If you ever catch a chow chow with his tongue sticking out, you might be surprised to notice his pure blue-black tongue, a rarity in the canine world. Although adult chow chows indeed have these signature dark tongues, they don't come out of the womb with them.
Newborn chow chow puppies don't share the memorable blue-black tongues of adults of their breed. Chow chow tongues actually start out pink, much like those of other types of dogs. This light coloration changes relatively quickly, however. Young chow chows typically develop their blue-black tongues once they reach between 8 and 10 weeks in age. Not only do chow chows have dark tongues, they have dark gums, too. Like their tongues, their gums generally settle into their permanent blue-black color at around the same time.
Some chow chows have markedly intense pigmentation, while others have less intense pigmentation. If a chow chow is in the former category, his tongue might turn dark by a mere 3 weeks. If he's in the latter category, it might take upward of 10 months. If you have two chow chow puppies of the same age, don't fret if you notice early differences in their tongue coloration development.
Some mature chow chows display pink spots on their tongues. This isn't at all a sign that a dog isn't a purebred chow chow. Note, too, that the presence of black spots on the tongue of a dog from another breed doesn't necessarily signify a chow chow background, either. These black spots are often nothing more than pigmentation surpluses. If you ever spot a canine you suspect might be a chow chow, look at his tongue if possible. If it's fully or primarily pink, there's a strong chance he's not actually a chow chow, but rather a combination of other spitz dogs -- think Akitas and Alaskan malamutes.
Shar-Peis, Polar Bears and Giraffes
While the blue-black tongues of chow chows are indeed rare, they're not exclusive to them. Shar-Pei dogs also possess these dark tongues. Shar-Peis, like chow chows, are a breed native to China. Dark tongues also exist outside of the dog realm. Polar bears' tongues have similar blue-black coloration. Giraffes' lengthy tongues are also notably black. Chow chows are in diverse company.