Whilst the true origins of the Chow Chow are largely unknown, it has a claim to being one of the oldest living breeds, with ancient canine fossils similar in structure to the Chow Chow, dating back over several million years. Similarly, engravings found on old Chinese pottery, aligning with our modern perception of the breed, date back to 206 BC. Its original forebears are a mystery, although the Chow Chow may have contributed to the bloodline of the Samoyed, Norwegian Elkhound, Keeshond and the Pomeranian. Due to the relatively closed nature of China, the working Chow Chow was rarely seen outside its native land until the late 1800s when it began appearing in other countries, brought to England by merchants and exhibited in America in 1890. Officially recognised by the AKC in 1903.
It is not easy to mistake the Chow Chow for anything else due to its distinctive appearance and structure. A medium-sized, stocky dog, the Chow Chow possesses a proportioned body, a broad, flat skull, a deep muzzle and chest, small, triangular ears and a dark nose. Many believe that the Chow Chow is directly related to Spitz dogs of the Nordic type and it is not difficult to see why. Its profuse coat comes in two variations - Smooth and Rough - in colour variations of solid red, tan, cream, blue, grey, black and cinnamon, and sometimes observed in a rare white. Perhaps the most characteristic trait of the breed is its blue/black tongue, similar to that of a bear.
Highly territorial and protective of its family, the Chow Chow is both able-bodied and independent-minded, requiring firm leadership, consistent training and early socialisation from puppyhood in order to exercise its potential. Typically gentle and relaxed, the Chow Chow is well suited to active family life, compatible with children providing they respect its space and don't pet it too hard, as well as other house pets when introduced gradually. A healthy Chow Chow will weigh an average of 20-32 kg, with a life expectancy of 12-15 years when cared for accordingly.
As with most breeds, hip and elbow dysplasia, allergies and optical disorders are identified in the Chow Chow, along with more serious conditions such as patellar luxation, skin cancers and related skin complaints, and gastric torsion. In order to avoid gastric tortion and bloat, a potentially fatal condition if left untreated for too long, an owner should avoid exercising their dog on a full stomach or shortly after a meal.