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Why Do So Many Dogs Have Chow Chow Ancestry?


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People are often surprised to learn their dog has some Chow Chow ancestry. Why are Chows common in mixed-breed dogs, but uncommon as purebreds? Learn more about this surprisingly common breed result with Embark’s Chief Science Officer, Dr. Adam Boyko.

Chow Chows were popular in the 1980s

Although we don’t see as many purebred Chows today, Chow Chows used to be very common. This ancient breed soared in popularity in America, becoming one of the most popular breeds in the 1980s.

They may be less popular today, but Chow Chows used to be prevalent in pop culture. Celebrity Martha Stewart famously has had multiple dogs in her family, including Chows named Genghis Khan, Chin Chin, Paw Paw, Max, and Zu Zu. 

Even as recently as 2022, these celebrity Chows were in the news. Buddakan, the offspring of Stewart’s dog Genghis Khan, won Best in Breed for the Chow Chow at the 2022 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Chow Chow ancestry is more common than you think

As a result of the breed’s popularity decades ago, we see small amounts of Chow Chow ancestry in many mixed-breed dogs today.

“Your dog’s smile can clue you in,” says Dr. Adam Boyko. “Chow mixes often have black spots on their tongues.”

Curious about your dog’s genetic ancestry? Learn more with an Embark dog DNA test.

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Famous Chow Chows throughout history

The popularity of the Chow Chow breed isn’t limited to the 1980s. There are several famous Chows in American history:

Though the breed has declined in popularity in recent years, we are happy to see that Chow Chow DNA lives on in today’s mixed-breed dogs.

Does your dog have Chow Chow ancestry? Tag us  @embarkvet on social media and let us know.

Mimi Padmabandu Contributor

Mimi Padmabandu is a scientific writer and Content Strategy Lead at Embark Veterinary. She has over a decade of experience writing about science and genomics for leading biotechnology companies. She holds a bachelor's degree in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology from UCLA and a master’s degree in Early Modern English Literature from King’s College London.

Read more about Mimi Padmabandu

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