The above definition certainly describes this perplexing little girl who was the first “chow” representing the breed at shows. Public interest in Chows for breeding and exhibition began in 1880 when well known fancier of exotic breeds and authority on domesticated foreign dogs, Mr W K Taunton, exhibited a black smooth chow bitch named “Chinese Puzzle”. The all breed dog show was held at The Crystal Palace in London, and as there was no classification for chows at that time, she was shown in the FOREIGN DOGS class, which included everything from the Australian Dingo to the Thibet Colley Dog. There was no sex division in the classes.
Born in China in 1879, Chinese Puzzle reached an adult weight of thirty-two pounds and her height was sixteen inches at the shoulder. In the article Mr. Taunton wrote below he compared her to a wild animal with the face resembling a raccoon for lack of a better way to describe this unique dog. She had straight hindquarters and a blue/black tongue.
Chinese Puzzle was only shown the one time and also produced a litter that died at a young age…regardless, because of the public’s fascination with this lovely “Celestial”, she paved the way for many more chows to be imported into England from China to be bred and shown. The majority of importations ceased around 1900 due to stricter regulations, so it was a small window in which our earliest true Chinese Chows could be acquired .
The third article below from The Illustrated Book of the Dog has a fascinating and detailed description by Taunton of Chinese Puzzle.
Book snippet below: The Popular Chow Chow by Lydia Ingleton 1954
“It is difficult, while writing of this comparatively early history of the breed, not to mention the bitch, “Chinese Puzzle” (owned by Taunton), who was brought over from China in 1879, described as “a genuine edible dog of China”. Judging from her picture,she was a “wonk” or native dog, of which better specimens may be seen today on many a Chinese farm!
One feels bound to mention her, however, because she is generally accepted as being the first Chow Chow to be shown in this country. True, she was not described as a Chow Chow, but merely entered in the foreign class aat the Crystal Palace Show in 1880, where she was awarded a prize, and an extra silver medal. One would like to know by what standard she was judged!
Below: The Fanciers’ Journal circa 1890 – An article detailing Mr. Taunton’s notes on the Chow Chow
Article below........"Chinese Dogs by W.K. Taunton" from the Illustrated Book of the dog 1840-1910
For the whole of the following remarks on the dogs of China, we are indebted to Mr. W. K. Taunton. In China there are several breeds of dogs showing a marked difference from one another. The common dog of the country is not unlike a large, coarse Pomeranian, and is in all probability very closely related to the Esquimaux breed. The muzzle is pointed, ears erect, coat long, straight and rather coarse in texture, but with a soft furry undercoat, tail closely curled over the hip. The lips and tongue are black, which appears to be a peculiarity of most of the Chinese breeds. A dog with a black tongue or one spotted with black would lead me to suppose there had been a very recent cross of Chinese blood, for I am not aware that this colour is found in the tongues of dogs of any other country. I say a very recent cross, because I imagine the peculiarity would be lost in a generation or two. These dogs are seen in a variety of colours, but most commonly of a deep red, and most rarely of a jet-black. In this country they are generally known as the " edible dog of China," as they are used for eating by the inhabitants of China, but only by the poorer classes of the population, and very rarely if ever at all by the upper and middle classes. Packs of these dogs, I am told, are used in North China for hunting the wolf, and are often called the Chinese Wolf-dog. .....Lang Gou (wolf dog)
I will now endeavour to describe the subject of your illustration, which is certainly a singular specimen of the canine race. The head is more like that of a racoon than any other animal I know of ;
The skin on forehead slightly wrinkled ; small eye ; flesh-coloured nose ; tongue black ; pricked ears ; wide chest ; short, thick neck ; compact body ; short, thick, but not bushy tail, carried somewhat high, with a slight curve, but not turned over the back ; colour sandy red, the legs being rather deeper in colour than the body ; toe-nails white, and dew-claws. The coat is short and thick, and was very soft, like the under-coat of the Esquimaux, but it appears to have got harsher lately, especially on the back. The inside of the ears, instead of being protected with hair which is the case with most, if not all, pricked-eared dogs is perfectly smooth. She has a peculiar gait when out, and has little or no idea of following, but when let loose at once starts oft" on her own account. I am unable to say what part of China she comes from, and only know she was brought direct from that country. When she was given to me I had some doubts as to her belonging to a distinct Chinese breed, never having seen any of the kind before ; but I have since been told by a gentleman from China, as well by others who have seen her, that she is true breed, an opinion endorsed by Mr. Lort at the last Crystal Palace show. When first she arrived she acted more like a wild animal than anything else, retreating to the back of her cage and showing her teeth in a most determined manner. She is now, however, perfectly quiet with people as well as other dogs, and will allow puppies to play about with her without attempting to molest them. I have bred one litter from her, but the puppies died suddenly when between three and four months old. I may add that the height of Chinese Puzzle is 16 inches, weight 32 Ibs., and that she won an extra silver medal, Crystal Palace, 1880, only time exhibited.
CHINESE PUZZLE'S PUBLISHED AWARDS IN SHOW CATALOG FROM THE CRYSTAL PALACE SHOW IN ENGLAND "Admiral" mentioned in the classes also owned by Taunton was a Norwegian sheep dog
Note the artist colorized Chinese Puzzle as a red dog even though she is well documented to be black coated