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.