Recent DNA analysis confirms that the chow chow is one of the oldest breeds of dog. Research indicates it is one of the first primitive breeds to evolve from the wolf, and is thought to have originated in the arid steppes of northern China/Mongolia. A Chinese bas-relief from 150 BC shows a hunting dog and a dog very friendly toward children similar in appearance to the chow. Later, chow chows were bred as general-purpose working dogs for hunting, herding, pulling and protection of the home. The black tongued chow was also bred for human consumption. Some scholars claim the chow was the original ancestor of the samoyed, norwegian elkhound, pomeranian and keeshond.

In the United States, the chow chow was a highly popular pet among the rich and famous during the Roaring Twenties. President Calvin Coolidge and his wife owned a black chow named Timmy. Chow chows were also popular in the 1930s and 1980s.

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