Chow Chow Coat Color, Based on DNA
an update and information page for owners and breeders of Chow Chow
This webpage was posted on Feb. 18, 2012 and last updated on July 9, 2018 by Sheila Schmutz
The Chows Tested
Over the years, Chows from various countries have donated DNA via cheek brushes, hair clippings and posed for the photographs. These dogs were not parat of an official breed study, but rather were participants in various studies of particular alleles.
Call names that were provided are used here, not the registered names of the dogs.
The coat colors listed for Chow Chow in the FCI standard include:
Other standards also mention a color called "cinnamon".
The FCI standard also refers to the tongue color, a trait that is not common in most breeds. "A solid black mouth including the roof and flews, with a bluish black tongue is ideal. However, some dilution may be evident in the gums of blues and fawns and this dilution may be more pronounced in creams and whites."
The nose pigmentation is also mentioned in the FCI standard as "black (with exception of cream and near white, in which case a lighter coloured nose is permissible, and in blues and fawns a self-coloured nose (but black preferable in all cases)". Blue dogs can not have a black nose because the d/d genotype dilutes both the nose leather and pads and the fur to grey or charcoal. Assuming cinnamon dogs also have a d/d genotype, their nose leather and pads would likewise have to be charcoal also.
Nemo, shown on the right, is a black Chow Chow. He tested KB/KB, although a single KB allele would have sufficed for him to be black.
Nemo is also a smooth coated Chow, as opposed to a rough coated or long-haired Chow.
Blue is the dilute shade of black.
Shadow is a blue Chow who lived in Europe. He was tested during our study of the dilute locus or MLPH gene. Of the 6 blue Chows we tested, only 2 were homozygous for the exon 2 MLPH mutation (c.106C>T), and Shadow is not one of them. Therefore, we realized there was clearly more than one mutation that causes blue in this breed, as is true for several other breeds.
In 2018, the research group lead by Tosso Leeb discovered another mutation in MLPH at c.705G>C. This mutation can be homozygous in blue Chow, or there can be one chromosome carrying this mutation and the other carrying one of the other previously published mutations.
His nose leather is charocal. It is impossible to have a black nose on a blue dog. Note that the FCI standard calls this self-colored because the nose leather and coat color are the same. Note that his tongue is also blue in coloration.
Cinnamom, or Dilute Fawn
Kaya, shown on the left, is considered a cinnamon. She is homozgous for the exon 2 MLPH mutation. Her nose leather is charcoal, as expected in dogs with a d/d genotype, but that is not very evident in this photo as an adult. This was more evident when she was a pup (right). She is a daughter of Shadow, shown above.
Kaya is also ay/ay or fawn at the ASIP gene. It is often very difficult to see any effect of the d/d on adult fawn red dogs. But notice the difference among her red sibling who is not dilute and she and her sibling who is dilute, when the pups are very young.
Based on previous studies, several or even most red Chows are E/E and ay/ay. This genotype causes "fawn red". Fawn Red dogs may have some black hairs intermingled or black tipped hairs as pups, and black whiskers. Note that the two reddish pups in the photo at the right both have black hairs around their muzzles. This indicates both of these reddish pups are E/-, ay/ay and not e/e clear red.
Cream or White
Cream is probably a more accurate description for this color than white. Cream implies that there is a very pale shade of red from phaeomelanin pigmentation possible. White implies that there is no pigmentation, which is not the case in Chows.
Yuppi, on the left, is a cream Chow. He tested "e/e" at the MC1R gene. Although all cream Chows are e/e in genotype, not all e/e Chows are as pale as Yuppi.
Nose Leather and Tongue Pigmentation
The Chow Chow is a bit different than most other breeds. One of their special characteristics is a black or charcoal pigmented tongue. The Chinese Shar-Pei is another breed that is meant to have this characteristic. Dogs of most other breeds have pink tongues. There is no genetic explanation for this difference yet.
There is also a difference in nose leather pigmentation apprently. Apparently cream Chow pups are born with black pads and nose leather, as Bubbles in the 5 pup photo above is demonstrating. However, this often fades by the time they are a year old. Again, there is no genetic explanation for this fading nose leather at this time.
"Snow nose" occurs in many breed of dogs, of various coat colors. In "snow nose" or "winter nose", the nose pigmentation fades during the winter. It often darkens again over the summer, but not always.
Genetics of color and coat in the Chow Chow breed by Chow breeder, Anita Meulstee
Dog Coat Color Genetics Main Page
Sheila M. Schmutz, Ph.D.
Department of Animal and Poultry Science
University of Saskatchewan
Saskatoon, Canada S7N 5A8
phone: (306)966-4153 fax: (306)966-4151