Interesting reading Information to share

Sent at: Sun Dec 14, 2008 10:58 pm
From: jonathanfsu1
To: carolyn dewrance 


In a remote, mysterious period of evolution appeared the animal we now call a chow chow. Without any doubt it is one of our most ancient breeds of dog. Historians have found chronicles dating as far back as the 11th century BC which describe the "Tarter Dog" or "Foreign Chow" clearly showing that the unique characteristics were then present.

The dogs are described as "heavily built with harsh, bristly hair, absolutely straight back legs and blue tongues. Evolution and subsequently domestication had obviously taken place before that time. In the genealogical tree of carnivores, the last to separate were the canines and the ursines. During the miocene period, abut 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 Simicyoon, 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.


China was frequently invaded by the barbaric tribes on its Northern borders. These tribes, the Tartars and Mongols, were accompanied by their "war dogs". At this time the word "Mastiff" as used then, indicated a dog of size, strength and hunting ability and was used indiscriminately by writers and translators irrespective of the breed of dog. The Tarter war dogs were described as of "lion-like" appearance, large, powerful and distinguished black tongues. Records show that the Emperor Wu Wang (1112-1116 BC) received a tribute from the enemy of great number of their dogs described as "of great strength" with plenty of hair and mostly red in color. In spite of the destruction of Chinese literature ordered by the Emperor China Shih in 255 BC, numerous references still remain which refer to dogs brought into China by the various barbaric tribes living on the Northern borders and which are either named as the "Foreign Chow" or whose description fits the Chow so accurately. There is the persistent link of the blue - black tongue and unique stiff back legs; also the black gums and lips and mentioned of the lips not overlapping; which give the chow its typical aloof look.

The Tarter "war dog" or "Foreign Chow" was founded by the Chinese to be "worthy of the use of man" and was highly valued for hunting; herding and guarding. Emperors and noblemen kept the chow in luxurious accommodation. The Emperor Ling Ti bred chows as members of the Imperial Household which were fed on the best rice and meat by an army of servants, had a military escort, slept on rich carpets and were awarded high courtly titles and decorations such as the Order of Kai Fu (Viceroy).

These chows had the double purpose of guarding the palace and looking handsome and dignified. Emperors of the Tang dynasty had hunting kennels of 25,000 couple of "hounds" of true chow type. In the Book of Rites (7th century EC) the "Foreign Chow" was classified as a hunting dog used to attack wolves and leopards. As a hunter the chow had remarkable powers of scent, clever tactics on the line and great strength/speed. This strength is evident in use of the harness shown on the ceramic figurines from tombs of the Han Period (206 BC- 20 AD) where the dog is on a leash attached to a curious kind of body-strap connected by a strap in the front and bound into an iron ring over the back to which the leash is attached and by their very stoutness indicated that the dogs were extremely powerful.

These models were buried with their dead masters to ward off the "evil influences of obnoxious spirits". In the province of Yunnan the dogs fed to hunt the musk deer were described as "Chow Dogs" of larger size and weight, very active and "sure-footed". During this period there are many references in early Chinese chronicles which are easily recognizable as the chow. Square dogs that look fierce, lions who they resemble, much neck, being well covered with hair, face, color, and nails falling upon boars.

They seldom do bark except in their hunting chase and then they flow their game through woods, thickets, thorns and most difficult areas. Strange animals and very different from many other breed being suspicious natured and hostile to strangers but exceedingly courageous. They are also in existence a painting of a Chinese Imperial household of about 2,000 years ago which clearly shows a Chow lying under a table. This chow has a perfectly groomed red coat and has the same scowling expression as the chows of today. SOCIALIZING TIPS

So far references to the chow have shown its color as red or black. But in the isolated rocky mountains of Northern China, Manchuria and Mongolia, the monks in the Lamaistic Buddhist monasteries were breeding blue chows. The early Chinese were skilled in the genetics of color breeding and it must have taken them a considerable time to stabilize this dilution of black to the constant perfection of pale blue which they attained. These blue chows were used to guard and protect the monastery, herd cattle and as hunting dogs and they were jealously guarded by the monks. The Chow in his restraining harness resembled greatly the sacred lion, the defender of the faithful with the harness which signified servitude to Buddha. These blue dogs were distinguished not only by their color but are so recorded as being larger in size and with better gone than those outside the monasteries.

With the ending of the Tang dynasty came an increasing national poverty and except within the monasteries, selective breeding ceased. The Imperial huts were no more. The original pure-bred Chow remained only within the households of the wealthy merchants and noblemen and the monasteries. The thrifty commercially minded Chinese established dog-farms. The chow was found to be useful not only for herding, hunting, sledding, and guarding but they also had a useful fur pelt. Strictly society rules demanded that over a tunic trimmed with dog or sheep skin - it was forbidden to wear a second tunic for this is done to show off the beauty of the costume. In Manchuria when a peasant girl married she received a dowry of a team of six chows as a foundation for her farm.

The flesh of the chow was a desirable substitute for mutton and the provinces of Kwantung and Kwan-si specialized in breeding for table use. In Canton the dogs were fed on a special rice diet to improve the flavor. Black dogs were said to be especially nutritious. Tender puppies killed at nine months were reserved for the wealthy while the poorer classes ate the adult dogs. Chow's tongues was a delicacy thought to have healing properties. Dog was eaten in the Autumn with oleaginous grain and was especially mentioned to be eaten at the Chinese Feast of Achee. In 1928 AD a law was passed in the province of Peking forbidding the eating of dog flesh. In spite of this, some of the older Chinese are said still to know where to purchase this and it is sold under the name of "fragrant meat". To this day dog is still eaten in South Korea where it is customarily served as medallions of meat on a bed of onions. Could this be why the chow retains his characteristic scowl as though he has preserved a grievance against life?


The first European person to mention and describe the Chow was Marco Polo, who visited china as a guest of the Great Mogul in the 13th century and who wrote about them in his account of his travels. But the Chow was unknown in the Western world until the late 15th century when it was brought back as a curiosity by sailors and merchants in the clipper shits of the East India Company. Writing in his book "The Natural History and Antiquities of Seaborne, the Rev Gilbert White describes in accurate detail the import of a pair of puppies from Canton by a young gentlemen of the East India Company - These were of the Chinese breed of Canton such as are fattened in this country to be eaten. He goes on to say the hind legs are usually straight without any bend at the hock.

The eyes are jet black, small and piercing, the inside of the lip, mouth and tongue are blue/black. Clearly these were definitely Chows, probably amongst the first in England as this was the early 1780's.

During the early 19th century a few Chows were brought in as curiosities. There is reference to an Oriental dog with thick red coat and blue/black tongues coming from China, several Chows were housed in London Zoo in the Wild Dog are and in 1865 Queen Victoria was presented with some chows which kept in cages at Windsor.

But an interested in Chows for breeding and exhibition must have begun in 1879 when a black chow bitch named Chinese Puzzle came to England. The following year she was exhibited at the Crystal Palace dog show by her owner Mr. W K Tauton. It is interesting to note, in the light of our present breed standard, that she measured 16 inches (40.6 cm) at shoulder and weighed 32 lb (14.5 kg). In 1884 the Earl of Lonsdale imported a Chow and three years later he gave the Marchioness of Huntley a dog named Peridot - She then bred a Chow named Peridot II which was a foundation for Lady Granville Gordon's Kennel. Lady Granville Gordon was instrumental in getting the "Kennel Club" to recognize the breed as a Chow Chow rather than as a "Foreign Dog" She also owned the first blue Chows in England. Her daughter, Lady Faudel-Phillips, later founded the famous Amwell kennels and became the leading breeder and exhibitor until about 1898. In 1890 the first Chow was exhibited in America. This was "Takya" owned by Miss A C Derby.

One of the most important years in the history for the Chow must surely be 1895. Four important events occurred, Champion Chow VIII became the first ever Chow Champion, Peridot II was awarded Best in Show at the LKA Championship Show, the Chow Chow Club was formed and the breed standard was formulated based on Ch Chow VII.

Since then the breeding and exhibition of Chows has gone on apace. Mrs. Jarrett of Philadelphia founded the first American Chow Kennel and got recognition for the breed from the "American Kennel Club". Chinese Chum was exported to Mrs. Proctor of America where he became an American Champion and sired many American Champions including AM Ch Black Cloud and AM Ch Night of Asia, which were the foundation for her "Blue Dragon Kennels".

In 1906 the American Chow Club was founded. This was followed in 1924 by the foundation of the French Chow Chow Club by Mme Mareschal (revived after the last war by Mme Yvonne Diot). Also in 1974 we have the first entry of a Chow in German Stud Book.

Gradually the Chow's lovable Character became more widely known and from the 1920's the popularity of the breed steadily increased and is still increasing to this day. Quite a number of well known, not to say famous people have owned chows. In our own Royal Family other as well as Queen Victoria have had Chows as pets. Queen Alexandra in her own words "mad about animals" was presented with a Chow by the King's Equerry, Sir Henry Knollys, which has been brought some 12,000 miles to Sandringham by a Captain in the Indian Army. The late Duke of Kent owned a Chow and our present Queen Elizebeth II has fond childhood memories of her relatives shows. Statesmen too lived in the Whitehouse at the time of President Calvin Coolidge. The Sigmund Freud, Dr. Konrad Lorenz, The Rothschild's and the celebrated orchestral conductor Herbert Von Karajan have all owed Chows in their time. There is a lovely description of a Chow "Pooh-Baht in The Bird in the Tree by Elizabeth Goudge who did not own a Chow but obviously must have been fascinated by the Chow Character as she describes it so accurately.


It is not surprising that the three of the legends I have found refer to the Chow's almost unique color of the mouth and tongue. The only other canine breed which shares this peculiarit is the Chinese Shar Pei which comes from the same area and probably from similar origins. The blackness of the mouth was said to ward off evil spirits and so enhanced the Chow's reputation as a guard dog of both palaces and monasteries. Then there are two fanciful explanations of how the Chow came to have this strange color tongue. Many hundreds of years ago, when dog eaters were running wild all over the country there was a lone monk living deep in the hills who took in stray dogs for company. He was very kind to all animals and they in turn were very grateful for his kindness. One day the monk fell very ill and was unable to go pick up firewood to make dinner, so all the dogs and animals banded together to do the chore. It is happened that some trees in the nearby forest were thunderstruck and left a pile of charcoal. The Chow Chow rummaged along the forest floor and picked up some of these charcoal pieces. The monkey made meals thereafter until the monk was well again. But the tongue of the Chow was stained black ever since the day he picked up the charcoal firewood and in turn was given the black tongue for his good deeds and the monk blessed him generously with protection.

When the world was being created the Chow dog was allowed to lick up all the little pieces of blue sky which fell on the earth when the stars were set in their places. "The Chow said Li Fu, and that's how he got his blue tongue".

The last story comes not from China but from its near neighbor Japan. Long, long ago in old Japan a samurai was traveling through a strange province. He was crossing a rugged mountainous area when darkness fell. It would have been unwise to spend the night in the open for fear of lions or wolves, so just then as the sun was setting, he hurried into the only building he could find, a tumbledown ruined temple. It did not give much protection but he climbed up a ruined buttress, spread out his blanket and tried to sleep. Just before midnight he was awakened by a dreadful, unearthly howling noise. Peering down he saw in the moonlight hundreds and hundreds of cats of all shapes colors and sizes. Straining to understand their blood-curdling howling, the samurai thought he could recognize a phrase over and over again. Tell it not to Shippeitaro!

Who or what can Shippeitaro mean wondered the samurai. Suddenly the cats turned tail and vanished. The next day the samurai traveled on and in the nearby village he met with people who were wailing with grief. They were weeping because that night they had to take the fairest maiden in the village to the ruined temple where she would be eaten by the evil spirits. These evil spirits were seen in the form of wild cats. The samurai asked who or what was Shippietaro? Shippeitaro is a dog, fine dogs. He is brave and strong, yet gentle with children and he belongs to the head man, our prince. At this the samurai departed. But an hour later he returned leading the dog Shippeitaro on a lead of plaited leather. Shippeitaro was a golden color, with a purple tongue, that we call a chow. The samurai put shippeitaro into the cage instead of the maiden and he and four young men carrying the cage set of for the temple. Midnight came and the howling cats rose to a horrible crescendo.....There was a crash as Shippeitaro beat the door open in his impatience to b out, and sudden flash of gold as the gallant dog shot like an arrow from a bow and grabbed the great tomcat firmly in his jaws. The down leaped the samurai and with a great cry swept the giant tomcat's hear from its shoulders with one mighty swing of his two-handed sword. The other cats were so astonished that they forgot to run away and shippeitaro son put and end to them - When the villages heard this all their tears were forgotten and praise and thanksgiving were universal the greatest praise of all going to Shippeitaro, the bravest dog in all Japan!


It is very difficult to say how a breed as old as the Chow came by its name. One of its original names was "Chao" meaning large, primitive extraordinary dog of great strength and the name "Ao" which occurs in the 17th century BC, is probably a corruption of this. Also in the same century it is called "Man Kout" meaning dogs of the barbarians or tartar dogs by AD 100 it was variously referred to as "Mang" (dog with much hair), Chao (dog of great strength) or "Ti" (red dog). Upon reaching the western world many centuries later it was called at first the Foreign Dog and then the Chinese Edible Dog. But the people of the western world did not like to be reminded of its edible purpose so adopted the name chow chow. This may have been because various commodities brought from China were known in pidgin English as Chow Chows or it may have been directly from the original Chao.

You may also enjoy reading information in these sites.

iaca chow chow story - Chow information by Marcello Ciai.

chikoo chows history - Information provided by Chikoo Chows.

faqs chows - Information provided here by Steve Miller of China Rose Chows.

Updated 10/15/2008

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