Why Do Chows Have Blue Tongues?

Chow Chows have blue tongues because of selective breeding. The tongue is initially punk during puppyhood but changes color due to extra pigmentation.

Feb 25, 2024By Thalia Oosthuizen
why do chows have blue tongues

Over hundreds of years, dogs, as well as most other living organisms, have developed unique traits and features as a result of genetics and changes in their environments. Ever wondered why your Chow has a blue tongue or what caused your furry friend to develop a dark shadow around their muzzle?

Below, we will be discussing the science behind the blue tongue and a few other unique traits that you can look out for.

Chows Have Blue Tongues Because of Breeding

Red Chow Chow Dog Standing in Kitchen
Image credit: Unsplash

Chow Chows are an ancient dog breed originating from China. Initially, they were bred as guard dogs to deter intruders. However, over the years, they’ve gained popularity as a regal, cat-like canine, ranking 92 out of the American Kennel Club’s 201 registered breeds.

Chows have blue tongues through years of selective breeding. These practices resulted in the dogs’ tongue having excessive melanin. This is a natural pigment that may color a dog’s eyes, fur, skin, and yes, even their tongue.

Interesting Facts About the Chow’s Blue Tongue

Fluffy Chow Chow Dog with Blue Tongue
Image credit: Unsplash

If your dog has a blue tongue, they are truly unique, as only a handful of breeds in the world are guaranteed this trait. While we know how the pigmentation develops, we still aren’t quite sure as to where it developed in the first place. Some researchers believe that the blue tongue stems from a genetic mutation that breeders selectively bred for. Others think that the Chow’s ancestral dog (an array of likely extinct dog breeds hailing from China) contributed to the coloration.

Facts About Chow Chows (and Other Dogs)

Chow Puppy Sitting in Field with Blue Tongue
Image credit: Unsplash

Some facts of note about the Chow’s blue tongue include:

  • Chows are not born with this feature. Some dogs only develop certain features as they mature. For instance, Dalmatians only develop their spots once they turn a certain age. Most Chows only develop their blue tongue around 8 to 10 weeks old.
  • Some Chow mixes have blue tongues. You might have brought home a “Lab mix” from the shelter, only for it to have a partial blue tongue! That likely means you have a two-for-one deal on your hands: a Lab and Chow mix!
  • Some dogs get spots on their tongues over time. There’s nothing to be worried about if your dog starts developing blue spots on their tongue as they get older! It’s a completely normal part of the aging process, like how human hair turns gray.

Which Other Dog Breeds Have Blue Tongues?

Chow Chow Dog Running Down Path in Garden
Image credit: Unsplash

Chow Chows aren’t the only breed in the world that have blue tongues. In fact, it’s pretty standard for the Chinese Shar-Pei, the Eurasier and Thai Ridgebacks. Popular breeds, such as the Australian Shepherd, may also develop spots on their tongues. This is more common in dogs that have pigmented fur, like the Blue Heeler.

Below, we have created a list of dogs that could develop completely blue tongues or spotted tongues over time:

What Are Some Other Unique Traits Dog Breeds May Have?

Chow Dog Walking on Grass Lot in Suburb
Image credit: Unsplash

On top of the blue tongue, there are plenty of other unique traits that various dog breeds have developed over time. Some of these are genetic, while others are adaptations that have developed over hundreds (or thousands) of years to help the dog survive in its natural environment.

Some unique traits in dogs include:

The “Batman” Gene

Does your dog have a completely black nose and face, while the rest of its body is a lighter color? If so, it may have what is known as the “Batman” (or MC1R) gene. This gene determines whether a dog can develop dark fur. In some cases, it can give the dog a completely black face or “mask.”

We aren’t entirely sure why some dogs have this gene while others don’t, but some experts believe that the black face developed over time in breeds that were raised for hunting at night.

Extra Muscle

Chow Dog Running Through Autumn Leaves
Image credit: Unsplash

Ever seen a dog that looks incredibly well-built and muscular? You’re probably thinking of large breeds, such as Rottweilers, pitbulls, and German Shepherds. This is because these dogs are more prone to being born with the ACSL4 gene, which is responsible for the development of muscle growth.

Over time, this gene has become more dominant in certain breeds. Some experts believe that this is because they have been used as fighting dogs for hundreds of years. Make no mistake: just because a dog is big and muscular doesn’t mean that it’s aggressive. In fact, many muscular canines are known for being gentle giants!

Blue Eyes

Certain breeds, including the Siberian Husky and Australian Shepherd, can sometimes have bold, bright, and beautiful eye colors. As most people are used to brown eyes, seeing a dog with crystal blue eyes is often very striking.

This unique trait is recessive, meaning that two gene variants need to be present in both parents for it to occur in the puppies. Science shows that breeds with mainly white coats are more likely to have this gene variant.

Chows, Like Other Breeds, Have Unique Traits

Chow Dog on Harness Panting with Tongue Out
Image credit: Pexels

All dogs are unique in their own ways, but some feature incredibly rare traits that only a handful of other breeds possess. For example, the Chow Chow is one of the only dogs in the world that is guaranteed to develop a blue tongue as they age. This genetic trait may occur in breeds including the Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, Akita, and Siberian Husky.

A few other unique traits that some breeds have developed over time are the “Batman” mask, extra muscle because of the ACSL4 gene, and blue eyes in dogs that have primarily white coats.

Thalia Oosthuizen
By Thalia Oosthuizen

Thalia has been a freelance writer for over a decade and a dog (and animal) lover for over 30 years. She grew up on a farm where, at one stage, she had 15 dogs. She currently has one dog, Avery - an adorable pavement special with an extra toe on each foot, and two rescue cats - Boris and Mango. In her spare time, Thalia enjoys running, cycling, swimming, and reading