Updated date:

The Origins Of The Chow Chow


Chow Chow or Chou Chou Dog Breed

It is reported that Chow Chow dogs are one of the oldest species that has inhabited the earth for nearly two to three millenniums. Historians suggest that Chow Chow dogs were ubiquitously present in China as early as the tenth or eleventh century. There are indications that this breed originated in China, as there are references to Chow Chow accompanying the Tartars when they attacked China.

It is common knowledge that most historical findings are beset with controversies.
There is a section of researchers who believe that Chow Chow surfaced for the first time in the Arctic Circle and then migrated to Mongolia, Siberia and eventually to China. Whatever the hiatorical background, we know that today this breed is recognized as native of Mongolia and Tibet. In ancient China, Chow Chow kept vigil over the household and diligently performed the role of a watchdog. Most house owners treated Chow Chow dogs as valuable assets and the story goes that Chinese Emperors nurtured a few hundred Chow Chows to escort them while hunting.

Chow Chow

Chow Chow

It is known from the various writings of Chinese authors that the Pekingese, Shih Tzus and Lhasas breeds were treated as the royal dogs, and the low profile yet tough Chow Chow was used exclusively while hunting. As a matter of fact, prior to the days the Chinese took to firearms for hunting, they primarily used Chow Chows in multiple ways as retrievers, pointers and sled dogs.

Interestingly, one can find the figures of Chow Chow dogs sculpted on ancient Chinese pottery and other sculptures belonging to the Hun dynasty –from 206 B.C. and till as late as 22 A.D. Despite all the laborious studies, the fact remains that the true origin of Chow Chow is still shrouded in mystery. Researchers are still confused as there are conflicting reports about the origin of Chow Chow dogs. While some sections of them believe the predecessor to Chow Chow is the ancient Mastiff-type dog that was crossed with Spitz types. Others maintain that the Chow Chow is but the forerunner of the modern Spitz, Akita and Shar-Pei.

Chow Chow Pups

Chow Chow Pups

Chow Chow

Chow Chow

Regardless of all different historical findings, this fierce and fanciful thickly coated dog was meticulously bred to become a working dog, capable of withstanding the biting Arctic cold of the Frigid Zone. Originally, the rustic Mongolian tribes maintained this breed as hunting and watch dogs, while also exploiting them for their meat and fur needs.

As regard the name of the breed, two different theories are floating around. One version is Chow or ‘Chou’ is Chinese slang for an edible product. This is authenticated by the fact that the Mongolians and Chinese ate this dog’s meat. Will Judy, author of The Chow Chow goes to the extent of saying the name Chow Chow means “edible dog of China.”

Buy The Chow Chow Guides

Many historians authoritatively assert that the Chinese and Koreans specially bred these dogs for meat consumption. They even argue that there were 25 restaurants in Canton serving Chow Chow meat on the menu. Though the Chow Chow had surfaced primarily in North China, a bulk of this breed was used in Canton, South China where it was nicknamed as the ‘black mouthed dog’. One fact is however clear - the Chow Chow was a very popular and much adored creature and history tells us that Genghis Khan had a kennel housing 5000 Chow Chows which he assiduously took to battle around 700 B. C.

There is also the interesting fact that Chow Chows were for long used as watch dogs in monasteries and also for herding and sled dogs. Their meat was also eaten in China as late as 1915, till the Chinese government brought legislation banning the trading of Chow Chow meat.

The one fortunate aspect was Chow Chow was saved from extinction as after the Cultural Revolution in China, these dogs were smuggled out of the country by sailors with the express intent of annihilating them. During the 13th century, Marco Polo had made references to the Chow Chow, adding credence to the belief that they were common in those days too. Over a period of time, the name Chow Chow lost its original meaning and came to mean food in everyday parlance – particularly in the English language. Some even use the word Chow to refer to the cargoes of spices and delectable mixed pickles from China.

There is the second theory to the meaning of the word Chow - though this theory is somewhat specious but still plausible. It is stated that Chow Chow, in the early 1800s, referred to clipper ships that sailed from China to England for transporting an assortment of cargo. When they reached a particular port, the sailors were obliged to describe the contents of their cargo. Since they carried an assortment of goods, the term Chow Chow was coined on the spur of the moment, to indicate ‘all and sundry’.

Coming back to the question of the origin of Chow Chow species, the first of this kind surfaced in England in the late 19th century and suddenly grew popularity when Queen Elizabeth took a special liking for this breed. After subsequently reaching the United States in early 1900, the Chow Chow found immediate acceptance into the American Kennel Club in 1903 and labeled as a member of the non-sporting group.

However, it may now be concluded that the majestic breed of Chow Chow that we see around us today, is because of the Royal treatment it received in England as well as the United States. The Chow Chow has come a long way from being used as a tough working dog in China and Mongolia. The status of Chow Chow has today has vastly changed and is today a much sought-after American dog.


Prince of Delray on November 16, 2015:

From: Jaime 4 years ago

"ALL dogs are descendents of wolves."

While it may be all dogs descended from a variation of wolves, or a wolf/bear, DNA now proves the modern gray wolf has absolutely nothing to do with modern dogs. Dogs descended from a wolf that has been extinct for over 10,000 years. Read up!

emily on March 11, 2013:

i had 6 chows the best dog around never a smell kept them so so clean love their smell never a dog smell and i would do it over and over again the best dog ever they have lived for 10 to 16 years breed them kept the babies now all in mausoleums resting at peace

Pauline. on March 26, 2012:

I have a Chow love her dearly but if you are not a marathon runner do not get one as they take their head if they get out and will not come back . Just run and run,

You 4 cars 7 people to round them up . All will take about 2 hours to get them back, I believe they are a cross between a bear and dog. Pauline

sharnnaaa on January 29, 2012:

i am surprised that the dog can see out of his eyes but looks so gorgeous :)

mwparker on November 30, 2011:

I owned a red Chow from a puppy. She lived 19 years and had 3 litters of puppies. Never once had a medical problem. Was absolutely a kitten around me as a child and my younger sister who was about 4. She would give her life rather than let an intruder enter our fenced yard. When we allowed a stranger into the house, she never lost sight of the person and constantly walked pass the guest looking and smelling. My dog got out of the yard once and killed 2 neighborhood dogs within 5 minutes of each other. I"ve owned Neo/cane corso mastiffs and a pit bull since. The chow is every bit a watchdog as any dog i've ever owned. A great breed and noble breed. If i had a daughter i would suggest this breed as a companion/watch dog when in the car or at home - nobody will come close to her

Dawn Ross on September 16, 2011:

Very informative historical information. You have obviously done some extensive research.

Where I used to live in Texas, the Chow Chow was very popular. He is a great family dog but doesn't care for strangers and so makes a good guard dog too.

My dog Sephi is probably half Chow Chow. I got her in Texas years ago. She is a bit standofish like the Chow Chow but I love her very much.

Conan on September 07, 2011:

Chows are canines - descended from wolves and are not genetically related to bears .

RJFoot on July 26, 2011:

I've had four Chows over the last 30 years. I read a book written in the early 70's that stated the same theory as the previous post. She had some good arguments for her hypothesis. She believed that the Chow Chow and the Black Bear of Nepal shared a common ancestry. There are only three mammals in the world that have blue tongues and the other two are bears. One is the Black Bear of Nepal. The other is a Polar Bear. She also had a great deal of tenets to her argument that my memory misplaced. I do remember after reading it I believed her theory and judging from their behavior I was made a true believer. Anyone that has owned chows for any time is aware they are different from any other breed.

To the women that posted her chow is afraid of everything, if it's not fully-grown, that will change. My first chow was afraid of firecracker type noises. I've never seen a Chow Chow be afraid of any thing living.

Prince of Delray from Delray Beach, Florida on May 13, 2011:

Chow Chow's are the only member of the canine family born with 44 teeth (as are bears, pigs, horses, and even the Star Nosed Mole). Dentition separates the ancient breed from wolves, and Chow Chow's most likely evolved through natural selection and natural hydridization of ursine (perhaps with lupine) creatures.

In the genealogical tree of carnivores, the last to separate were the canines and the ursines. During the miocene period, about 8 - 12 million years ago, there appeared a late descendant, the Hemicyon, which was an intermediate between dog and bear, moderate in size and in many respects very dog-like.

It's direct descendant, the Simicyon, and animal which varied in size, from a fox to a small bear. These animals inhabited the sub-artic regions and an advancing Ice Age drove them southwards towards Siberia and Northern Mongolia, Apart from the chows obvious bear-like features, it is interesting to note at the characteristic blue-black tongue. The broad skull; short muzzle and square body.

These are ursine rather that lupine features. Final and conclusive proof is provided by the animals dentition. Whereas the normal dog-group has 42 teeth, the Hemicyons and Simicyons have 44 to 46 teeth, The chow also has 44 teeth. Although they usually lose the extra two in their adult dentition. The chow, or ancestor very like it was probably established on the high, cold steppes of Mongolia many many years before the evolution of ape-man into homo sapiens.

Dee on March 26, 2011:

I have had several Chows.Some from puppies, some adopted as young adults and adopted as adults.Before getting one research, research, research. They are very dominate and can be very aggressive. You must have a strong personality and show you are Alpha. If you do want any law suits,this breed must be socialized. I feel this breed is not good for young children. They do not tolerate be taunted. I love my all my dogs and this breed and have spent 22 years around them.

Jaime on March 09, 2011:

ALL dogs are descendents of wolves.

Leonard Primack on December 06, 2010:

Please settle a dispute. Are chow dogs descended from wolves? Thank you

jesse on November 09, 2010:

own two chows live in frigid area and would eat my dogs if i had too. i also hunt and eat cougars and my five cats love it as well as my chows but one chow wont eat black bear but all cats do. mmmmmmm

valeriebelew from Metro Atlanta, GA, USA on April 13, 2010:

Good dogs. I am a serious dog lover, and enjoyed this hub.

SPR on March 04, 2010:


There are few false informations here, that they use it for meat... Totally FALSE, Mongolian people have tons of sheep for farming, they have been eating only sheep,cow meat.

I agree with MALCOLM 100%

Chinese and Koreans eat dog meat, also birds and insects etc... Chinese people also eat babies... go earch for it, you will find some information

twist on February 23, 2010:

i love chows i have one that is mixed with a rock

ChowChow on June 29, 2009:

i hv a chows named dong dong.. he is so cute !!

dog owner on April 08, 2009:

My chow is cute but is also very stubborn and scared of almost evrything. Keep that in mind if you are planning to get one.

lungi on February 18, 2009:

im really inlove with a Chow Chow... beautiful creature, wish i had one of my own..im planning on getting one for myself... they're so adorable

INOSH on September 23, 2008:

In Mongolia as well as Northern China, where the breed can be traced back to, they do NOT - nor have they ever - called the breed Chow Chow. That is the Western name for the breed. They call the breed Songshi Quan, which translates literally to "Puffy-Lion-Dog".

Another Possible origin for the name, besides from the Chinese word "chou" meaning "edible", is the Chinese word "Kou" meaning "dog"

Other names for the breed: Hei She-t'ou (black tongued), Lang Kou (wolf dog), Hsiung Kou (bear dog), or Kwantung Kou (dog of Canton).

Malcolm on August 23, 2008:

Hey nice article, but you have one thing way off! Mongolian do not, did not, EVER EAT DOGS Wow that is the most off base thing to say. Koreans and Chinese eat dogs "fierce Mongolian tribes" never ate their loyal companions, if you search online for Mongolian Mastiff you would find Mongolian dogs are very much respected to the same extent as horses, often treated almost human.

Mongolians believe dogs will be reincarnated as humans.PLEASE DO NOT SPREAD FALSE INFORMATION! Do a lot more research before speaking for a nation.

michael smith on January 13, 2008:

i am looking for a chow chow for my daughter.......any color will do...preferrably a puppy

hubber from San Mateo on July 17, 2007:

I just love Chow Chow's. Such a beautiful creature. Very nice hub SunSeven :)

Related Articles