We want to know everything about dogs. Everything! But there are countless breeds of dog out there, and each one is a unique animal with its own history. That's why every week, we shine a spotlight on a different breed. This week, learn some fun facts about Chow Chows.
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THE CHOW CHOW BREED IS THOUSANDS OF YEARS OLD
The Chow Chow is an ancient breed whose roots go back some 4,000 years, too far back for its early history to be understood clearly. We do know that the breed comes from China and probably descended from the equally lionlike Tibetan Mastiff. A spitz breed, the Chow Chow is probably ancestor to more modern spitzes like Keeshonds and Pomeranians.
CHOW CHOWS WERE INTRODUCED TO ENGLAND IN THE LATE 19TH CENTURY
Despite having been around for thousands of years, the Chow Chow’s introduction to the West is relatively recent. The breed first made its way to England in 1880, when it was called the “Wild Dog of China” and put on display in the London Zoo. The breed hopped over to our side of the pond 10 years later, and the American Kennel Club recognized Chow Chows in 1903.
IN CHINA, THE CHOW CHOW IS CALLED "SONGSHI QUAN"
The Chow Chow is a Chinese breed, and although “Chow Chow” may sound like a Chinese name, it isn’t. Rather, it used to be a common English colloquialism used to refer to knick-knacks and novelties imported from Asia. In China, the Chow Chow’s name is Songshi Quan. Roughly translated, the name means “puffy lion dog.”
THE CHOW CHOW’S POPULARITY PEAKED IN THE U.S. DURING THE 1980s
Chow Chows enjoyed a Reagan-era uptick in popularity among Americans. In the '80s, the breed was the sixth most popular in the U.S. In 2014, they’ve dipped all the way down to 70th in popularity. Perhaps this is due to the Chow Chow’s well-founded reputation for being extremely stubborn and hard to train. They can be difficult dogs for inexperienced owners.
CHOW CHOWS HAVE DARK, BLUE-BLACK TONGUES
One of this breed’s most distinctive features is its uniquely colored tongue, which is a curious shade of blue-purple-black. The color is so distinctive, in fact, that a more normal, pink tongue in a Chow Chow is enough to demonstrate that it isn’t purebred. That is, unless the dog is very young. Newborn Chow Chows have pink tongues that change color within a few months.
CHOW CHOWS REQUIRE DEDICATED GROOMING
It should come as no surprise that the soft, fluffy coat that makes a Chow Chow so attractive demands some intense upkeep. Bathing at least once a month is a must, as well as weekly brushing to keep the Chow Chow’s significant shedding at bay. Chow Chows also need regular clipping, not just to look good, but to keep hair out of the eyes where it can impair vision.
CHOW CHOWS AREN’T GREAT SWIMMERS
We tend to think of dogs as good swimmers, but not all breeds are built alike in that respect. Chow Chows do not do very well in the water, and once again, it’s all that thick fur that’s to blame. The breed enjoys two coats, including a very wooly undercoat that’s great for keeping the dogs warm in cold weather, but that coat becomes waterlogged and quite heavy when wet.
SIGMUND FREUD OWNED A CHOW CHOW THAT HE USED IN THERAPY SESSIONS
Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, owned a beloved Chow Chow named Jofi. Freud was not above letting Jofi sit in on his therapy sessions, and indeed, he considered Jofi’s presence to be an important part of the psychoanalytic process. He believed dogs were good judges of human character and could gauge a patient’s mental state.
MARTHA STEWART IS A CHOW CHOW FAN
Among contemporary Chow Chow fans, Martha Stewart may be foremost. Because she is Martha Stewart, she seems to do everything at a high level, including dog ownership. Her Chows aren’t just regular dogs; they’re champion show dogs. One of her Chow Chows, Genghis Khan II, won Best in Breed at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 2012.
Next: Cool Facts About Fox Terriers!
A SCENE FROM “LADY AND THE TRAMP” WAS INSPIRED BY A CHOW CHOW
From Pluto to Dug from "Up," there have been lots of dogs in the wonderful world of Walt Disney. Early on in his marriage, Disney gave a Chow Chow puppy as a Christmas present to his wife, Lillian. He presented the puppy to her disguised in a hatbox. The idea later made its way into “Lady and the Tramp,” when Jim Dear gives a Cocker Spaniel named Lady to his wife, Darling, in a hatbox.