What Were Chows Bred For?

by Ann Compton
Chows are one of the oldest dog breeds.

Chows are one of the oldest dog breeds.

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The chow chow originated as early as the 11th century. It is one of the most ancient dog breeds. Since the breed dates back so far, the early history of chows is somewhat murky. From its earliest days, these dogs have been known for their distinct blue tongue and heavy, thick coat which makes the breed identifiable in historical references.

The First Chows

Most reports indicate that chows originated in China, although some believe that the breed's roots lie in the Arctic Circle and came to China by way of Mongolia, Siberia and Tibet. Descriptions of lion-like dogs with blue tongues have been found in art and sculpture as early as 150 B.C. where they are depicted as hunting dogs.

Hunting and Guarding

Early chows served many purposes. They accompanied their owners to hunt game. Chow chows were prized for their strength, speed, pointing and scenting prowess in the field. The dogs also acted as watchdogs for the family. They were used for herding, pulling, guarding cattle and sheep. Some Chinese kennels boasted hundreds of chows. Early artwork from the Chinese Han Dynasty depict the chow as a sporting dog. Some historians believe that Samoyeds, Norwegian elkhounds, Pomeranians and keeshonds all originated from the chow.

A Strong Dog

The chow's strong will, which exists in the breed today, was prized by the dogs' early Chinese owners. While hunting with their owners, chows were known to attack predators such as wolves and leopards. Restraining a chow could be difficult; early depictions show a form of harness used to control the dog when hunting.

Chows Today

Modern chow chows are still strong willed, but loving and protective of their families. They can be aloof and suspicious of strangers. Chows generally prefer to be only dogs and may not be good with small children whose sudden movements can startle them. They are independent and can be stubborn. A chow is not as eager to please his owner as other breeds but is trainable with an owner who is consistent and firm.

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