Facts about the animal kingdom

Do Chow Chows Have Blue Tongues?

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. April 7, 2024
Do Chow Chows Have Blue Tongues?

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The Chow Chow is an ancient dog breed originating from China. Its most striking features are its thick, double coat, which comes in various colors like red, black, and cream, and its unique blue or black tongue. This breed possesses an independent spirit and exhibits intelligence, though it can also be stubborn at times.

This AnimalWised article delves into the science behind the Chow Chow's blue tongue, alongside its cultural significance and other fascinating aspects of this breed.

You may also be interested in: Dog with a Blue Tongue: Chow Chow
  1. What are Chow Chow known for?
  2. Why do chow chows have blue tongues?
  3. Cultural and Historical Significance
  4. Other animals with blue tongues

What are Chow Chow known for?

The Chow Chow boasts a rich history, tracing its roots back over 2,000 years in China. Genetic studies suggest they belong to a basal lineage, diverging from wolves earlier than many modern breeds. This aligns perfectly with the theory of their East Asian origin, potentially sharing ancestry with ancient Chinese breeds like the Akita and Shiba Inu.

Standing tall with a muscular build and deep chest, Chow Chows reach a shoulder height of up to 51 cm (20 inches). Their compact body, sturdy legs, and shorter stature hint at their working past. These dogs may have once pulled sleds or guarded property, tasks well-suited to their robust physique.

One of their most striking features is the impressive ruff around their head and shoulders. This luxurious fur creates a miniature lion-like appearance, further accentuated by their unique gait. Unlike most breeds, their back legs remain straighter during movement, adding to their regal air.

The Chow Chow's coat is another source of fascination. It comes in a variety of colors – red, black, blue, cinnamon, or cream – and boasts a double layer that can be either rough or smooth. This thick, plush coat, often described as woolly, likely served as essential insulation in their colder ancestral environment.

What is Chow Chow personality?

Chow Chows are renowned for their cleanliness and independent spirit. Often described as having a cat-like attitude, they tend to be reserved with strangers while exhibiting fierce loyalty towards their human companions. Owners often praise their exceptional cleanliness; Chow Chows are easily housebroken, have minimal odor, and share a fastidious nature with their feline counterparts.

Proper socialization is key for Chow Chows. When well-introduced to people and situations, they are not aggressive or difficult but maintain a refined and dignified demeanor. While reserved with strangers, they remain fiercely loyal to their loved ones. Additionally, these serene and adaptable dogs have moderate exercise needs, making them well-suited for thriving in urban environments.

If you're seeking a canine companion with a lion-like appearance, check out our other article, featuring ten dog breeds that resemble lions.

Why do chow chows have blue tongues?

The Chow Chow's most striking feature might just be its blue or purple tongue. This unusual coloration sets them apart from most dog breeds and has become a hallmark of the breed. But what causes this unique pigmentation?

The key to the Chow Chow's blue tongue lies in melanin, the same pigment responsible for skin, hair, and eye color. In Chow Chows, there's a higher concentration of melanin in their tongue tissue compared to other dog breeds. This increased melanin production in the tongue tissue results in the characteristic blue or black color.

This increased melanin production is likely due to a specific genetic mutation. Interestingly, the exact reason for this increased melanin production remains a bit of a mystery. Evolution doesn't always prioritize purpose over random variations. In the case of the Chow Chow's blue tongue, it's possible the mutation arose as a quirk that didn't harm the dog and simply became a breed characteristic. Their ancient lineage might also be a contributing factor. As one of the oldest dog breeds, the blue tongue could simply be a unique trait that stuck around over time.

It's important to note that a blue, purple, or spotted tongue doesn't automatically indicate a Chow Chow connection. Other dog breeds, like the Shar-Pei, also boast blue-black tongues. These tongue markings can occur due to different genetic factors in various breeds, not necessarily a direct link to Chow Chows.

Can a Chow Chow have a pink tongue?

Yes, a Chow Chow can have a pink tongue, although it's less common than the blue or black tongue associated with the breed.

Do Chow Chows Have Blue Tongues? - Why do chow chows have blue tongues?

Cultural and Historical Significance

The Chow Chow, with its majestic lion-like mane and distinctive blue tongue, holds a significant place in ancient Chinese culture. Chow Chows were valued for their loyalty, strength, and imposing presence. These qualities made them ideal guardians, particularly for Buddhist temples.

Their role as protectors extended beyond physical security. The Chow Chow's dignified demeanor and quiet nature resonated with Buddhist principles of mindfulness and serenity. Their presence within the temple walls symbolized not just physical protection, but also a guardian of spiritual peace.

The Chow Chow's blue tongue has also inspired many myths and legends. Two popular stories stand out:

One tale emphasizes the unwavering loyalty of the Chow Chow. A faithful guardian of a temple, the Chow Chow ventures out in harsh weather to fetch firewood for a sick monk. The legend claims picking up hot embers in its mouth stained the dog's tongue blue, a permanent mark of its devotion.

Another tale takes a more lighthearted approach. It depicts a playful Chow Chow accompanying Buddha as he paints the heavens blue. The dog, captivated by the dripping paint, licks the fallen drops, turning its tongue forever blue.

While these charming legends offer a glimpse into Chinese folklore, the true explanation for the blue tongue lies in science.

Dive deeper in our other article exploring the rich history and unique characteristics of various dog breeds native to Asia.

Do Chow Chows Have Blue Tongues? - Cultural and Historical Significance

Other animals with blue tongues

While the Chow Chow's blue tongue is certainly eye-catching, it's not the only animal sporting this unique feature. In fact, there are even other dog breeds with blue or black tongues, like the Shar-Pei. The truth is that the animal kingdom offers a surprising variety of blue-tongued creatures, including:

  • Okapi (Okapia johnstoni): this relative of the giraffe boasts a long, prehensile (grasping) tongue that's a stunning blue-black color. Similar to giraffes, the tip of their tongue might be darker for sun protection.

  • Impala (Aepyceros melampus): these African antelopes also have a dark blue tongue. It likely helps them with their diet of leaves, bark, and other vegetation.

  • Blue-Tongued Skink (Tiliqua scincoides): this lizard gets its name from its vibrant blue tongue, which some believe it displays as a threat to scare off predators.

Discover other fascinating blue-tongued dog breeds in our other article.

If you want to read similar articles to Do Chow Chows Have Blue Tongues?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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Do Chow Chows Have Blue Tongues?