The name Chow Chow, also known as Barbary Dog, Tartar Dog, and Chinese Spitz, most likely derives from the English slang term chow. In earlier times, this was used to describe everything new and curious, including unknown dog breeds, which ships returning from the Orient brought to England.
Wanted Chow Chow
The Chow Chow, which has its origin in China, belongs to the FCI group 5 of top archetypes. A shoulder height of 48 – 56 cm is desirable for males, the bitches should be between 46 – 51 cm tall. The ideal weight is between 20 – and 32 kg. In terms of fur, the Chow Chow is divided into two types: the long-haired type with straight, long, wiry-hard, pointed-like fur, and the short-haired type with also pointed, but shorter fur, which is soft and plush.
The colors are black, cream, white (rarely), red and red-brown. Lighter shades are often found on the underside of the tail and the back of the thighs.
History of the Chow Chow
Another possibility for this name would be the Chinese word chou, which translated means “edible”. Other Chinese names around Canton, where the breed was widespread at the time, were Hei She-t’ou (Black Tongue), Lang Kou (Wolfhound), and Kwantung Kou (Canton Dog). It is also known in some places as Hsiung kon, which means bear dog, because of its appearance.
So much can be said about the history of the Chow Chow that it is probably most closely related to other Nordic Spitz breeds, but it is not purely Nordic, but also has Mastiff types as ancestors, to which it owes its heavy head and thick, wrinkled skin.
The origin of this breed most likely goes back to the Mongols, who, when they were in the 11th century BC. invaded China, carrying these dogs with them. Unfortunately, the information about this period is very incomplete, since literature and works of art were very often destroyed by subsequent rulers. The first pictorial representations of Chow Chows are therefore only since the Han Dynasty around 150 BC. when wall reliefs and clay sculptures depict chow-like dogs hunting.
It is known that they served in China in less dangerous areas as guard and train dogs and as hunting dogs of the emperors and the nobility. Emperor T’ang, who lived around 700 AD, is said to have owned a kennel with around 2,500 pairs of chows and a hunting body of 10,000 men. Unfortunately, eating dog meat is still widespread in Asia to this day, so it was inevitable that the quality of chow meat was discovered relatively quickly and it is still considered a delicacy in many parts of Asia.
The dogs were fattened on a whole grain diet and then slaughtered young. The fur of the long-haired type was then further processed into garments. Chow Chows first appeared in the rest of the world around 1780 because of China’s policy of isolation. In the 19th century, sailors managed to smuggle some specimens of Chinese dogs out of the country.
It took some time for the “grain-eaters” to get used to eating meat like other, normal dogs. The Chows were then exhibited at London Zoo as “wild dogs from China” until dog lover Queen Victoria adopted one of these dogs, earning her the reputation as the “savior” of the breed. At the beginning of the 20th century, chows could still be bought in public markets throughout China, probably as an occasional “delicacy”. The communist Cultural Revolution in the mid-20th century declared dogs useless commodities, so most of them were killed.
In the western world, on the other hand, the Chow Chow quickly became extremely popular. The long, plush fur in particular contributed to its rapidly increasing popularity. The short-haired type is not that common, but there are some committed breeders in Holland and there are also a few short-haired Chows at some shows in the USA.
Nature and Character of the Chow Chow
In terms of character, the Chow Chow has a strong personality of a very special kind. Even his lovers claim that he can hardly be trained and is anything but willing to run. Some experts say: “The chow is willing to die for his master, but not to obey him”. However, if you train him with loving consistency, he too will learn the necessary rules of obedience.
He then repays his master with loyalty and devotion for his pronounced independence and deliberation. However, they are always very reserved with strangers, which is probably due to their suspicious nature. If strangers become intrusive, they can even react aggressively, but they are completely loyal and predictable to their own families.
He strikes, but never barks continuously. The luxuriant coat requires regular, preferably daily care by grooming. Caution should be exercised when it is very hot, especially when there is a high degree of humidity at the same time. Chows can suffer greatly from this and the combination of heat and humidity can even be life-threatening for them.
When buying a puppy, you should definitely pay attention to dogs from healthy, reasonable breeders. Since the Chow is prone to skin diseases, one should carefully adjust their diet accordingly. Unfortunately, his quality of life is severely restricted by nonsensical beauty ideals inbreeding.
The fierce facial expression required by the standard can result in deep-set eyes with a rolled-in eyelid, resulting in constant watering. Because of his short nose, he often suffers from shortness of breath. Its origin as a former beef cattle meant that it was originally supposed to move as little as possible in order to gain fat, which is why it walks on stilts due to its extremely straight hind legs.