Blue-Tongued Teddy Bears: Top 15 Facts about the Chow Chow Breed

Chow Chow owner Niño out and about in Manila with his loyal buddy, Truffles

The Chow is a majestic, beautiful breed of dog with qualities so unique, they are set apart from other breeds.  We all know each dog breed is lovable in their own right, but once you raise a Chow from puppyhood, you’ll never see other dogs in the same light again.

Springing from ancient stock, the Chow Chow has made a comeback among pet lovers in the modern age, all owners enamoured by their fluffy fur coats and blue tongue (Did you say blue? What?!)

Not all dogs are made equal. Some were bred for specific purposes, and there are also some dogs that require special needs and attention from their owners.

The Chow Chow is one of the most well-known breed dogs,  immensely popular in Asia and parts of North America because of their looks – imagine raising a domesticated, miniature bear. But the Chow Chow is more than just your gentle doggy bear because of how this dog is known to be a breed that is more than what meets the eye.

Here are some of the facts you might want to know about the Chow Chow breed:

They originated in China

The name of the breed alone gives their origins away. The Chow Chow breed sprang from ancient stock in China. The dog was mostly confined in China and neighboring countries and regions in Asia until it was brought over to the western countries sometime during the 1800s by traders. But for thousands of years, it was mainly a staple dog in China and other Asian countries.

The Chow Chow is perhaps the oldest breed of Chinese dog

China is ancient and is known to be one of the oldest civilizations in the entire world. The dog is also an older kind of domesticated animal. At the same time, there are also plenty of breeds that are well-known to have come from China. However, the Chow Chow is considered to be the oldest breed that was developed in China as it can be traced back to the ancient Chinese empires. That means that this breed has been around in the world for perhaps for thousands of years already. Some would say that they are already somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 years old.

In fact, some writings would suggest that the Chow Chow was already a breed that existed during the time of Marco Polo during the 11th century because of how the writings described a dog with movements that are oddly similar to what we know of the Chow Chow.

There is a bit of ambiguity as to what purpose they were bred

Because of how old the Chow Chow breed is and how its name can have multiple translations depending on the Chinese dialect you use, there’s a lot of ambiguity regarding what purpose this dog served when it was first bred back in China several thousands of years ago. Historical texts state they were actually bred as a general-purpose dogs – useful for pulling sleds and helping hunters. However, there is a darker story as to what purpose they were bred for.

The word “chow” can be translated to “food,” as the Chinese word “chou” means edible. Some theories assert that the Chow Chow may have been originally bred for its meat. One can actually understand that given how plump this dog breed can be. But some would say that its name may have come from a slang term for the word curio.

The Chinese used them as working dogs

Regardless of what reason the ancient Chinese had when they bred the Chow Chow, they soon began using this dog breed as a working animal. In the Northern area of China, where they originated, they were not known to be working animals. However, when they were soon brought to the southern regions of Canto, they were often used for a wide variety of purposes, such as for herding, pulling, and even hunting.

A person in ancient China once owned 5,000 Chow Chows

You read that right. There used to be someone who was so obsessed with these dogs that he owns 5,000 of them. It happened during the Tang dynasty way back during the ancient years of China. Written records suggest that a sovereign during that time worshipped this dog so much that he had over 5,000 of them. On top of that, he employed 10,000 men to watch over the Chow Chows. Talk about obsessed.

The emperor of the Tang dynasty used them for hunting

In addition to how sovereigns of the Tang dynasty worshipped Chow Chows, they also employed the services of these dogs to accompany their hunters. The Chow Chow was used as a working dog that was actually effective at helping hunters search for potential livestock or even for other people. That is why these dogs tend to have that stocky and muscular build.

The emperor of the Tang dynasty actually had over 2,500 of these dogs according to ancient records. These dogs were there to accompany hunters that numbered in the thousands as well.

Chow Chows have blue tongues

One of the more defining traits that the Chow Chow has is its blue tongue. This is kind of odd because of how most dogs have pink tongues. In fact, puppy Chow Chows have pink tongues but would soon change to a bluish or purplish kind of shade later on as they grow old. The only other officially registered breed of dog that has a similarly colored tongue is the Chinese Shar-Pei.

Their tongues are not the only unique thing about them

In addition to the Chow Chow’s uncommon blue-hued tongue, the color of which sometimes bleeds into its nose and lips, an uncanny comingling of rare genes produces the highly sough-after all-blue Chow Chow, most esteemed by Chinese and Mongolian dog aficionados as the finest representative of the breed. This is usually observed in Chow Chows that are blue-coated. A unicorn among the Chow world, the all-blue Chow’s coat matches its nose, lips, and tongue for that all-over blue furry creature. If you see one in the wild, grab one and make it multipy!

Just kidding.

On top of that, the Chow Chows also have a thick, flowing mane that makes them stand out from the other dog breeds. This results in the pups looking like little pocket lions. When paired with small rounded ears hiding underneath the mane, Chows exude such cute features. Their tail is usually curly.

When the Chow Chow grins, you can also clearly see its teeth. As are all of its other traits, its dentition is also unique as it has 44 teeth compared to the 42 toofers other dog breeds have. When the Chow puppo grins, it squints its eyes a bit to give it that happy face that many people love about it.

Chow Chows have their own style of walking

Another unique trait that the Chow Chow has is that it has its own style of walking. It has legs that are quite straight, which contributes to how it walks in such a manner that makes it look stiff-legged. Some would refer to the way the Chow Chow walks as stilted. Its style of walking is unique to this breed.

They can be stubborn

The Chow Chow is known to be a dog breed that has a very strong will in the sense that it seems to love being independent. That is why a lot of the Chow Chows you see do not always like getting ordered around by their owners and are much happier when they are left to do what they want to do. This is the type of stubborn personality that is quite common in these dogs.

Since the Chow Chow is quite stubborn, it should be paired with someone who can assert his dominance over the dog. If it is paired with someone who is afraid of showing who is the boss around the house, the Chow Chow may take its independence to the next level and will try to do whatever it wants to the point that it might run amok.

Sigmund Freud was a Chow Chow owner

You may have heard the named Sigmund Freud in one of your psychology classes back when you were still in school. This man is the father of modern psychology and is probably the most popular psychologist of all time. But did you know that this world-renowned name once had a pet, Chow Chow? Well, now you know that even Freud had one of these dogs.

Sigmund Freud named his Chow Chow Jofi. The Chow Chow himself also had an unusual personality in the sense that it acted as some sort of a psychoanalyst. Jofi loved hanging around Freud during his sessions and would even look like he himself was analyzing the patients. He would only approach patients that were calm instead of the ones who seemed nervous. This prompted Sigmund Freud to write fondly about dogs saying that they are capable of pure love and that they know how to tell their friends apart from their enemies.

Chow Chows love your feet

If you happen to notice your Chow Chow hanging near your foot all the time or smelling your foot most of the time, then you have to know that this dog happens to love feet to the point that it might seem like a fetish. But there might be a deeper reason as to why these dogs love your feet and are mostly seen hanging close to them. 

Known for their thick coats and stocky body builds, the Chow Chow may have been bred for all-around purposes. One of such purposes may be closely related to another Chinese dog breed, the Shih Tzu, which was bred to become a foot warmer. As such, the Chow Chow may also have been used for such purposes by nobles. And if you actually feel warm whenever they are sitting close to your feet, then you might want to enjoy having your own personal foot warmer.

Martha Stewart owns quite a few Chow Chows

Sigmund Freud was not the only high-profile name to own a popular Chow Chow. Martha Stewart, who is a world-renown businesswoman and television personality, owned several Chow Chows. Because she was frequently on TV, she had lots of opportunities to feature her dogs on live television, elevating the status of the breed. One of Martha Stewart’s Chow Chows was a champion named Genghis Khan, who once competed at Westminster and is considered one of the most popular Chow Chows in the entire world.

Not meant for water

The Chow Chow may have a beautiful and thick double coat that has made it one of the most popular dog breeds in the entire world. However, this can be troublesome when the dog is exposed to water. When the Chow Chow gets into water, its heavy fur will be weighed down even more and will cause some problems to the dog while it is swimming due to how it cannot handle the added weight. As such, most Chow Chows are not good swimmers.

If you are not too confident with your Chow Chow’s swimming skills, it might be imperative that you keep them away from large and deep bodies of water as much as possible. Instead, you can have your dog enjoy swimming in a shallow inflatable pool where it can practice its lackluster swimming skills.

Are Chow Chows Aloof?

As cute and as cuddly as the Chow Chow may be, it does not have the best social skills when compared to other fluffy dog breeds that are friendlier than this one. The Chow Chow has a unique facial expression where they look at you sideways, eyes hooded beneath their lashes, often resulting in an aloof, condescending look. They seem to discern the fact that they look majestic in their shape, their smooshed snouts adding to the illusion of doggy disdain. 

I’ve heard it mentioned more than once that Chow Chows are a one-owner dog. Once they latch on to a specific human family member, that’s it. They ignore the rest of the pack and stay loyal and devoted to just one owner.
Some Chows display mood swings where they seldom socialize with their owner, becoming even more aloof with strangers. The Chow Chow can be defensive and territorial, these traits are ingrained in their DNA. So consider if this breed of dog is the right one for you if you’re fond of having guests around.
Dog Stroller for your Chow
This breed is prone to developing arthritis as they grow more mature. Some Chows are born with hip dysplasia. knee joint problems, visual conditions. That’s why it’s important to prepare for their aging years so you won’t be surprised by medical issues that crop up. 
When arthritis has set in, get your Chow a dog stroller and a pet ramp to ease the strain on his knees and hips as he piddles around the house, albeit a little slower compared to his younger years. 

Photo of author

Lovelia Horn

I’m a certified crazy dog mom, a physical therapist (for hoomans), writer, animal rescuer, and foster home provider. Together with my hubby Ryan, I’ve fostered and helped look for forever homes for over a hundred shelter dogs in the Southern Illinois area. I mostly work with Puppy Rescue 911, Inc., a certified animal rescue organization based out of Chester, IL (home of Popeye!)

5 thoughts on “Blue-Tongued Teddy Bears: Top 15 Facts about the Chow Chow Breed”

  1. Thank you are this information about our Chow Chows, it’s the best one I have read, Thank you again for this info. I had to post this on my Facebook page!!

  2. I have been the proud owner of 4 Chow chows all males. My 4 chow is now 6 years old. His name is Nobuson!!!! This breed of dog is a very special one. They are loyal, loveable, funny, protective and just a joy to have. Like a child the way you raise them that’s how you will find them.


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