Chow Chow – Wrinkled Forefather of Spitz Dogs

Chow Chows are one of the oldest dog breeds and were kept in their current form in China as early as the 11th century BC. It is believed that all European Spitz breeds originally descended from the Chinese “lion dog” (shīziquǎn). Here you can find out why the chow is not for beginners and what special features such a puppy brings with it.

External Characteristics – This is What Makes the Chow Chow so Distinctive

The Chow-Chow is a medium-sized guard dog that appears even more voluminous due to its bulging folds around the head and neck and the fluffy hair that sticks out. Its most striking feature is the blue-black tongue, which occurs in all color varieties. Bitches reach a height at the withers of 46 to 51 cm, males are slightly larger at 48 to 56 cm. A specific weight is not specified and depends heavily on the individual body shape of the animals. They can weigh between 16 kg and 41 kg without being over or underweight. You should determine your dog’s ideal weight with the support of a veterinarian.

Breed description according to FCI

  • The head is flat and broad with a little pronounced stop. The muzzle is moderately long in relation to the head and does not taper towards the tip, but remains evenly wide. A grumpy expression (scowl) is typical of the breed.
  • The color of the fleshy lips and palate should always be a continuous black (may appear bluish or greyish). The nose is very large and ideally black. Blue and fawn-colored Chows may have the same colored nose, light-colored Chows sometimes have light-colored noses.
  • In some animals, the shape of the eye is determined by the surrounding folds. The eyes are medium-sized and rather dark; in the case of blue and fawn-colored types, they may match the color of the fur. Most dogs form a T, I, or Y of folds between the eyebrows, and vertical folds sometimes form over the eyes, giving them a triangular shape like the Shiba.
  • The ears are small, thick, and tilted forward, turning slightly inward. They start very broadly and end in rounded tips like right triangles.
  • The body and neck are very strong and the bearing is described as proud and noble. The entire neck appears very powerful and broad due to large folds and the typical lion’s mane; viewed from the front, it is significantly more voluminous than the head. The chow-chow is very compact, but the ribs are not barrel-shaped.
  • The length between the withers and the elbow is equal to the length between the elbow and the ground. The rear foot is in profile directly under the hip joint – overall the legs are very strong and straight. The dogs stand on round cat paws and put their weight on their toes.
  • The well-feathered tail sets high and is carried curled over the back like many other breeds in the Asian group.

The chow’s lion-like coat of hair

Two coat types are bred, which differ greatly in appearance. One thing both types have in common is the fluffiness of their fur. Chow Chows have a certain resemblance to teddy bears due to their dense and protruding fur. In both variants, the hair grows short at the muzzle.


Very dense and straight hair, not excessively long. The topcoat is rather coarsely structured, and the undercoat is very soft. So-called trousers (longer topcoat than the front) are formed on the backs of the legs. The mane on the collar is very easy to recognize on long-haired chows.


The mane of the short hair is not so pronounced. The fur is only a few centimeters long and is plush. Overall, it’s a bit softer than the Long-Haired Chow.

Desired colors in breeding – typically Asian

All Chow Chows are solid in color with lightened hair on the underside of the tail and on the back of the legs. In adult animals, the mane is often lightened. The following colors occur:

  • Black
  • Blue
  • fawn colors
  • cream
  • White

Differences between similar breeds

  • Chow Chows are often confused with Shar Peis, who also have a blue tongue but have very short fur and thin flapped ears.
  • Newfoundlands are similar to black chows, but the coat texture is very different. In addition, Newfoundlands are significantly larger.
  • Eurasiers also inherited the blue tongue from their Chow ancestors. They are drier in build and have a typical Spitz face with a longer and more pointed muzzle.

The Story of the Chow-Chow

In the 13th century, Marco Polo first reported on chow-chows, which were used as sled dogs in northern China. Previously, the breed was completely unknown in Europe, but they have been used in China for thousands of years for various purposes: they served as guard dogs, were used for hunting, and were possibly also kept as war dogs in the Tang Dynasty. A rumor has been circulating on the internet that a Tang Dynasty emperor kept 5,000 chow chows for war purposes. The word “chow” means “food” in many Chinese cultures. It has been proven that the dogs were also bred for consumption in China.

Genetic peculiarities

  • Chow Chows belong to the original Asian breeds and are descended directly from the Chinese wolf. They are distantly related to Molossians and spikes.
  • As with the dingo and the shar-pei, the chow-chow was crossed with wild Chinese wolves even after domestication. The gene pool is therefore very different from that of modern dog breeds.
  • Domestication probably took place in Siberia. From the north, Chow-type dogs spread through Mongolia to China.

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