Why Do Chow Chows Have Blue Tongues? Info, Facts & Pictures

Adorable Chow Chow showing his purple blue tongue

Aside from their mane, which resembles that of a lion, Chows Chows are also known for their unique tongue. While most dog breeds have pink-colored tongues, fully grown Chow Chows have blue/black ones. 

If you are looking forward to owning a Chow Chow, you might be curious as to why the color of their tongue is blue or black. You might also be wondering if tongue color can differentiate a purebred Chow Chow from a mixed breed one. 

In this article, I got everything you need to know about Chow Chow’s blue or black tongue color. 

Along with the explanation behind their unique characteristic, other dog breeds with bluish tongue color will also be discussed. So buckle up, and let’s get started!

Why Do Chow Chows Have Blue Tongues?

Two red Chow Chows with their blue tongues stick out

Similar to coat color, the cells producing pigments are responsible for the tongue color of Chow Chows. Genetically, Chow Chows have a higher concentration of these pigment-producing cells in their mouth than other breeds, which causes their tongue and oral cavity to turn blue or black. 

Although other dog breeds can also exhibit blue tongues, Chow Chows are unique because the mucous membrane in their mouth is also filled with pigmented cells. 

This is the reason why not only the Chow Chow’s tongue is pigmented but also their lips, gums, and palette.

Another scientific theory proposes that Chows got their blue tongues from their bear ancestors. According to the theory, the Chow Chow breed is a cross of a dog and a bear (Hemicyon). 

Some species of bears have blue-black tongues which would explain the Chow’s blue tongue color. 

However, this theory still lacks evidence and can only link the Chows from the Hemicyon through dental counts. Coincidentally, Chow Chows have 44 teeth, just like the Hemicyon. Most dogs only have 42 teeth. 

Chow Chows are one of the world’s oldest dog breeds. The origin of the Chow’s distinctive tongue color has a historical explanation as well. 

The legends date back to the ancient Chinese period, where the stories of how the Chow Chows got their blue tongues are as colorful as their tongues now.

One of the legends says that Chow Chows got their blue tongues from charcoal. As they are historically guardian dogs of Buddhist temples, the story tells that a Chow Chow once helped a seriously ill monk find firewood during a cold day to light a fire. 

The Chow Chow went to the forest only to find charred pieces of wood. Using its mouth, the Chow carried the charcoal to the monk. 

The contact of the Chow Chow’s mouth with carbon turned its tongue into blue or black color. 

The other legend tells about the story of a Chow Chow following Buddha while he painted the sky. 

As Buddha brushed the sky with blue color, some of the paint left traces of droplets which the Chow licked. Since that day, the color of the Chow Chow tongue has become blue.

Nonetheless, Chow Chow’s blue tongue has been one of their signature and most recognizable traits. 

The American Kennel Club (AKC) made it clear on their standards that the tongue of a Chow Chow must be blue or black on the top surface and edges. Any other tongue colors are disqualified. 

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Do All Chow Chows Have Blue Tongues? Can Their Tongues Be Other Colors?

A purebred standard Chow Chow should have a distinctive blue-black tongue color. According to most kennel standards, Chow Chows with red or pink spots on the surface or edges of their tongues are disqualified.

That said, this recognizable trait of Chow Chows can be set as an indicator of whether a Chow Chow is purebred or mixed. 

If your Chow doesn’t exhibit a pure blue/black tongue or its tongue has red or pink spots on the surface or edges, it could mean that it is not a purebred Chow Chow. 

If that is the case, your dog’s lineage might have been mixed with other Spitz dog breeds that are pretty similar to Chow Chows. 

The Spitz family of dog breeds has quite profound similarities in terms of body structure, growth, tail, ears, and coat. The Chow’s blue tongue is their most significant trait that separates it from its relative breeds.

Before buying a Chow Chow puppy from a breeder, you might want to consider asking for the puppy’s pedigree to see whether the lineage is pure or mixed. 

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Are Chow Chow Puppies Born With Blue Tongues?

Chow chow puppy with blue tongue on a bench

Not all Chow Chows are born with blue tongues. Most Chow pups are born with pink tongues, just like other dog breeds. 

Their blue tongues will gradually develop as they reach their eighth and tenth week. This will then be used for identifying if they are purebred. 

A fully grown Chow Chow should already have the top surface and edges of its tongue colored in blue/black. However, as they grow older, the shade of their tongue may lighten up as the concentration of pigments decreases.

Lightening of the blue shade could also occur to Chows with dilute color coats. Abrasion and injury on the tongue could also permanently stop pigmentation. 

Chow Chow tongue could exhibit patches of red, especially during hot days or after exercise. This happens due to the increased blood flow in the tongue. Nonetheless, the natural bluish-black pigmentation returns after it has cooled down. 

Do Blue Spots on a Dog’s Tongue Mean the Dog Is a Chow Chow Mix?

If a Chow Chow doesn’t have a pure blue or black tongue, it means it is not purebred. However, having some blue spots doesn’t necessarily indicate that the dog is a Chow Chow mix. 

Some dogs exhibit blue-black coloring on their tongue not because they have Chow Chow blood but because they have an unusual concentration of pigment cells. 

Usually, dog breeds that genetically have pink tongues only have a low pigment concentration.

Extra pigmentation is normal and can be observed in other dogs, including Dalmatian, Belgian Malinois, Belgian Sheepdog, Chinese Shar-Pei, Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, Tibetan Mastiff, and Siberian Husky. 

Typically, there is nothing to worry about when it comes to pigmentation on the tongue. However, if you have noticed rapid discoloration accompanied by other unusual changes in texture and odor, you need to visit a veterinarian for consultation.

If your dog has a natural pink tongue and it abruptly changes into purplish or bluish color, it might be suffering from cyanosis, which is a severe complication. 

Cyanosis is the lack of oxygen in the body due to respiratory illness or cardiovascular-related problems. Other signs of cyanosis include discoloration of the skin, gums, and mucous membranes. 

Having said this, the dark pigmentation on your dog’s tongue cannot solely indicate that your dog is partly Chow Chow or it isn’t purebred. 

If the discoloration is also not abrupt, there is not much to worry about with regards to health as extra pigmentation is normal — unless accompanied by unusual signs.

READ NEXT: Mini Chow Chow: Dog Breed Info, Pictures, Facts, FAQs & More

What Other Breeds Have Blue Tongues?

Aside from Chow Chows, AKC also specified in the breed standard for Chinese Shar-Pei that they should have bluish-black tongues, and the roof of their mouth and gums is preferably black. This is clearly shown in the photo above.

For Shar-Pei, consideration is given to those with dilute colors. Kennel club standards state that dilute colors may have a lightened bluish or lavender tone. 

Nonetheless, Chow Chow and Chinese Shar-Pei, which probably share distant ancestors, are the only breeds specifically required to exhibit blue tongues to pass the standards.

While only Chow Chows and Shar-Peis exhibit a full blue/black tongue, patches of blue/black pigmentation on the tongue can also be noticed in other breeds. The spots of dark blue pigmentation can be small or larger patches in size. 

There are more than 30 breeds that can exhibit spotted tongues, and here are some popular ones: 

  • Akita
  • Doberman
  • Irish Setter
  • Tibetan Mastiff
  • Pomeranian
  • Dalmatian
  • Airedale
  • Golden Retriever
  • Belgian Shepherd Dogs (Groenendael, Laekenois, Malinois, and Tervuren). 

Surprisingly, blue and black tongues are not only seen in dogs but also with other animals. Giraffes also have bluish tongues. Polar bears and some cattle breeds also have dark-colored tongues. 

But of course, this does not necessarily mean that dogs have giraffe or polar bear genes. This just shows that tongue pigment is pretty normal to most species. 

Final Thoughts

Chow Chows are elegant-looking dogs. Their lion-like mane, together with their blue/black tongue, makes them an easily recognizable dog breed.

If you are looking forward to buying one, you won’t be able to see if it is purebred or not by solely looking at the tongue since most Chow Chow puppies are born with pink ones. 

What you can do is ask for the pedigree to check whether the parents are purebred dogs. 

Even without their dark pigmentation on the tongue, Chow Chows will make a good house companion because of their loyal, bright, and dignified personalities. 

John Carter

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.

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