The Chow Chow, also known as the Black-Tongue, the Black-Mouthed dog, Lang Kou (wolf dog), Hsiung Kou (bear dog), Hei She-t'ou (black-tongued) or Kwantung Kou (dog of Canton), or simply the Chow, is believed to be one of the oldest recognizable canine breeds. A lordly and aloof dog, it has become fashionable as both a guard dog and as a companion. The Chow was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1903. The Chow Chow Club of America was admitted as an AKC member club in 1906.
The average Chow Chow stands from 17 to 20 inches at the withers and weighs between 45 and 70 pounds. Their coat can be either rough or smooth, both being double-coated and judged by the same standard without preference. Chows requires regular grooming to keep their exceptionally thick coat clean and healthy. The breed standard states that "essential to true Chow type are his unique blue-black tongue, scowling expression and stilted gait." The breed has been described as having the mane of a lion, the tongue of a bear, the fur coat of a dowager and the stiff gait of a ceremonial guardsman.
The Chow Chow is thought to be well over 2000 years old. The breed theoretically originated from a cross of the old Tibetan Mastiff and the Samoyed in the northern parts of Siberia, and it resembles both of those breeds. However, others note the unique blue-black tongue and speculate that this is one of the "basic" canine breeds, ancestors of the Samoyed, Norwegian Elkhound, Keeshond and Pomeranian, which are of similar type. Regardless of ancestry, the Chow Chow was for centuries a sporting dog in China much favored by emperors and wealthy sportsmen. Chows have been used as both scenting dogs and pointers, with great speed and stamina that is particularly useful in hunting birds. They also historically were used for herding, pulling and protection. In early China, the Chow was an important source of food and fur for what is described as a protein-starved culture. They were considered a dietary delicacy, and their skin was used for clothing.
Chows reportedly were first imported into England in about 1780, when a member of the East India Company brought a pair back from China as "curiosities." In 1828, the breed developed popularity when the London Zoo recorded the arrival of some "Wild Dogs of China," called the "Black-Mouthed Chinese Dogs." The status of the Chow grew due to the interest of Queen Victoria, who fancied them as pets. The first English breed club was founded in 1895, and the Chow was first exhibited in the United States in 1890, taking a third place in the Miscellaneous class at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. The American Kennel Club officially recognized the Chow Chow breed in 1903. The Chow Chow Club of America was admitted as the AKC parent club in 1906. While primarily a companion dog today, the working origin of this breed must be considered at all time.
Chow Chows have a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years. Breed health concerns may include hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation, thyroid disease and ocular disorders such as entropion and ectropion.
The Chow Chow is an imposing character thanks to his bellowing bark and scowling expression. They originated in China and were used to hunt everything from pheasant to wolves, were commissioned to guard boats and pull carts of cargo. Today the Chow still makes an excellent guard dog, and when treated with love and respect, is himself a loving and respectful companion who tends to attach deeply to one or two members of his family. Chows are an aggressive breed, fiercely protective of their people and property and should only be adopted by experienced dog owners who have the time and energy to devote to proper training and socialization.
Chows are large, but only need moderate exercise to maintain health. They are most active in the winter months, and their thick coats can make them irritable in the summer. Several walks a day with an occasional run in the yard or park will meet their daily activity requirement. They can be equally happy in the suburbs or the city, and also thrive on farms where they have herds or flocks to watch over and protect. Chows should never be left off-leash or in an unfenced yard, as they can be aggressive toward strangers and other animals.
Training a Chow takes an experienced leader and is not for the first-time dog owner. Chows are dominant dogs, and will require a trainer prove their leadership before taking direction. They do not like to be told what to do, and forcing a Chow with a strong hand can lead to avoidance behaviors or even retaliation by the dog. Positive reinforcement, lots of dog treats and 100% consistency are the keys to training this breed. If they see an opportunity to manipulate a situation, Chows will take it and run with it.
Despite obedience training challenges, Chows are exceptionally easy to house train, and many Chow owners report that even as puppies, their dogs have never had an accident in the home.
Aggression is the biggest issue with Chows, though it is a problem that can be avoided. Chows are naturally aggressive toward dogs of the same sex, and their hunting instincts can take over if presented with a small dog or a cat. Chows should be kept in a single-dog family, or raised alongside a second dog of the opposite sex and similar size.
Chows should not be raised around small children and older children should be taught proper manners when living with a Chow. They are impatient dogs, and don't like to be teased or treated harshly, as they will retaliate. When treated with love and respect, however, a Chow will be equally loving and respectful in return.
Chow Chows need to be socialized very early and very often to allow guests into the home. They are naturally protective, and if that instinct is left unchecked can lead to aggressive behavior in adulthood.
Homeowners should check their insurance policies before adopting a Chow Chow, as the breed is often not covered.
General Appearance – Characteristics – An ancient breed of northern Chinese origin, this all-purpose dog of China was used for hunting, herding, pulling and protection of the home. While primarily a companion today, his working origin must always be remembered when assessing true Chow type. A powerful, sturdy, squarely built, upstanding dog of Arctic type, medium in size with strong muscular development and heavy bone. The body is compact, short coupled, broad and deep, the tail set high and carried closely to the back, the whole supported by four straight, strong, sound legs. Viewed from the side, the hind legs have little apparent angulation and the hock joint and metatarsals are directly beneath the hip joint. It is this structure which produces the characteristic shorter, stilted gait unique to the breed. The large head with broad, flat skull and short, broad and deep muzzle is proudly carried and accentuated by a ruff. Elegance and substance must be combined into a well balanced whole, never so massive as to outweigh his ability to be active, alert and agile. Clothed in a smooth or an offstanding rough double coat, the Chow is a masterpiece of beauty, dignity and naturalness. Essential to true Chow type are his unique blue-black tongue, scowling expression and stilted gait.
Size, Proportions, Substance
Size--The average height of adult specimens is 17 to 20 inches at the withers but in every case consideration of overall proportions and type should take precedence over size. Proportions-- Square in profile and close coupled. Distance from forechest to point of buttocks equals height at the highest points of the withers. Serious Fault Profile other than square. Distance from tip of elbow to ground is half the height at the withers. Floor of chest level with tips of elbows. Width viewed from the front and rear is the same and must be broad. It is these proportions that are essential to true Chow type. In judging puppies, no allowance should be made for their failure to conform to these proportions. Substance--Medium in size with strong muscular development and heavy bone. Equally objectionable are snipy, fine boned specimens and overdone, ponderous, cloddy specimens. In comparing specimens of different sex, due allowance must be made in favor of the bitches who may not have as much head or substance as do the males. There is an impression of femininity in bitches as compared to an impression of masculinity in dogs.
Proudly carried, large in proportion to the size of the dog but never so exaggerated as to make the dog seem top-heavy or to result in a low carriage. Expression essentially scowling, dignified, lordly, discerning, sober and snobbish, one of independence. The scowl is achieved by a marked brow with a padded button of skin just above the inner, upper corner of each eye; by sufficient play of skin to form frowning brows and a distinct furrow between the eyes beginning at the base of the muzzle and extending up the forehead; by the correct eye shape and placement and by the correct ear shape, carriage and placement. Excessive loose skin is not desirable. Wrinkles on the muzzle do not contribute to expression and are not required. Eyes dark brown, deep set and placed wide apart and obliquely, of moderate size, almond in shape. The correct placement and shape should create an Oriental appearance. The eye rims black with lids which neither turn in nor droop and the pupils of the eyes clearly visible. Serious Faults Entropion or ectropion, or pupils wholly or partially obscured by loose skin. Ears small, moderately thick, triangular in shape with a slight rounding at the tip, carried stiffly erect but with a slight forward tilt. Placed wide apart with the inner corner on top of the skull. An ear which flops as the dog moves is very undesirable. Disqualifying Fault – Drop ear or ears. A drop ear is one which breaks at any point from its base to its tip or which is not carried stiffly erect but lies parallel to the top of the skull. Skull The top skull is broad and flat from side to side and front to back. Coat and loose skin cannot substitute for the correct bone structure. Viewed in profile, the toplines of the muzzle and skull are approximately parallel, joined by a moderate stop. The padding of the brows may make the stop appear steeper than it is. The muzzle is short in comparison to the length of the top skull but never less than one-third of the head length. The muzzle is broad and well filled out under the eyes, its width and depth are equal and both dimensions should appear to be the same from its base to its tip. This square appearance is achieved by correct bone structure plus padding of the muzzle and full cushioned lips. The muzzle should never be so padded or cushioned as to make it appear other than square in shape. The upper lips completely cover the lower lips when the mouth is closed but should not be pendulous. Nose large, broad and black in color with well opened nostrils. Disqualifying Fault – Nose spotted or distinctly other color than black, except in blue Chows which may have solid blue or slate noses. Mouth and Tongue – Edges of the lips black, tissues of the mouth mostly black, gums preferably black. A solid black mouth is ideal. The top surface and edges of the tongue a solid blue-black, the darker the better. Disqualifying Fault – The top surface or edges of the tongue red or pink or with one or more spots of red or pink. Teeth strong and even with a scissors bite.
Neck, Topline, Body
Neck strong, full, well muscled, nicely arched and of sufficient length to carry the head proudly above the topline when standing at attention. Topline straight, strong and level from the withers to the root of the tail. Body short, compact, close coupled, strongly muscled, broad, deep and well let down in the flank. The body, back, coupling and croup must all be short to give the required square build. Chest broad, deep and muscular, never narrow or slab-sided. The ribs close together and well sprung, not barrel. The spring of the front ribs is somewhat narrowed at their lower ends to permit the shoulder and upper arm to fit smoothly against the chest wall. The floor of the chest is broad and deep extending down to the tips of the elbows. The point of sternum slightly in front of the shoulder points. Serious Faults Labored or abdominal breathing (not to include normal panting), narrow or slab-sided chest. Loin well muscled, strong, short, broad and deep. Croup short and broad with powerful rump and thigh muscles giving a level croup. Tail set high and carried closely to the back at all times, following the line of the spine at the start.
Shoulders strong, well muscled, the tips of the shoulder blades moderately close together; the spine of the shoulder forms an angle approximately 55 degrees with the horizontal and forms an angle with the upper arm approximately 110 degrees. Length of upper arm never less than length of shoulder blade. Elbow joints set well back alongside the chest wall, elbows turning neither in nor out. Forelegs perfectly straight from elbow to foot with heavy bone which must be in proportion to the rest of the dog. Viewed from the front, the forelegs are parallel and widely spaced commensurate with the broad chest. Pasterns short and upright. Wrists shall not knuckle over. The dewclaws may be removed. Feet round, compact, catlike, standing well upon the thick toe pads.
The rear assembly broad, powerful, and well muscled in the hips and thighs, heavy in bone with rear and front bone approximately equal. Viewed from the rear, the legs are straight, parallel and widely spaced commensurate with the broad pelvis. Stifle Joint shows little angulation, is well knit and stable, points straight forward and the bones of the joint should be clean and sharp. Hock Joint well let down and appears almost straight. The hock joint must be strong, well knit and firm, never bowing or breaking forward or to either side. The hock joint and metatarsals lie in a straight line below the hip joint. Serious Faults Unsound stifle or hock joints. Metatarsals short and perpendicular to the ground. The dewclaws may be removed. Feet same as front.
There are two types of coat; rough and smooth. Both are double coated. Rough In the rough coat, the outer coat is abundant, dense, straight and offstanding, rather coarse in texture; the undercoat soft, thick and wooly. Puppy coat soft, thick and wooly overall. The coat forms a profuse ruff around the head and neck, framing the head. The coat and ruff generally longer in dogs than in bitches. Tail well feathered. The coat length varies markedly on different Chows and thickness, texture and condition should be given greater emphasis than length. Obvious trimming or shaping is undesirable. Trimming of the whiskers, feet and metatarsals optional. Smooth The smooth coated Chow is judged by the same standard as the rough coated Chow except that references to the quantity and distribution of the outer coat are not applicable to the smooth coated Chow, which has a hard, dense, smooth outer coat with a definite undercoat. There should be no obvious ruff or feathering on the legs or tail.
Clear colored, solid or solid with lighter shadings in the ruff, tail and featherings. There are five colors in the Chow: red (light golden to deep mahogany), black, blue, cinnamon (light fawn to deep cinnamon) and cream. Acceptable colors to be judged on an equal basis.
Proper movement is the crucial test of proper conformation and soundness. It must be sound, straight moving, agile, brief, quick, and powerful, never lumbering. The rear gait shorter and stilted because of the straighter rear assembly. It is from the side that the unique stilted action is most easily assessed. The rear leg moves up and forward from the hip in a straight, stilted pendulum-like line with a slight bounce in the rump, the legs extend neither far forward nor far backward. The hind foot has a strong thrust which transfers power to the body in an almost straight line due to the minimal rear leg angulation. To transmit this power efficiently to the front assembly, the coupling must be short and there should be no roll through the midsection. Viewed from the rear, the line of bone from hip joint to pad remains straight as the dog moves. As the speed increases the hind legs incline slightly inward. The stifle joints must point in the line of travel, not outward resulting in a bowlegged appearance nor hitching in under the dog. Viewed from the front, the line of bone from shoulder joint to pad remains straight as the dog moves. As the speed increases, the forelegs do not move in exact parallel planes, rather, incline slightly inward. The front legs must not swing out in semicircles nor mince or show any evidence of hackney action. The front and rear assemblies must be in dynamic equilibrium. Somewhat lacking in speed, the Chow has excellent endurance because the sound, straight rear leg provides direct, usable power efficiently.
Keen intelligence, an independent spirit and innate dignity give the Chow an aura of aloofness. It is a Chow's nature to be reserved and discerning with strangers. Displays of aggression or timidity are unacceptable. Because of its deep set eyes the Chow has limited peripheral vision and is best approached from the front.
Faults shall be penalized in proportion to their deviation from the standard. In judging the Chow, the overall picture is of primary consideration. Exaggeration of any characteristic at the expense of balance or soundness shall be severely penalized.
Type should include general appearance, temperament, the harmony of all parts, and soundness especially as seen when the dog is in motion. There should be proper emphasis on movement which is the final test of the Chow's conformation, balance and soundness.
Drop ear or ears. A drop ear is one which breaks at any point from its base to its tip or which is not carried stiffly erect but lies parallel to the top of the skull.
Nose spotted or distinctly other color than black, except in blue Chows which may have solid blue or slate noses.
The top surface or edges of the tongue red or pink or with one or more spots of red or pink.
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Sources: American Kennel Club