The blue-tongued Songshi Quan is believed by some to be 3000 years old, and while undoubtedly related to the Tibetan and other Asian sheepdogs and mastiffs, its development was also greatly influenced by the ferocious wardogs, hounds and smaller spitz-type dogs from Siberia and Mongolia, introduced to different parts of China throughout history by the various invading tribes, resulting in the establishment of Northern and Southern variants within the breed, as well as the Mongolian and Manchurian sub-types, which were traditionally distinguished by height, weight and colour differences from one another. As a working dog, the Tang Quan was employed for a variety of jobs, from pulling sleds, herding cattle and guarding property to performing a range of hunting duties and fighting other dogs. Also, its meat was a very popular food item and its rich fur was used for clothing purposes in the region until the early 20th century, when this practice and dog-meat trade were officially forbidden in China.
Although recognized as a Chinese breed, it should be noted that these dogs were also common in Korea and other regions in Asia, including Tibet and possibly even Japan, but the present-day incarnation of the Chow Chow was actually developed in England, where it first appeared in the 1780's, only to be kept and bred by the London Zoo, before a number of specimens were given to Queen Victoria in 1865 as watchdogs. Native names like Songshi Quan, Mang, Ti Ao, Man Kout Chao and Tang Quan were dismissed in favour of British ones, two of these being the "Foreign Dog" and "Chinese Edible Dog", before the fanciers settled on the still-current Chow Chow misnomer. Early imported Tang Quan representatives and other Chow-like dogs were too aggressive and had greatly varied in size, leading to the selection and breeding programmes in Britain aimed at establishing an exotic breed of uniform appearance and agreable personality, but the exact details and specific breeds used in the creation of the Chow Chow have remained unknown, although some nordic dogs, as well as the Sharpei and even the Pug and the English Bulldog have been suggested as being involved over the years. However, many fanciers still choose to believe that the modern Chow is an indigenous Chinese breed which has remained pure for thousands of years. Shortly after being introduced to the United States in 1890, the breed was recognized by the AKC in 1903 and has enjoyed great favour among dog-lovers in America ever since. Today, the Chow Chow is one of the most popular pets worldwide.
As a companion dog, the Chow acquired a reputation as a reserved and moody, but loving and loyal pet. Naturally unfriendly and at times quite aggressive toward strange dogs, it needs firm handling and proper socialization. This breed is suspicious of strangers and makes a reliable watchdog and convincing property guardian. Well-boned and muscular, the lion-like Chow Chow is a breed of considerable strength packed into a smaller body, which has a short back, deep chest and straight legs. The head is large, with small erect ears, moderately loose lips and a reasonably short muzzle. There seems to be a preference for massive and wrinkled-skinned Chows in the Show world presently, but lighter examples with tighter skin and slightly longer muzzles can still be encountered on occasion.
The coat comes in two official lengths, these being the "Rough" and "Smooth" variants, but there is also an additional in-between coat type known as the "English" variety. Regardless of coat length, the Chow Chow can be seen in red, black, cream, blue or cinnamon shades, while the white, brindle, merle and black-n-tan colorings are not accepted by the Standard. Average height is around 20 inches, although taller dogs exist.