chow chow, breed of powerful nonsporting dog whose origins are obscure but whose development was accomplished many centuries ago in China. It stands from 18 to 20 in. (45.7–50.8 cm) high at the shoulder and weighs from 50 to 60 lb (22.7–27.2 kg). Its abundant double coat consists of a soft, woolly underlayer and a dense, straight topcoat that stands out from the body. It may be any solid color. The ancestors of the chow chow are believed by some to have been the mastiff of Tibet and the Samoyed. However, because it is the only breed possessing a black tongue, other authorities contend that it is a basic breed and the progenitor of the Samoyed, the Keeshond, the Norwegian elkhound, and the Pomeranian. Whatever the truth of its origins, it was used as an all-purpose hunting dog in China 2,000 years ago. Its name derives from the pidgin-English term for miscellaneous cargo, of which the dog formed a part, brought from China to England in the late 18th cent. It is raised as a companion and house pet. See dog.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.