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10 intriguing Chow Chow facts

Chow Chow facts
(Image credit: Getty Images)

These Chow Chow facts are bound to hold a few surprises given that this dog isn’t the most popular canine on the block. They have a tendency to be serious-minded, aloof with everyone but their family, and somewhat regal, so it takes a special kind of human to play pet parent to this stunning breed.

With their unmistakable lions-mane ruffle and sturdy build, a full-grown Chow Chow will be anywhere between 45 and 70 pounds and 17 to 20 inches high. But while they look like the perfect cuddle companion to snuggle up to, they have a hard-working history. In fact, there are so many unique attributes to discover about this breed. 

From their blue-black tongues to their aversion to getting wet, here are 10 fascinating facts about the cuddly Chow Chow…

1. They’re one of the oldest breeds

Chow Chow dogs originated in China around 4,000 years ago. This makes them one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. In fact, it’s believed by researchers that the Chow could be one of the very first breeds to have evolved from the wolf. Now that would make for a howling history!

2. Their names are not of Chinese origin

Despite their Asian ancestry, the Chow Chow dog is known as Songshi Quan in China. The name ‘chow chow’ actually derives from a pidgin-English term used by sea merchants to describe anything coming from the East in the 18th century. This term was used to describe various goods and discoveries like porcelain, dolls or anything else of interest, including live animals. This was mainly due to their laziness of not properly marking the items they were shipping.  

3. They were used as working dogs in China

Despite their cuddly appearance, the Chow Chow was trained by the Chinese to be a hard-working dog. Not only were they trained to hunt and guard but to pull sleds and herd cattle at times. In addition, an emperor during the Tang dynasty was so impressed by the Chows, he had over 5000 of them trained alongside 10,000 men to hunt together.

4. They have straight back legs

Unlike other breeds, Chow Chows have completely straight legs which do not bend like most dogs. This gives them their recognizable ‘stilted gait’ when they walk.

5. They have an unusual blue-black tongue

Chow Chows have a unique, deep blue-black tongue. Interestingly, as puppies, they start with a pink tongue, but then it goes darker as they get older. In fact, the blue-black tongues of adult Chow Chows have a lizard-like appearance! The only other dog that shares this rather unusual color is the Chinese Shar-Pei breed. 

Chow Chow facts

(Image credit: Getty Images)

6. Their coats come in different colors

Although Chow Chows are typically red, they come in a range of different striking coat colors. It’s not unusual to find dogs that have deep black, ‘blue’ (a deep dove grey), shades of cinnamon (a warm brown), or cream-colored coats. What’s more, their coats can be either smooth or rough. 

7. They have a toothy grin

Instead of having a ‘cheesy’ grin, Chow Chows are known to have a toothy one. This is thanks to the two extra teeth in their mouths. Most dogs only have 42 teeth, but the Chow has 44, which are great for chomping!

8. Do not put them in water!

Another surprising fact is Chow Chow dogs dislike water. Their fabulous, fluffy coat may be a great insulator in the winter, but it’s a safety hazard in the water. Once this breed gets wet, their heavy fur can weigh them down leading to some challenging swimming attempts. Of course, if you’re unsure of your Chow’s reactions to the water, it’s advisable to exclude them from beach or pool trips.

9. They have a stubborn nature 

This breed may appear laid-back but they have a strong-willed nature. In fact, if a stubborn Chow does not have a firm parent, they are bound to run amok. However, if they’re trained at a young age and socialized well, they will quickly know what the rules are.  

10. They’ve had famous pet parents

Chow Chows have had numerous famous owners. One of them is renowned psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. He owned a Chow Chow named Jofi that often sat in on his patient therapy sessions. Not only did his lovable pooch make children feel more relaxed, but even helped Freud analyze his patients as to whether they were nervous. “Dogs love their friends and bite their enemies,” Freud wrote, “quite unlike people, who are incapable of pure love and always have to mix love and hate in their object relations.” Other celeb, Chow parents include homemaking Queen, Martha Stewart, Hollywood actor Clark Gable and President Calvin Coolidge.

…and one inspired a scene in a Disney film

Walt Disney famously owned a Chow named Sunnee, which was given as a puppy to his wife Lillian. One Christmas, Walt wanted to nicely present the pup as a gift so he put it inside a hat box. At first glance, Lillian was a little disappointed until she realized there was a happy puppy inside. This later inspired the scene in the classic, animated movie, The Lady and the Tramp, when Lady is also given as a Christmas gift.

Cynthia Lawrence

Cynthia Lawrence is freelance lifestyle journalist. Starting off her career in national magazines, she moved to digital and e-commerce publications. When she's not reviewing exciting products, she is obsessed with home interiors and her neighbour's cat!