There are two different theories as to how the Chow Chow got his name. Chow, or 'chou', is Chinese slang for edible. Will Judy, author of "The Chow Chow," wrote that the name meant 'edible dog of China'. In 1878, a British historian and authority on China claimed to have found 25 restaurants in Canton featuring chows on the menu. In 1915, a law was passed in China prohibiting the buying and selling of dog meat. The word chow means food in English, and the shipments of spices and mixed pickles from China became known as chow chow, as did a spicy pickle relish.[citation needed]

The other theory of the name chow chow may not be as logical, but is still reasonable enough for debate. In the early 1800s, clipper ships sailed from China to England, bringing back a various assortment of cargo, referred to as chow chow. These miscellaneous objects were stored in the ship's hold called the chow chow hold, chow chow meaning bits and pieces of this and that. The first chow chow dog appeared in England in the 1830s, and was known as the chow chow dog because he had been housed in the chow chow hold during the long voyage. The proud and regal chow we see today is more a product of what happened to the Chow in England and eventually the United States than the ancient Chinese chow of working origin who is seldom seen even in China today.

See also


  1. ^ Case, Linda P. (2005). The Dog: Its Behavior, Nutrition, and Health (2nd ed.), p. 23. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0813812542.
  2. ^ Collie or Pug? Study Finds the Genetic Code. New York Times Online. May 21, 2004. Accessed December 25, 2006.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Atkinson, James (1988). Chow Chows, p. 5. Barron's Educational Series. ISBN 0812039521.

External links

Simple English


The Chow Chow is a breed of dog that originated in China and is believed to be one of the oldest dog breed. It has a large head, a curly tail and a blue tongue. It's fur is very thick and can be either rough or smooth. Most Chow Chows are a reddish brown or black color. It stands about 17–20 inches (43–51 cm) and weighs 45–70 pounds (20–32 kg).[1]


  1. "Chow Chow". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 2010-08-22. 
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