This section is from the book "A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland. (Non-Sporting Division)", by Rawdon Briggs Lee. Also available from Amazon: A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland, Non-Sporting Division.
PERHAPS I may be taken to task for introducing the above Chinese dog in a book purporting to deal with British modern varieties. However, the Chow-chow is now so common amongst us, he has classes specially provided for him at our leading exhibitions, that he could not with any degree of satisfaction be passed entirely over. Mr. Moore shows by his pencil what the dog is like in the flesh as we have him here, but not as he is butchered and hung up for sale in his native country.
Our Chow-chow - a native of the Celestial empire - is so called because he is used edibly, "chow-chow" being a "pigeon English" expression for food. At home he is common for that purpose, is butchered in the usual fashion, and may be seen any day hanging up in the meat shops in Canton and elsewhere; and the flesh looks very nice and dainty too. As a fact, the Chinese do not give their dogs so much animal food as we give ours, feeding them mostly on rice. They believe that the flesh of the dog possesses unusual medicinal properties, but what these properties are we barbarians here have yet to learn. Alongside these carcases of dogs may be seen the four paws of poor pussy, which, suitably cooked, are considered a great delicacy, and evidently as much esteemed by the Chinese as pigs' feet are by the English and the natives of other countries. It is strange somewhat that whilst only the paws of the cat are eaten, the whole of our friend the dog is converted into food.
The restaurants in Canton and in other large centres mostly provide dog soup; other savoury stews and ragouts are concocted from his flesh, and I am told that such are by no means unpleasant and form in a great measure the usual food of the middle classes.
Mr. W. K. Taunton, who is the great authority in this country on foreign dogs, kindly forwards me the following notes: -
"In China are found several different breeds of dogs, many of which bear a very close resemblance and are probably identical with some of the breeds of other countries. As an instance, there can be little doubt the hairless dog of China is the same as the Mexican hairless dog, and the crested dogs bear a striking likeness to the dogs which have lately been exhibited and described as African sand dogs. There are also small spaniels which, though differing in type from our present toy spaniels, are in all probability distantly related to them.
"The variety of Chinese dogs which is best known in this country is the one most commonly to be met with in its native country. This is the edible dog, sometimes described as the wolf dog, but better known here as the Chow-chow. They are undoubtedly a very old breed, in many respects resembling the Esquimaux and the dogs of the Arctic regions, especially in the carriage of tail, ears, and general expression. Scientists would find it an interesting inquiry to determine whether the Chinese dogs are bred from the canine race of the Arctic regions and Northern Europe or vice versa.
"Many of these dogs have a very keen scent, and in the north of China, where I imagine they are of a somewhat larger size than elsewhere, they are used in packs for hunting purposes.
"The orthodox colours of the Chow-chow are jet black and dark red. I have, however, seen many good specimens of a lighter colour, and at one time I owned a black and tan dog which was an exceptionally typical specimen. Whether this colour was the result of crossing the black and red I do not know, but as I have been frequently asked my experience of breeding the colours together, I may say here that I have found the puppies come either a distinct black or red.
"A writer in the Field some time ago said that white specimens were not uncommon, and he described these Chow-chows as useless excepting as guards or watch dogs, and said they were great cowards. It may be interesting to mention that some years since a well-known breeder and judge of Scottish terriers, residing in Scotland, was good enough to tell me of a pair of puppies which had just arrived by vessel, and which were supposed to be Esquimaux. I decided to buy them, but on arrival I saw they were crossed with something, and on examining their mouths was satisfied there was Chinese blood in them. These puppies were a very light fawn. When old enough I mated the bitch with a black dog of my own. In due course she presented me with five puppies, all jet black, but my disappointment was great on finding that not one of them possessed the special feature of the breed - a black, or rather blue-black, tongue.
My first impulse was to destroy the litter, but fortunately I did not adopt this course, as in a short time I observed small black spots, which gradually increased till the tongue became the correct colour. This, however, is not always the case, and in many instances an otherwise good dog is useless for show purposes through the tongue remaining red, as at the time of birth, or only turning partially black. It will be evident from this that anyone attempting to produce these dogs should endeavour to retain the dark tongue so peculiar to their breed, a peculiarity which I believe would quickly be lost without care in breeding. Other qualities which should be aimed at are a broad forehead, nose rather broader than the Esquimaux, small erect ears, carried well forward, small black eyes, a thick coat, coarser than the Pomeranian, small round feet, the tail curled over the back, and straight hocks.
The Chow-chow is a very companionable dog, and shows great affection for his owner, though many of them have a will of their own, and are more quarrelsome with other dogs than many other of the foreign races. It is frequently thought that these and other foreign dogs require special feeding and treatment, but I have never found it so, and mine are fed the same as my mastiffs and bloodhounds. In China, where the natives eat these dogs, they are fed largely on rice.
"There is a short-coated variety of the Chow-chow, but in this the nose is rather more pointed, and the coat resembles the under coat of the Esquimaux. Chow-chows live to a good age, and are hardy dogs, but many are carried off by distemper, from which they appear to suffer more severely than our native British breeds".
From the inquiries I have made elsewhere, and from my own experience, I can endorse all that Mr. Taunton has said of the variety. Both the black and the red Chow-chows, when in full coat, are very handsome animals, in this respect comparing favourably with our native varieties - the collie, for instance. He has, however, a somewhat wild-looking appearance, and his resemblance to the quasi-domesticated dogs of the Arctic regions is somewhat against his popularity. A few years ago the mate of a trading vessel, with whom I was acquainted, brought home with him from Pekin a very handsome specimen of the Chow-chow, a black one with a lovely tail and a coat like deep pile velvet. In those days I kept more dogs than I do now, and approached the sailor with the view of purchasing the importation. He would, however, not consent to part with his favourite, for which he had formed a great attachment, for he said "there never was a more faithful dog than he." On the very first day of landing in Liverpool the mate, sailor-like, went into the town to enjoy himself, as only sea-faring men can do after a lengthened absence from home. The dog, however, got tired of the public-houses, and slipped away. His owner was almost disconsolate at its loss. However, on returning to the vessel next day, the Chow-chow was the first to greet him as he stepped on deck, having found its way from the centre of the busy seaport along the docks, and to his own vessel, where he had remained until his master returned. Of course on hearing this I was more anxious than ever to secure the dog, but on making further application was informed it had been poisoned for biting a little child who was trying to pull its tail out of curl.
Perhaps here it might be well to mention that, as a rule, these foreign dogs, Chinese and Esquimaux, require no special feeding. They do well on the same food as our own, and Mr. Taunton tells me that he gives his cooked paunches and stale bread. Those, however, from the Arctic regions are very fond of fish, and in some cases it is wise to give them some occasionally. None of these foreign dogs are so quarrelsome as our own varieties, especially as the terriers, though perhaps the Chow-chows are more inclined to be snarly than the Esquimaux. Of course the dingoes from Australia are not included in this character, they being actually wild, and are never thoroughly tamed and domesticated.
A Chow-chow is from 40lb. to about 551b. in weight, and his numerical points may be given as follows: -
Head and expression ...
Stern or tail
Back and fore legs ...
Hind legs and loin
Grand Total, 100.