Chow Chow

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This article is about the breed of dog. For the pickled relish, see Chow-chow (food).
Chow Chow
Chow-chow in Tallinn.JPG
Other names Chow, Chowdren, 鬆獅犬
Country of origin China
Weight Male 55 to 70 pounds(25 to 32 kilograms)[1]
Female 45 to 60 pounds (20 to 27 kilograms)[1]
Height 17 to 20 inches (43 to 51 cm)[1]
Coat Thick and coarse
Color Red (light gold to deep red-brown)
Cinnamon (light tan to brown)
Litter size 3–6
Life span 9–15 years
Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)
Chow Chow
Simplified Chinese 松狮犬
Traditional Chinese 鬆獅犬
Literal meaning "Fluffy Lion-dog"
Alternative Chinese name
Chinese 猲獢
Literal meaning (ancient name)

The Chow Chow or Chow[2] (from Chinese: ) is a dog breed originally from northern China,[3] where it is known as the "Fluffy Lion-dog" (sōng shī quǎn 松狮犬) in Chinese.[4]

The breed has also been called the Tang Quan, "Dog of the Tang Empire". It is believed that the Chow Chow is one of the native dogs used as the model for the Chinese guardian lions, the traditional stone guardians found in front of Buddhist temples and palaces.[5][unreliable source][6][unreliable source]


A Chow Chow in 1901

The Chow Chow has been identified as a basal breed that predates the emergence of the modern breeds in the 19th Century.[7]


Shar Pei

Shiba Inu

Chow Chow

Akita Inu


Siberian Husky

Alaskan Malamute

Afghan Hound


other breeds in the study

Chow Chow is one of the nine breeds that are genetically divergent from others[8]

The breed probably originated in the high steppe regions of Siberia or Mongolia, and much later used as temple guards in China, Mongolia and Tibet.[9] A bas-relief from 150 BC (during the Han Dynasty) includes a hunting dog similar in appearance to the Chow. Later Chow Chows were bred as a general-purpose working dog for herding, hunting, pulling, and guarding. From what records survive, some historians believe that the Chow was the dog described as accompanying the Mongolian armies as they invaded southward into China as well as west into Europe and southwest into the Middle East in the 13th century AD. The breed belongs to a subset identified by a particular genetic cluster, which includes breeds from central Africa, the Middle East, Tibet, China, Japan and the Arctic. It has been suggested that the origin of this subset may have originated with pariah dogs in Asia, who migrated with nomadic human groups.[10]

The breed is thought to have originated in the arid steppes of northern China and Mongolia,[1] although other theorists conjecture that its origin is in Siberian regions of Asia.[4]

A Chow Chow in 1915.

The black tongued Chow Chow was also bred for human consumption.[11] Some scholars claim the Chow Chow was the original ancestor of the Samoyed, Norwegian Elkhound, Pomeranian, and Keeshond.[12]

Chinese legends mention large war dogs from central Asia that resembled black-tongued lions. One Chinese ruler was said to own 5,000 Chows. The Chinese also used Chows to pull dog sleds, and this was remarked upon by Marco Polo.[4]

A legend says that the original teddy bears were modeled after Queen Victoria's Chow Chow puppy. It is said that she carried the dog everywhere she went. Her friends disapproved, claiming that it did not befit a queen to be seen everywhere with a dog, so they paid a dressmaker to make a stuffed version of the animal for her.[2]

Today, the AKC registers approximately 10,000 Chow Chows a year. The Canadian Kennel Club registers approximately 350.[1]


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

The Chow Chow is a sturdily built dog, square in profile, with a broad skull and small, triangular, erect ears with rounded tips. The breed is known for a very dense double coat that is either smooth or rough.[1] The fur is particularly thick in the neck area, giving it a distinctive ruff or mane appearance. The coat may be red, black, blue, cinnamon/fawn, or cream.[1][13] Not all these color varieties are recognized as valid in all countries. Individuals with patchy or multicolored coats are considered to be outside the breed standard. Chow Chow eyes are typically deep set and almond shaped. The breed is distinguished by its unusual blue-black/purple tongue and very straight hind legs, resulting in a rather stilted gait.[1] At the time of birth of chow puppies, they have pink color tongue which darkens to blue-black by the time they are 8 to 10 weeks old.[14] The bluish color extends to the Chow Chow's lips; this is the only dog breed with this distinctive bluish color in its lips and oral cavity (other dogs have black or a piebald pattern skin in their mouths).[1] One other distinctive feature is the curly tail.[1] It has thick hair and lies curled on its back. The nose should be black, but blue-coated Chow Chow can have a solid blue or slate-colored nose. According to the American Kennel Club breed standards, any other tone is not acceptable for contests.[15] FCI countries, however, do allow a self-colored nose in the cream.[16]

The blue-black/purple tongue gene appears to be dominant, as most mixed breed dogs that come from a Chow Chow retain that tongue colour. However, the blue-black/purple tongue can also be found on the Shar Pei. This is not to say that every mixed breed dog with spots of purple on the tongue is descended from Chow Chow, as purple spots on the tongue can be found on other purebred dogs.[17]


Chow Chows of different coat colors.

Most commonly kept as pets, Chow Chows tend to display discernment of strangers and can become fiercely protective of their owners and property. The American Kennel Club standards, however, consider an all-too aggressive or all-too timid Chow Chow to be unacceptable.[15] For that reason, some owners have attributed a cat-like personality to the Chow Chow.[18][19]

Chow Chows are not excessively active, meaning that they can be housed in an apartment. However, a Chow Chow living in an apartment will need daily exercise to prevent restlessness and boredom. Upon realizing that exercise is a daily occurrence, Chow Chow will tend to be more assertive with owners in anticipation of such activities.

This breed of dog has many strong loyal bonds with friends and family, but not infrequently becomes overly protective of one or two main family member(s).[20]

Owning a Chow Chow can raise the cost of homeowners insurance because some companies consider them high-risk dogs.[21] In a study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Chow Chow were responsible for 8 out of 238 fatalities related to dog bites from 1979 to 1998.[22]


The Chow Chow can suffer from entropion,[23][24] glaucoma,[25][26] juvenile cataracts,[27] lymphoma,[28] hip dysplasia,[29] diabetes mellitus,[30] canine pemphigus,[31] and gastric cancer.[32] Chow Chows are a high risk breed for autoimmune disease [33] and are at a predisposition for skin melanoma.[34]

Due to the Chow Chow's thick coat, fleas can be a problem.[35]

Famous owners[edit]

A Chow Chow competing in Dog Agility
A Chow Chow with reddish coat.

Elvis Presley had a Chow Chow named Getlow who he took on stage. However, he had a congenital kidney ailment. Elvis leased a Learjet and flew Getlow to Boston to a special clinic for kidney dialysis. Getlow was there for about three months, but didn’t live long after that. He was only about a year old when Elvis was on tour and coming home on his plane when he died.

Sigmund Freud had a Chow Chow named Jo-Fi who attended all of his therapy sessions because he felt that dogs had a special sense that allows them to judge a person's character accurately, and admitted he depended on Jo-Fi for an assessment of a patient's mental state.[36]

Martha Stewart owns several Chows, which are frequently seen on Stewart's shows,[37] one of them named Genghis Khan.[38]

President Calvin Coolidge and his wife owned a black Chow named Timmy.[39] Chow Chows were also popular in the 1930s and 1980s.

Janet Jackson had a Chow Chow named Buckwheat.[40]

Italian footballer Mario Balotelli bought his girlfriend two Chow Chow puppies in the UK.[41]

Walt Disney famously gave his wife Lillian a Chow Chow puppy named Sunnee in a hatbox as a Christmas gift, later inspiring a similar scene in the Disney animated film Lady and the Tramp.[42]


Chow Chow dogs must eat twice a day.[43] Due to the Chow Chow’s heavy build, it is important that this dog never be overweight which can lead to injuries of the hip.


A Chow Chow puppy playing

Chow breed will heavily shed their fur in the seasons of spring and fall, which requires more grooming attention than other seasons. It is important that owners use the correct tool in order to avoid harming the skin and facilitate grooming. Three kinds of brushes that owners can use on their Chow Chow include a medium-coarse brush for the larger areas of the body, a slick brush for smaller areas, and a pin brush to maintain the longer strands of hair.[44] Chow Chows are known to have either short and smooth coat, or a rougher and longer coat. Both create a thick woolly layer, as it gets closer to the skin. They should be brushed four times a week; however shedding seasons may require daily grooming. Also, a spray conditioner can help avoiding breakage and tearing to the thick coat of hair. Lastly, a monthly bath is required to avoid fleas and keep a clean coat of fur.[43]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Charlotte Wilcox (1 April 1999). Chow Chow. Capstone. pp. 4–5. ISBN 978-0-7368-0159-1. Retrieved 4 May 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Charlotte Wilcox (1 April 1999). Chow Chow. Capstone. pp. 7–8. ISBN 978-0-7368-0159-1. Retrieved 4 May 2013. 
  3. ^ Case, Linda P. (2005). The Dog: Its Behavior, Nutrition, and Health (2nd ed.), p. 23. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-8138-1254-2.
  4. ^ a b c Charlotte Wilcox (1 April 1999). Chow Chow. Capstone. pp. 11–12. ISBN 978-0-7368-0159-1. Retrieved 4 May 2013. 
  5. ^ Sacred Dog of Sinkiang
  6. ^ Foo Dogs are Ancient Guardians
  7. ^ Larson, G (2012). "Rethinking dog domestication by integrating genetics, archeology, and biogeography". doi:10.1073/pnas.1203005109. 
  8. ^ Parker, H. G.; Kim, L. V.; Sutter, N. B.; Carlson, S; Lorentzen, T. D.; Malek, T. B.; Johnson, G. S.; Defrance, H. B.; Ostrander, E. A.; Kruglyak, L (2004). "Genetic Structure of the Purebred Domestic Dog". Science 304 (5674): 1160–4. doi:10.1126/science.1097406. PMID 15155949.  edit
  9. ^ "Collie or Pug? Study Finds the Genetic Code". The New York Times. May 21, 2004. Accessed December 25, 2006.
  10. ^ Parker, Heidi G.; Kim, Lisa V.; Sutter, Nathan B.; Carlson, Scott; Lorentzen, Travis D.; Malek, Tiffany B.; Johnson, Gary S.; DeFrance, Hawkins B.; Ostrander, Elaine A.; Kruglyak, Leonid (2004-05-21). "Genetic Structure of the Purebred Domestic Dog" (PDF). Science 304 (5674): 1160–4. doi:10.1126/science.1097406. PMID 15155949. 
  11. ^ Schwabe, Calwin W.: Unmentionable Cuisine, page 168. University of Virginia Press, 1979
  12. ^ Chow Chow | American Kennel Club
  13. ^ "Colours and coat types". Chow Chow Club. Retrieved 16 December 2012. 
  14. ^ "Chow Chow Dog Breed". Retrieved 2 August 2015. 
  15. ^ a b American Kennel Club (1 January 2006). "AKC MEET THE BREEDS®: Chow Chow". American Kennel Club. American Kennel Club® (AKC). Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  16. ^ (9 June 1999). "The FCI Breed Standard". Alle Rechte vorbehalten. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  17. ^ Kathy Welsh; Anna Wallace; Vicki DeGruy (2001–2010). "The Truth About Those Black Tongues". Chow Chow Information and Adoption Center. WisconsinChow Chow Rescue. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  18. ^ The Chow Chow Club, Inc.'s Welfare Committee (1997). "Chow Chow Temperament Evaluation, Handling & Placement Tips for Animal Shelters". Chow Chow Information and Adoption Center. Wisconsin Chow Chow Rescue. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  19. ^ dogtime. "Chow Chow". dogtime. DogTime Media Network. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  20. ^ Breed. (n.d.). "Chow Chow." Retrieved 3 April 2013[unreliable source?]
  21. ^ "Will Your Canine Affect Your Homeowners Insurance Policy?" Archived 2012-10-14 at Wayback Machine.
  22. ^ J. Sacks, Jeffrey; Leslie Sinclair; Julie Gilchrist (15 September 2000). "Vet Med Today: Special Report – "Breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacks in the United States between 1979 and 1998"" (PDF). JAVMA 217 (6). 
  23. ^ "Chow Welfare – Entropion". 
  24. ^ "Vet Info – Entropion". 
  25. ^ "Animal Eye Care". 
  26. ^ "VetInfo – Breed Specific Problems". 
  27. ^ "VetInfo – Juvenile Cataracts in Dogs". 
  28. ^ "Vet Info – Dog Lymphoma Symptoms". 
  29. ^ "Canine Hip Dysplasia". 
  30. ^ "Diabetes Mellitus". 
  31. ^ "Vet Info – Pemphigus". 
  32. ^ "Positional Cloning of the Gene(s) for Gastric Cancer in the Chow Chow". 
  33. ^ "Establishment of a Genetic Database for Disease Association Studies in the Major Histocompatibility complex for Purebred Dogs". 
  34. ^ "Canine Skin Melanoma". 
  35. ^ Atkinson, James (1988). Chow Chows. Haupaugge, NY: Barron's Educational Series, Inc. p. 76. ISBN 0-8120-3952-1. 
  36. ^ Coren, Stanley (1997). What Do Dogs Know?. Free Press. p. 128. 
  37. ^!
  38. ^ The Paddock Play Continues - The Daily Wag - Pets - (2013-09-20). Retrieved on 2013-10-23.
  39. ^ Atkinson, James (1988). Chow Chows, p. 5. Barron's Educational Series. ISBN 0812039521.
  40. ^ "Canine Aristocracy". 
  41. ^ Smart, Gordon. "Mario Balotelli's footie kitty". The Sun (London). 
  42. ^ "Walt's Valentine". 
  43. ^ a b Chow Chow Dog Breed Information, Pictures, Characteristics & Facts. (n.d.). "DogTime is the place for dog breeds, pet adoption, pet insurance and expert pet advice" Retrieved 3 April 2013
  44. ^ "Chow Chow Dog Breed". PetWave. Retrieved June 12, 2014. [unreliable source?]

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