About Chow Chows

  The Chow Chow is an ancient breed of dog. The Dog Genome Project has recently discovered that Chow Chows belong to a small group of 7 breeds that are the most ancient in lineage and show the least genetic deviation from wolves. Although the official standard states that they are from northern China, Chinese history repeatedly mentions chows as being "foreign" and brought into China by barbarians. The ferocity of chows as war dogs was duly noted by the Chinese. Chow Chows are more likely Mongolian in origin. Marco Polo mentions them when he visits the Mongols.

Regardless of origin, Chow Chows have been in China for thousands of years, and are extensively represented in the history and art of that ancient culture. Chow Chows were originally used for hunting, herding (probably herd guarding), pulling, and guardians of the people they lived with. Monasteries in Tibet were also known for breeding the "Heavenly Blue" Chow Chow. As late as the 1950's, travelers noted that these Blue Chows had pedigrees recorded by the monks as long as 15 centuries! Regardless of their actual origin, make no mistake, they are a working breed, although the modern chow mostly works at training their people!. They are know for their fierce loyalty as well as their aloof, oriental nature - they are willing to be your friend, but not your slave.

General Appearance

Chow Chows are an Arctic type dog that is powerful, sturdy and squarely built. Chows should be about as tall at the shoulder as they are long in body. The tail is set high and carried on the back. Viewed from the side, the hind legs appear to have little angulation and the hock appears "straight" under the hip joint. This gives the chow its unique stilted gait. The feet are round, compact and "cat-like".

The head has a broad, flat skull and short, broad and deep muzzle. The tongue is blue-black, and the blacker the mouth the better. The eyes are almond shaped and deeply set. This means that chows do not have good peripheral vision and are best approached from the front.

Color and Coat

Chow Chows come in five solid colors and two coat types. The colors are red, black, cream, blue, and cinnamon (sometimes called fawn). No color is considered "more valuable" or more desirable. Chow puppies are usually born with a black "mask" that fades as they mature.

The two coat varieties that are found in chows are rough and smooth. The rough coated chow chow has an outer coat texture that is rough and never soft or silky with a soft, thick, wooly undercoat. This provides the chow with extremely good "weather-proofing". Rough coated chows have a coat that forms a profuse ruff around the head and neck, framing the head. The smooth chow is also double-coated, with a hard, dense, smooth outer coat with a definite undercoat. There is no obvious ruff but feathering occurs on the legs and tail.


Red chows range from a deep, mahogany color to a very light red color, and the feathering on legs and tail can be any shade of red from the same color as the body to a very light color. Red chows always have black whiskers regardless of how light hued. Red chows are born with black masks that vary in size and intensity. Some of the various shades of red that appear in chows is illustrated below.
Range of red coloration found in rough and smooth coated chows.


Black chows also exhibit a range of variation within the color "black". Black can vary from a deep, raven black which sometimes has a purple hue in sunlight to a black color that appears to have a slightly brown or rusty hue in sunlight. Areas of the dog can become discolored  when the dogs spend much time in sunlight. The areas under their chins can also bleach out due to that area becoming constantly wet and can become quite reddish-hued as well. Blacks sometimes have lighter colored tails and feathering, which is referred to as "silvering". "Silvering" is not considered a color fault. Blacks both with and without silvering and of various hues are shown below.
Range of black coloration found in rough and smooth coated chows.

Cinnamon (US)/Fawn(Europe)

This color is called "cinnamon" in North America and "fawn" in Europe. This color is a dilute version of red and ranges from a silver-red to a sand color. Cinnamon chows appear to be browner in color with an obvious lack of red pigment in their coats. Cinnamon/fawn chows always have black whiskers. Cinnamon/fawn chows have black noses, but the nose pigment of some cinnamons, when examined very closely, is really a dark charcoal gray. Cinnamon chows also appear to have a "silvery" color to the short hair on their heads and legs. Cinnamon pups have masks. A red-cinnamon pup appears to have a blue mask and a bluish hue to their coats while blue-cinnamons can often appear to be blue in color when very young but change as they grow. Blue-cinnamon pups always have a pinkish color on the cheeks and back of the front paws. Some of the various shades of cinnamon/fawn are shown below.
Range of cinnamon or fawn coloration found in rough and smooth coated chows.


This color is actually gray, although it is referred to as "blue". The blue color ranges from a very light, silvery gray color to charcoal gray which is almost black. Blue chows are born without the black puppy mask. The blue color is a dilute form of black. Like cinnamons, blue chows have a silvery color to the muzzle and legs. And like black chows, blue chows can have "silvering" in the tail and feathering. Some of the ranges of blue coloring are illustrated below, both with and without "silvering".
Range of blue coloration found in rough and smooth coated chows.


Chows do not come in white. A dog which is called "white" will always have darker pigmentation around the ears. The cream color ranges from an almost white color to apricot. Cream chows always have white whiskers, and usually have a darker coloring on their ears. Cream chows usually have a non-black nose, which disqualifies them from the show ring in the U.S. The nose pigment of cream chows fades with age and the rate of fading is related to the presence/absence of pigment in the coat. By age 2, cream chows usually have brown noses with black pigment near the edges, which is referred to as a "Dudley" nose. At this time, any color of nose other than complete black is a disqualification in the US. Some of the various shades of cream that can be found in chows is shown below.
Range of cream coloration found in rough and smooth coated chows.


Chow Chows are highly intelligent dogs with a very independent spirit and innate dignity. Chows can be very stubborn when they think their human is being unreasonable. Chows tend to be aloof and don't seek out human company other than their owners. For this reason, chows need extensive socialization when they are puppies.

Chows seem to be born "gentlemen" and "ladies", and puppies seem to be born with inherent good manners. They are extremely "cat-like" in nature, and most chows are extremely fastidious in their personal habits. Many chow chows also tend to hate water activities and being wet although there are always exceptions who enjoy swimming and don't seem to mind wetness.

Because chows are very intelligent, they enjoy learning new activities but they don't like to "drill" - short, frequent episodes of instruction work better. And instruction methods that use positive reinforcement generally work better for intelligent dogs like chows.


Chows are fairly healthy, but a few problems exist in the breed. Hip and elbow dysplasia occur in the breed. Entropism occurs in this breed, especially in specimens with heavy, overdone heads. Stomach cancer is a serious disease that occurs and chow breeders are working with researchers to find  a way to detect the genetic mutation that causes this problem. Responsible breeders do health screening of their chows and work to eliminate these problems.