Why Do Chows Have Purple Tongues?

Why Do Chows Have Purple Tongues?

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We all know how fluffy and fuzzy Chow dogs can be, and appreciate that their chilled-out temperament is part of what makes them such great companions. An interesting thing about our cinnamon-colored friends is the number of stories that exist around where they got their dark-colored tongues from.

Known for being very placid yet cuddly, a Chow Chow has a purple tint to their tongue, lips, and palate which emerges as they grow from puppies.

The pigmented cells are just the same as the ones we see in human skin cells, although there are a lot of legends around where this pigmentation came from. Some of these cultural tales of the chow are unique to cultures, especially within China where the breed originated from. 

From various influential figures to religious links within history, Chow Chows have been loyal companions to the masses for centuries.

This article will cover some folk tale stories about the iconic breed, and then discuss the scientific reasoning for this pigmentation within the skin of Chows and some other animals.

The darker color can also be seen on the skin and tongues of many other dog breeds, but it is less universal and varies between generations and with different breeding.

Religious Links

Old folk tales featuring Chow Chows often feature monks, especially the ones that tell us about their unique tongues. It is said that in ancient days, an incapacitated monk sent out his Chow Chows to get firewood in order to warm them up during a very cold winter.

The dogs struggled to find wood and returned carrying some charred, burnt logs in their mouths. This is said to have given them the lasting darkness to their mouth, tongue, and palate. 

In Chinese legends, the Chow Chow is said to have been so afraid of the dark during nighttime that he licked the dark sky to make the day appear.

Of course, this was inconvenient to many of the Gods, so they decided to leave the dog blue-tongued as a sign to everyone about what he had done. 

In another legend, Sisshartha Guatama, the famous Buddhist, is said to have been painting a sky scene while his Chow Chow licked the dirty paintbrushes. It is said that that left the unusual coloring to the dog’s mouth, and it lasted as evidence of their curious minds. 


Some of the more influential figures within history kept a chow as a close companion and enjoyed their partnership as well as loyalty and protection from strangers.

As a young girl, Queen Victoria took her Chow Chow pet with her everywhere. Her caregivers began to worry about the effects and risks of having a dog so big around the young Queen, so they created a toy version that is now known as the Pomeranian. 

Chow was also the breed of choice for a monumental name within psychology. Freud kept a chow as a pet, and it was often involved in the diagnosis and treatment process with patients who found it easier to open up around.

Dogs have always been used for therapy because they are a lot more approachable, and the unconditional nature of their affection offers an easy companion to talk to and verbalize your feelings. Not to mention, modern-day chows are extremely fluffy and easy to cuddle with. 


Interestingly, the chow isn’t born with the well-known characteristic. When they are born, their tongue and mouth are a pink color, not unlike any other dog.

It’s not until they are around 10 weeks old that the pigmentation can be seen. The pigment itself is the same thing that makes our skin the color and shade that it is.

One interesting use for this darker coloration is that it can be a sign of the breed not being purebred if their lips, mouth, or tongue remain pink into maturity. Similarly to how when we get old our hair can go gray, older chows can lose the dark pigmentation with age. 

Interestingly, there is some disagreement within the scientific community in regard to the source of Chow’s pigmentation. Some argue that their body creates an excessive amount of melanin, which causes dark coloration.

Within the metabolism, that is thought to be responsible for the darkness. However, others have argued that it might be a result of a lack of tyrosine within their bodies.

The scientific uncertainty is part of what intrigues us about the beloved Chow Chow and makes them all the more mysterious. 

There are many animals who are known for the dark pigmentation in their tongues, but chow chows are the only species to have tongues, lips, and palates of the same unique color.

Giraffes, polar bears, and certain breeds of cows are all species that possess the characteristic. It is also more commonly seen within reptile species.

Not to mention, it can also be common to see some pigmented spots on the tongues of other dogs. These include Tibetan mastiffs, Akita, pugs, golden retrievers, collie, and many others.

When darker spots are noticeable on a dog’s tongue, it’s likely that it is a sign that they have some chow breeds in them. 

Hopefully, by this point, the chow breed is a lot less of a mystery, and you can appreciate the influence that it has had on many famous figures throughout history. Not to mention the different legends that have been shaped in honor of the majestic, fluffy breeds.

Chows are and have always been, special to China, known for towing people and goods through slimy pastures. They have played their part in history and continue to do so.

Put simply, it is pigmentation that makes chows tongues purple. However, it’s unclear whether that serves an evolutionary purpose or not.

There is still some debate about exactly what causes the pigmentation, and while some try to find the exact source of it and its causes, it is enough for us to say that they remain fascinating breeds with a place in our hearts.

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