For millennia dogs have been the true friend of humans. Over time, the dogs of different breeds have changed so much that we have to guess the looks and feels of the dogs of the prehistoric age. However, there are still some of the ancient dog breeds that help us to link the dogs of today to their prehistoric ancestors. Since, being one of the most ancient breeds, the Chow-Chow breed offers us that rare chance.
Among all other East Asian Dog breeds, the Chow-Chow is known as “Songshi Quan” provides a basal lineage of the evolution of the species. The researchers have used genome sequencing and other scientific techniques to find the history of the Chow-Chow and discover more about the prehistoric ancestors of the East Asian Breeds.
Chow Chow is a dog breed that originally came from Northern China. This sturdy and squarely built dog is one of the first breeds that appeared after the domestication of the dogs. The dense fur in the neck area gives the dogs distinctive lion-like looks. The blue/black tongue and an extra pair of teeth make the Chow Chows different from the rest of the dog breeds as well.
28 Million to 12 Million Years Ago
Unlike most other dog breeds, the history of the Chow-Chow can be traced back to the Miocene period. The researchers have found Simocyon, an intermediary between Daphoneus, the father of the bears, and Cynoelesmus, the forefather of the entire canine; contains 44 teeth like the Chow-Chow.
Also, like the small bears of the Manchuria and Tibet region, the Chow Chow has a blue-black tongue and a broad skull.
These simple features, as well as other scientific pieces of evidence, have helped the researchers conclude that the Simocyon could be the prehistoric ancestor of the Chow-Chow of today.
11000 Years-8,300 Years Ago
There are many different theories regarding the origin of the breed Chow Chow. While one faction of the researchers places the ancestors of the dog in the Miocene period, another group argued that the dog species must have originated in Southern China. Even though the thick fur of the dog indicates a higher altitude evolution, the researchers pointed out that the flourish of agriculture by the side of the Yangtze river must have facilitated the evolution of Chow Chow. They pointed out that the Chinese indigenous dogs of southern origins might be the ancestors of Chow Chow and most of the East Asian dog Breeds.
3000 years ago
Yet another group of researchers have expressed different opinions about the origin of the Chow Chow. They indicated that the history of the Chow Chow is linked to the nomads of the Arctic Region. They said that the dog breed must have originated in the Asian Arctic region, perhaps Northern Siberia, about 3000 years ago.
As there is proof that the Chow Chow dogs have been present in China for 2000 years, these dogs would have arrived in China with their nomadic barbarian human companions. Those ancestors of the Chow Chow, of course, did not look like the Chow Chow of today, but they share the same square and sturdy build like the Chow Chow of recent times.
2000 years ago
Even though the modern Chow Chows are not working dogs, their ancestors might have been used for hunting. There are some 2000 years old bas relief carving available that supports this theory. The researchers also think that the ancient owners of the dogs used them as war dogs. Once they came to China, people named the dogs as Man Kou, the dogs of the barbarian. Since then, the role of the Chow Chow has reversed many times.
The pottery and sculptures of the Han Dynasty showed the presence of Chow Chow during this time. Even though the breed did not exactly look like the dogs of today, the features like erect years, thick coat of fur around the neck and the curly tail was the characteristic feature that helped researchers identify the dogs. During this time, when the Lama monasteries started developing in Tibet, the Chow-Chow worked as their gun dogs and temple guards.
600 – 900 AD
During this time, the ancestors of the Chow Chow dog breed snatched the attention of the Chinese royalties. Some researchers affirm the facts that the Chow Chow is the real ancestors of some other popular dog breeds, like Pomeranian, Elkhound and Keeshond.
During the Tang dynasty, the Chinese Emperor Ling bred the Chow Chows. As the Chows were the members of the royal household during this time, they were fed the best quality meat and rice. The researchers pointed out that the Chow Chows of the royal families had designated servants, military companions, and were awarded high courtly titles. Along with guarding the royalties, and the palace, the Chow-Chow had to look handsome for the benefit of their royal masters.
The emperors of the Tang dynasty used to have a massive Kennel for 25,000 hunting dogs that were true chow type hounds. In a 7th century book, it was pointed out that these foreign chows were used for hunting. These dogs used to attack the leopards and wolves during the hunt.
During this time, the monasteries concentrated on breeding a special blue-coated Chows for the temples. These dogs were used for the protection of the monasteries as well as for herding and hunting. It is assumed that the stone lion statues of the Buddhist temples that are so common in China are in-fact the statues of the Chow Chows. Even today, the monasteries breed and use the blue-coated Chow Chows for their protection.
With the end of the Tang dynasty came the period of increasing national poverty and hunger. Due to this reason, the selective breeding of china was stopped except the monasteries. The purebred Chow Chows only stayed in the homes of the noblemen, wealthy merchants, and the monasteries.
According to the history of the Chow Chow, people started using chows for guarding, pulling sleighs, and herding in this time. During this period, the thick fur coat of the Chow Chows was used for making different pieces of clothing. The consumption of chow meat most probably starts during this period.
During this time great farms of Chows were created on the Northern side of China. These farms used to strangle the 10-12-month-old Chows to get their skin in the perfect condition. In Manchuria, after marriage, a farmer girl often received a Chow Chow as dowry for starting a farm. Apart from eating its meat and using the coats, the tongues of the chows were also used for making medicine. People used to believe that the tongues of chows have curative properties.
Marco Polo, a Venetian explorer and merchant, visited China through the silk route in 1271 and 1295. In his book, Marcopolo also documented the fact that the Chinese consume dog meat and use the chows for pulling the sleigh.
The Chows first came to Europe with the help of the Dutch East India Company. The sailors of the company, who returned from East India, brought the Chow-Chows with them in the merchant boats. Even though the dog was not known as Chow-Chow previously, from this occasion, this nickname got stuck to them. It is probably the variety of articles on the shipment that earned the dogs this name.
In the 1800s, the chows were brought to the United States for the first time. The popularity of this dog breed kept soaring over the years.
The London Zoo started showcasing several Chow Chows to the public as wild dogs. During this year, Queen Victoria was gifted with some Chow Chows. These gift dogs were kept in a cage in Windsor.
The trend of breeding and exhibiting the Chow Chows started during this year. In this year, a black colour Chow, named the Chinese Puzzle, was brought to England. In 1980, the owner of the dog, W.K. Tauton, started exhibiting the dogs to the public at the crystal palace.
In this year, the Earl of Lonsdale brought a Chow-Chow for himself. Three years later, he gifted a chow named Peridot to Marchioness Huntley. She later bred another Chow called Peridot II from the first dog. These dogs started Lady Granville Gordon’s Kennel. Later, Lady Gordon worked hard to get the Kennel Club to recognise the breed of dog as the Chow-Chow.
The early 1900s
The chows were first showcased in front of the public in the early 1900s. In 1903, the American Kennel Club recognised the breed as Chow-Chow. In 1906, the American Chow club was situated.
Since the 1920s, the popularity of the breed has increased steadily. Many celebrities also became fond of the exquisite beauty of the Chow Chows and kept them as their companions.
The popularity of this dog breed has not plummeted ever since. Today, the American Kennel Club reserves about 10,000 chows a year. The Canadian kennel club, on the other hand, registers about 350 Chow Chows per year.
Even though the history of the Chow Chows showed that the dogs were used for hunting and protecting, selective breeding has lessened the aggressive part ever since. While you might hear about the aggressiveness of the chows, with proper training, this problem could be solved.
What were chow chows bred for?
Chow Chows were originally bred for hunting and guarding duties, however over time they also adopted other roles, such as herding, and sled pulling.
Overall, these dogs are calm and loyal to human companions. However, they are reserved and aloof to strangers. While the Chow-Chows might not be the right pet for everyone, but to the right family, it could be an excellent addition. While these dogs are loyal to the primary owner, they can also become loyal to other members of the family. So, even if you have children, Chows can still be the best choice.
About the Author
Teresa has been a pet lover since she was little. She currently lives with two dogs and two cats, and a hamster. Teresa is a qualified dog groomer and canine behaviourist; these days, she spends her time studying canine nutrition. Teresa is the founder of the Dog Friendly Scene and loves sharing her knowledge on pets.