Chow Chows are well-loved family pets because they are eternally loyal, adaptable, and suitable for apartment living.
But aside from these characteristics, they are also known for their refined and aristocratic appearance brought about by certain physical factors. This includes their timeless coat colors.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) identified five standard colors for Chow Chows, and they are black, blue, cinnamon, cream, and red. The names champagne, lilac, silver, silvertip, lavender, chocolate, blue-cream, and butterscotch are nothing but creative interpretations of the formerly mentioned standard shades.
If you’re interested to learn about all the Chow colors, you came to the right blog. I’ll be discussing each tone one by one and even include pictures for your visualization.
What Are the Two Chow Chow Coat Types?
We usually picture Chows with their rough full coat, but they also come with a less well known smooth coat. Below is a detailed discussion of these two types.
Rough-Coated Chow Chow
Chow Chows with a rough coat are fluffy looking. They may be long-haired or short-haired, but they always require constant brushing. The hair around their neck is thick enough to form some sort of a mane, but its length is not excessive.
After undergoing desexing, their shedding tendencies are lessened, and their coat grows longer and fuller.
Smooth-Coated Chow Chow
A smooth-coated Chow will have a soft hair texture no matter what the length. Usually, their texture is plush-like, and they are not flat.
As compared to the rough coat, they are generally easier to maintain especially since they won’t get matted. The only problem is, they are harder to find than their rough-coated counterparts.
What Are the Standard Colors of Chow Chows According to Different Kennel Clubs?
Since Chow Chows are among the most ancient breeds, they are recognized by all major kennel clubs, including AKC, UKC, CKC, and FCI. Here are their acceptable coat colors according to the standards set by these kennel organizations.
|Kennel Clubs||Acceptable Coat Colors|
|American Kennel Club (AKC)||Black, blue, cinnamon, cream, and red.|
|United Kennel Club (UKC)||Red (light golden to deep mahogany), blue, black, cinnamon (light fawn to deep cinnamon), and cream.|
|Canadian Kennel Club (CKC)||Red, tawny, black, blue, cream, and white.|
|Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI)||Black, red, blue, fawn, cream, and white.|
Chow Chow Coat Colors Description and Pictures
The Chow colors I’ll be discussing below are considered standard. In other words, they are the ones who are encouraged to join conformation shows.
Black Chow Chow
Black Chow Chows are usually born black, but some of them grow to have gray shadings in their tails or breechings. When they are still puppies, their coats aren’t as shiny as compared to an adult’s coat because of varying hair properties.
There are some instances where solid black Chows appear to be bleached when they are exposed to too much sun. Most people find the reddish cast unattractive that’s why they keep their black Chow Chows indoors. This is the best way to avoid “rusting” or the bleaching effect.
If you cannot help your black Chow to be exposed to the sun, there is a good chance that it will turn chocolate-colored. This is not a standard coat but rather a rusty black shade.
Blue Chow Chow
Blue Chow Chows aren’t actually blue but steel gray. Some pet owner accounts even prove that they have some sort of silver shadings.
The blue coat coloration of Chows may range from dark bluish gray to a faded silvery-bluish tint. Their muzzles and legs often have a mixture of “salt and pepper” tones or light and dark blue hairs, giving them an attractive frosted look.
Similar to the black Chow Chows, blues also rust in the sun, so too much sunlight exposure is not recommended. They may acquire not only rust shadings but brown hairs.
Cinnamon Chow Chow
A lot of novice pet owners associate the cinnamon coat color with the cinnamon spice, but the Chows do not possess such a tone. This coat color is another word for fawn which dog enthusiasts are more familiar with.
Cinnamons are born with a silvery color which develops to a light beige coat with a pinkish or gray cast when they mature. They may also be a bit darker; that’s why they are often mislabeled as reds.
Just like the blue Chows, Cinnamons have a frosted look brought about by light and dark hairs present on their muzzle and legs. When they are young, they also have a grayish mask, so they don’t really appear solid.
Cream Chow Chow
Cream Chow Chows may be nearly white, pale red, ivory, or butterscotch in color. They are usually born cream with light tan legs and ears, which eventually fades as they become adults.
A true cream Chow does not have any dark masks. They also aren’t seen that much in dog shows because their nose turns brown as they mature. This is considered a disqualification in many conformation shows.
Red Chow Chow
Red is an umbrella term used to describe a wide variety of colors ranging from mahogany to a light golden tone. Pups who possess these shades are born with a mousy brown coat and a black mask which fades over time.
True red Chow Chows have noticeable white shadings on their ruff, tail, and breechings. But those who don’t exhibit these shadings are still acceptable.
Red chows with shadings are distinguished from Chows without any because they are called differently. Pups with shadings are called “shaded red” while those who lack them are tagged as “self-red.”
What Are the Non-Standard Chow Chow Colors?
There are three non-standard Chow colors which I would like to discuss because they are not allowed in conformation shows.
The AKC and similar kennel clubs mentioned albinos as the only faulty shade, but I also included the merle and brindle Chows because they have been a common topic in canine circles and they aren’t on the list of standard colors.
Merle Chow Chow
It is not inherent for the breed to produce the merle variety so many canine scholars are speculating that Merle Chow Chows aren’t pureblooded.
Merles usually have a solid white base color with mottled and uneven patches on their coat. Sure, they look really stunning, but some percentage of these pups are prone to eye defects and deafness.
Many breeders market these Chows as rare. But I want to clarify that they have a rare status not for good reasons. They aren’t bred intensively because of possible congenital defects as I have mentioned above.
Brindle Chow Chow
A brindle Chow Chow has any of the standard colors as a base and a tiger stripe pattern on their coat. There aren’t many brindle Chows who are currently existing because this unique coat pattern is created through a recessive gene.
Albino Chow Chow
Similar to other breeds, albino Chow Chows are frowned upon by many because they are predisposed to many health issues.
You can easily identify a chow suffering from albinism because they have a pure white coat due to the lack of pigment and some pinkish tinge on their hairs, eyes, and nose. They also have abnormally small eyes as compared to standard Chow Chows.
The AKC, CKC, UKC, and FCI strictly condemn the breeding of albino Chows as evident in the breed standards. Personally, I would not recommend owning one either because they are a lot harder to maintain, especially with their unpredictable health status.
What Is a Panda Chow Chow? Do They Really Exist?
In recent years, Panda dogs are all the rage because they resemble the endangered bears who are natives of South Central China.
These canines are usually Chow Chows who are purposefully groomed, clipped, and dyed to look like Pandas, so the AKC and other kennel clubs don’t actually recognize them.
The fame of these Panda Chows is more evident in China as reported by Daily Mail and New York Post. In fact, a pet shop owner in Chengdu City named Hsin Ch’en admits that pet lovers don’t mind lining up and paying a large sum of money just to get one of these Panda-looking Pooches.
Hsin adds that turning the Chow into a Panda dog doesn’t take long. He says that he only needs two hours to transform them and it is not a bit uncomfortable for the dogs. There are also no harmful chemicals used in dyeing them so you won’t have to worry about allergies.
Once the Panda Chow is groomed, it would take around six weeks before they can be brought home. After that, they should be regularly maintained by the groomer so they will remain Panda-looking.
Are White and Cream Chow Chows the Same?
The CKC and FCI mentioned the white Chow Chows, but they aren’t considered as another tone. Creams are sometimes addressed as white Chows, especially when their color is so light that it is almost white.
As seen in the photo above, white Chows aren’t exactly white but have some shades of cream on their coat. This may completely darken and turn into a regular cream color as time passes.
What Are the Rarest and Most Common Colors of Chow Chows?
The most common Chow Chow color is red. Whenever one mentions this dog breed, our mind automatically interprets the word as a fluffy red-coated dog.
Note that this is not a single color and it has a lot of shades. Some chows are mahogany while others are lightly golden. It is even possible for other red tones to occur due to pigmentation and sun exposure.
If red is the most commonly seen Chow color, the rarest are cream, pure white, and merle. Creams and whites are rare because they carry a certain dilution gene which inhibits melanin production.
Meanwhile, merle Chows are rare because not many breeders develop them for fear of specific health issues like deafness. A standard merle Chow Chow often has a diluted base coat and some random patches brought about by the merle gene.
Can You Identify a Purebred Chow Chow Through Its Color?
Most people on the internet would tell you that you can identify if a Chow Chow is purebred through their colors alone. This is completely bonkers, trust me. Determining a purebred dog not only relies on coat coloration but also on a number of factors.
For instance, instead of looking for certification from kennel clubs which does not guarantee a purebred status, you should study the standards they published for the breed. This will give you a specific idea of how a purebred Chow should look like.
If you find it hard to scrutinize your pet’s appearance on your own, ask for a veterinarian’s help or have your dog undergo DNA testing. You can also watch breed judging shows like the one below so you can see them upfront.
Do not patronize baseless advice from the internet like labeling your pup purebred by merely pointing out that their coat is of the standard color.
Chow Chow Coat Genetics: Why Do Chow Chows Have Different Colors?
The Chow’s coat color is at the mercy of his genes. Basically, genes can control the pigments produced in a dog’s coat, and they are also responsible for the areas with which the colors will appear.
However, because of gene dilution, the phenotypes are sometimes changed into blue/isabella or brown. This is why we have blue Chow Chows.
The other pigment responsible for a dog’s coat color is called pheomelanin. This is red in default, but certain genes dilute it to produce cream, fawn, cinnamon, and other colors with a reddish tone.
In case you’re wondering why some dogs have an intense shade more than others, Science Daily reports that there are other genetic elements that adjust the coat color of dogs.
US Davis School of Veterinary Medicine found multiple copies of a specific DNA region on the dog’s chromosome 15 alters the color. These DNAs influence the KITLG gene, which may give a dog a darker pigment.
The Effect of Coat Color on Chow Chow’s Health and Behavior
There aren’t any pieces of evidence that can prove the relationship between a Chow’s coat color and their overall disposition. However, it is a well-known fact established by research data that coat color directly relates to a dog’s health.
For instance, the merle and albino Chows are more susceptible to a string of health issues which include the following:
- Deafness: Deafness or loss of hearing is common in homozygous merles. Similarly, albino chows also experience this condition because the unpigmented skin on their ear canal causes degeneration of the nerve endings.
- Blindness: Blindness or lack of vision is another condition that is prevalent among albinos and merles. It is believed that specific genes affect the pigment on the dogs’ eyes which makes their vision severely impaired.
- Sun Sensitivity: Since merles and albinos lack pigment on their coats which is responsible for shielding them from UV rays, they are obviously more sensitive to sunlight. They may acquire sunburn, allergies, or worse, skin cancer.
- Skin Cancer: This fatal health issue is also a common problem of merles and albinos, which they acquire from too much sun exposure. Three common types of skin cancer can afflict these dogs, including malignant melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and mast cell tumors.
- Microphthalmia: Aside from vision loss, most albinos and merles possess small eyes. In severe cases, the eyes of albino chows are absent entirely, which leads to another condition called anophthalmia.
RECOMMENDED READING: Male vs. Female Chow Chow: Which Is Better?
Do Chow Chow Puppies Change Color When They Grow?
Some Chow Chow colors change as they grow due to melanin progression. More accurately, they are a different shade when they were born, and they gradually settle to their final mature color. Here are the newborn colors of the two Chow Chows which undergo this phenomenon.
- Red: Mousy brown
- Cinnamon: Silver
There may also be times where your dog changes color due to the following factors:
- Skin disease
- Nutritional status
If you notice a sudden change in the color of your Chow Chow, have them checked by a veterinarian so you will be able to point out what the cause is.
- RECOMMENDED READING: How Big Do Chow Chows Get? Puppy Growth Chart And FAQ
Chow Chows Eyes, Nose, and Tongue Colors
Aside from the coat colors, I deem it essential to discuss the Chow Chow’s eyes and nose colors because they complete the whole appearance of this aristocratic-looking breed.
I also dedicated a table to share acceptable tongue colors because Chows are famous for their iconic, unique tongues. Note that the terminology used to describe the different colors is slightly different, but they are the same in general.
Chow Chow Eye Colors
|Kennel Clubs||Acceptable Eye Colors|
|American Kennel Club (AKC)||Dark brown|
|United Kennel Club (UKC)||Dark brown|
|Canadian Kennel Club (CKC)||Dark|
|Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI)||Dark is preferred, but blue and fawns may have eyes the same color as their coat.|
Chow Chow Nose Colors
|Kennel Clubs||Acceptable Nose Colors|
|American Kennel Club (AKC)||Black is preferred, but blue Chows may have blue or slate noses, and cream Chows may have a wide range of colors.|
|United Kennel Club (UKC)||Black is ideal, but cream or white Chows may have a lighter nose. Meanwhile, blue and fawns may have the same color as their coat.|
|Canadian Kennel Club (CKC)||Black is preferred for blue and cream Chows. However, some blues may have slate noses, and creams may have liver or brown noses.|
|Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI)||Black is ideal, but cream or white Chows may have a lighter nose. Meanwhile, blue and fawns may have the same color as their coat.|
Chow Chow Tongue Colors
|Kennel Clubs||Acceptable Tongue Colors|
|American Kennel Club (AKC)||Top and edges should be solid blue-black. The red or pink tongue is disqualified.|
|United Kennel Club (UKC)||Solid blue-black|
|Canadian Kennel Club (CKC)||Blue-black|
|Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI)||Bluish-black|
In case you’re interested to see how a solid blue-black tongue looks like, here’s a photo I grabbed from Instagram:
Frequently Asked Questions
What Cities Ban or Restrict Chow Chow Ownership?
Unfortunately, there are some cities and countries that ban Chow Chow ownership. This is because they may become aggressive and unfriendly if not given proper training.
In the U.S., these cities have completely banned or restricted Chows: Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, and Tennessee.
Do Chow Chows Shed a Lot?
Since Chow Chows are bred to withstand freezing temperatures, they have thick coats that cause heavy shedding. You may even pull out lumps of their hair by simply petting them. They usually shed excessively twice a year, so you have to be very consistent in brushing them.
Are Panda Chow Chows Expensive?
Panda Chow Chows are way more expensive than ordinary or standard-colored dogs because they were groomed to achieve a particular look.
When you pay for a Panda Chow, you aren’t just paying for the dog itself, but for the labor they put in grooming, dyeing, and maintaining their coat.
Aside from this, you should also religiously bring them to a professional groomer so they will appear the same.
The dignified look of a Chow Chow is further enhanced by their striking coat colors. If you are planning to purchase one, opt for the standard colors because they are known to be healthier than the non-standard and faulty ones.
Also, choose wisely between the two different coats since their grooming and maintenance needs are slightly different.
There may be unscrupulous breeders out there who would try to scam you just to gain more profit. Avoid falling into “rare Chow Chow” schemes and remember that only white, cream, and merle Chows are uncommon.
My name is John Carter and I absolutely love pets, especially cats and dogs. I’ve got a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and have several years’ experience working in animal shelters and rescues. My passion for animals started at a very young age as I grow up on a farm with several horses, cows, cats, chickens, and dogs on our property.