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Chow Chow Breed Summary

Independent, Loyal, Trustworthy and Confident

Experts are pretty sure that the Chow Chow may be one of the oldest breeds in the world! They are believed to have originated in Mongolia and have appeared in pottery and paintings from 206BC as hunting dogs. Unfortunately for these guys, their fur was used to trim coats for the colder seasons. The name Chow Chow actually comes from when British Merchants used the dogs in their cargo during the 18th Century. During this time period, various miscellaneous items, including dogs, were referred to as ‘Chow Chow’, with the name sticking to the breed! Nowadays, these dogs are pretty popular and even Martha Stewart has one, that features regularly on her T.V. show.

Kennel Club Group Utility
Lifespan 11-13 years
Height (at the withers) Males and Females 43cm - 51cm
Weight Males 25kg - 32kg, Females 20kg - 27kg
Coat Rough Coated with Thick, Dense, Straight, Coarse Upper Coat and Woolly Undercoat; Smooth with a Shorter Double Coat.
Colour Black; Blue; Cream; Fawn; Red; Self-Red; Shaded Red; White
Eye colour Brown
Common health issues Entropion and Other Eye Problems; Eczema; Bloat; Cruciate Ligament Rupture; Hypothyroidism; Addison’s Diseases; Cushing’s Disease; Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (E.P.I); Phemghigus Foliaceus (PF); VHK-Like Syndrome or Uveodermatological UV Syndrome; Breathing Problems; Hip Dysplasia; Elbow Dysplasia; Alopecia X
Other Names Chow; Chowdren

This breed has a proud and independent streak, that has been likened to that of a cat. And although he may look like a cuddly teddy-bear, this particular group of dogs can sometimes be quite detached and suspicious of strangers – however, for the correct owner, they make great companions. However, this breed is not aggressive and if trained correctly as puppies and socialised well with strangers, they will have good temperaments! Chow Chow’s aren’t the easiest dogs to train, and often need verbal corrections to understand right from wrong. Essentially though, if you want a loyal and trustworthy companion, you need not look further than one of these guys!

DNA testing has shown that the Chow Chow is one of the most ancient breeds in the world. Some believe that the dog originated from China around 2,000 years ago, while others maintain that they actually came from Arctic Asia a millennium earlier, before migrating to Mongolia and Siberia, before being introduced to China by the invading Mongols. Yet other people credit their introduction to the Tartars. It is thought that they share an ancestry with the Samoyed, Norwegian Elkhound, Keeshond, and Pomeranian.

Whatever their origin, this blue-tongued breed was certainly around in the time of the Chinese Han Dynasty (206BC-22AD), where it is depicted in pottery and sculptures. They were considered working dogs and used for various purposes. Their excellent tracking skills meant that they were used as hunting dogs for tracking larger prey such as wolves and leopards, while their strength led to them being used to guard and herd livestock and pull sled. So popular was the Chow Chow in China that in the 7th century, one emperor was reputed to own around 2,500 pairs for hunting with. Less luckily for the breed, their fur was also used to trim coats, and their meat was considered a delicacy. In some areas, they are still bred for meat. 

In China, the breed had several names, including ‘black tongue dog’ (hei shi-tou), ‘wolf dog’ (lang gou), ‘bear dog’ (xiang gou) and ‘Canton dog’ (Guangdong gou). The term Chow Chow dates from the 18th century when British merchants transported them to Europe on clipper ships. Chow Chow was a term used to describe any miscellaneous item but came to refer to the dog. In 1781, the Chow Chow appeared in a British book Natural History and Antiquities of Selbourneby the naturalist Gilbert White. Upon their return from Canton, his neighbours had brought back a pair of Chow Chows, and he included them in his book of country life. Breed enthusiasts say that the breed has changed little in that time. 

Other than this, the breed was little known outside of China until the 1800s, due to the country’s closed borders. It was not until 1828 that London Zoo imported some Chow Chows and kept them in the London Zoological Gardens. In 1865, one was given as a gift to Queen Victoria. The real champions of the breed, however, were the Marchioness of Huntley, who promoted the breed, and Lady Faudel Philips, who became the main breeder and exhibitor. In 1865, the first breed club was formed in the UK, and the Kennel Club recognised the breed in 1894. 

The first Chow Chow to be shown in America was Takya. She took third place in the Miscellaneous Class at the Westminster Kennel Club show in 1890. The American Kennel Club recognised the breed in 1903, and the first registered dog was Yen How. In the 1920s, the Chow Chow was particularly popular with celebrities, including film stars, President Coolidge, and Sigmund Freud. More recently, American broadcaster Martha Stewart is well-known for her love of the breed.