10 Incredible Chow Chow Facts

Written by Jeff Young
Updated: January 10, 2023
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The Chow Chow is a storied breed of dog with a fascinating history. They are known for their teddy bearish appearance with their luxurious, thick coat and distinctively puffy face. But there’s a lot more to these dogs than meets the eye. Here are 10 incredible Chow Chow facts that you probably didn’t know.

1. Chow Chows Have Purple Tongues

Chow Chow laying down with tongue out.

Chow Chows have a distinctive bluish-purple tongue.


One of the most unique Chow Chow facts is that while nearly all breeds of dog have pink tongues, Chow Chows do not! Chow chows are one of the few that have tongues that are purple or blue-black in color. When they are born, Chow Chow puppies have pink tongues. However, they darken within the first few months after being born. The color results from a concentration of pigment-producing cells in their tongue. This may possibly be an adaptation protecting their tongue from sun damage as it hangs out of their mouth.

2. Chow Chows Have Straight Back Legs

Chow chow standing outside in the snow

Chow Chows are known for their teddy bear-like appearance.

©Maxim Petrichuk/Shutterstock.com

If you look closely at the way a Chow Chow walks, you may notice their characteristic stilted gait. This is due to the fact that the Chow Chow’s hind legs are nearly perfectly straight, unlike the angled bends at the knee and ankle of other dog breeds. This gives them a bit of an awkward walk, but it’s perfectly normal for the breed.

3. Chow Chows are an Ancient Breed From the Han Dynasty

Closeup portrait of Chow Chow

Chow Chows have a lot of hair around the neck like a


‘s mane.

©Volodymyr TVERDOKHLIB/Shutterstock.com

The Chow Chow is one of the oldest known breeds of domesticated dogs. There are sculptures dating back over 2,000 years that depict Chow Chow dogs that look remarkably similar to the breed that we know today. It is believed that they were first bred in China during the Han Dynasty.

4. The Name “Chow Chow” is Pidgin-English for “Knick-Knacks”

Chow Chow puppy standing up on a bench

Chow Chows are one of the oldest recognized breeds.

©Natalia Fesiun/Shutterstock.com

Chow Chow dogs were originally imported to Europe in the 1800s on cargo merchant ships alongside many other exotic items. Piles of colorful spices, strange fruits, and unfamiliar animals were all crammed together on these ships, and the Pidgin-English-speaking sailors referred to all these foreign goods as “chow chows,” meaning “miscellaneous items” or “knick-knacks.” Over time, the term came to be associated specifically with the dogs, and eventually, “Chow Chow” became the breed’s official name.

5. Chow Chows Were Displayed in the London Zoo

Chow chow is standing on a yellow foliage in the autumn park.

Although red or cinnamon colored Chow Chows are the most well-known, Chow Chows also come in a variety of other colors, like black, white, beige, fawn, and merle.


When Chow Chow dogs were first brought to England, they were such a novelty that they were put on display at the London Zoo alongside other exotic animals. As the story goes, Queen Victoria saw the dogs there at the zoo and was so taken with the breed that she purchased some for herself, and Chow Chows soon after became a widespread favorite all across Europe and America.

6. Dr. Sigmund Freud Had a Chow Chow That Would Sit in on Psychoanalysis Sessions

Chow chow puppy standing in a field.

One of the first unofficial “

therapy dogs

” may have been Freud’s Chow Chow, Jofi.


Dr. Sigmund Freud, the world-renowned father of psychoanalysis, owned a Chow Chow dog named Jofi. Jofi often sat in on Freud’s therapy sessions, providing a calming effect for patients who were often nervous and on edge. Freud would also pay attention to the way Jofi behaved in relation to his patients, as he understood that dogs were excellent judges of people’s emotional states.

7. Chow Chows are Working Dogs

Chow chow standing in field.

Chow chows may have been important war dogs according to some Chinese legends.


Historically, Chow Chows were used as working dogs in China. They were often used as hunting dogs, as their thick fur made them resistant to cold weather and able to withstand heavy underbrush. They were also used as guard dogs, as their fierce loyalty and protective nature made them perfect for deterring intruders. Additionally, Chow Chows could herd livestock and pull carts or sleds, making them versatile and useful dogs on Chinese farms.

8. Chow Chows Were Also Prized For Their Fur

Very furry chow chow standing on grass.

Chow Chows have thick, luxurious fur.

©Remigiusz Jozefowicz / Creative Commons

In addition to their usefulness as working dogs, Chow Chows were also prized for their thick, luxurious fur. Their coats were often used to make clothing and other items. However, as the breed became more popular as a pet, this practice became less common, as people began to think of Chow Chows more as companions than as utility animals.

9. Chow Chows Don’t Like Swimming

A chow chow lying on a stone in the woods

Chow Chows have very thick double coat of hair that can be either rough or smooth.

©Arne J. Enggrav/Shutterstock.com

Here’s an interesting chow chow fact: while some breeds of dogs love to swim and get wet, Chow Chows are not typically fond of getting in the water. When their thick fur coats get wet, this heaviness can make them uncomfortable and can take a long time to dry. Additionally, the Chow Chow’s short snout can make it difficult for them to breathe when swimming, so it’s best to avoid taking them for a dip in the pool or lake.

10. Chow Chows Tend not to Like Being Held or Cuddled

Chow Chow puppy laying on kitchen floor

Chow Chows are smart, affectionate, and compatible with kids.

©iStock.com/Ivan Marjanovic

If you’re looking for a lap dog that can be carried around everywhere you go, the Chow Chow may not be the right breed for you. Chow Chows tend to be aloof and independent, and they often don’t enjoy being held or cuddled in the same way that other breeds do.

However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t make excellent companions. Some individuals can be quite cuddly, and they are very loyal and loving pets.

Up Next…

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Flower_Garden/Shutterstock.com

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