Cinnamon Chow Chow

Learn more about the fawn or cinnamon coat color in Chow Chows.

Is Cinnamon A Standard Color In Chow Chows?

The AKC accepts cinnamon as an official breed color. Under the FCI, the same coat color is called “fawn“.

What Does A Cinnamon Chow Chow Look Like?

In Chow Chows, “fawn” or “cinnamon” are breed terms used for a blue-based sable pattern.

The AKC uses cinnamon while the FCI calls these dogs fawn.

They differ from red Chows by their diluted black eumelanin.

The most obvious features of a cinnamon Chow are its slate gray nose, gray eye rims, its gray puppy shading, and gray puppy masking (blue overlay can often look a little brownish on top of an orange coat).

The FCI standard acknowledges that “some dilution may be evident in the gums of blues and fawns” and that they have “a self-coloured nose” and both have a “matching coloured eye“.

However, the AKC denies that their blue-based sables have a blue nose. Instead, they try to define cinnamon as a coat color. They call this range of colors “light fawn to deep cinnamon“.

The AKC glossary of breed terms defines the cinnamon color as “the color or the spice of the same name, […] a lightly saturated, yellowish brown.” (brown being used purely descriptive).

However, color dilution typically only affectseumelanin and should not lighten phaeomelanin.

What actually happens is that even a clear blue sable Chow has some minor gray hair tipping which causes a slight metallic sheen. This is what why a fawn Chow looks more matte next to a normal red.

Cinnamon Chow Chow Markings

Most adult red Chow Chows have a clear sable pattern with a mostly phaeomelanic base color. However, they are born with more blue shading in their puppy coat most of which will clear later on.

Some even have a gray puppy mask.

Many Chow Chows have a pale undercoat and light feathering. Some Chows even show countershading with a lighter phaeomelanin color on the belly, legs, chest, muzzle, and eyebrows.

This causes what Chow people likely call a “shaded cinnamon” phenotype.

Countershading can be washed out or give crisp light face markings.

Although not a standard marking, some cinnamon Chows have a blue mask (Em). Not to be confused with faint puppy masking (not related to Em) in many Chow puppies which will fade over time.

Cinnamon Chow Chow Nose Color

A dog’s nose gets its color only from its eumelanin pigment.

Dogs with a blue-based pattern will always have a gray or slate nose. Also, any visible skin pigment like eye rims and lips and even the nails and paw pads will be blue.

Dogs with blue eumelanin pigment can not have a black nose.

Nevertheless, the AKC standard says that blue-based sable or “cinnamon” Chow Chows should have a black nose and black eye rims and lips (impossible for a dog with blue pigment!). This can only mean that the skin pigment on a cinnamon Chow Chow has to be so dark gray that it passes as black-ish.

Their super dark gray pigment is also what makes it so incredibly hard to spot a cinnamon in pictures.

“Cinnamons […] must have a solid black nose. “
AKC Breed Standard

Cinnamon Chow Chow Eye Color

Eye color is determined by eumelanin color and pigment density.

With blue pigment, dogs usually have yellow or amber eyes and show a lighter yellow-greenish eye color in puppies. Despite this, the AKC breed standard wants all Chows to have dark brown eyes.

“Eyes dark brown, deep set and placed wide apart and obliquely, of moderate size, almond in shape.”
AKC Breed Standard

Cinnamon Chow Chow Coat Type

Chow Chows are double-coated, they can be rough or smooth.

Long-haired cinnamon Chows with a “rough” coat produce a long offstanding outer coat with a soft and wooly undercoat. They will have a long ruff and lots of leg and tail feathering.

Short-haired cinnamon Chows with a “smooth” coat will not have a ruff and produce less undercoat. Their shorter outer coat forms a smooth plush-like layer with no obvious ruff or feathering.

Chow Chows are fixed for a non-furnished coat. However, a very small number of Chow Chows have a curly variant but curls are not a desired trait.









Cinnamon Chow Chow Genetics

Cinnamon Chow Chows have a sable pattern with diluted (d/d) black (B/-) eumelanin.

Basic Pattern

The A, K and E locus combined are responsible for a dog’s basic pattern. They tell pigment cells when and where to produce either eumelanin or phaeomelanin.

All fawn or cinnamon Chows express a sable pattern.


wild type

wild type

A Locus

The A locus is responsible for the basic distribution of colors in a pattern.

A clear sable pattern (Ay/-) gives a predominantly solid red coat with only minimal sabling.

K Locus

The wild-type K locus  (ky/ky) does not affect coat color. It just enables normal A locus expression.

E Locus

The E locus wild type (E/-) does not affect coat color. It just enables normal A locus expression

Some Chows keep a dark mask into adulthood, they might have an Em variant.

  • Ay/Ay
    • E/-
      • ky/ky
        • sable
      • KB/-
        • dominant black
    • e/e
      • recessive red
        cream, white

Pigment Colors

Next, other genes determine the actual colors in a dog’s base pattern.

Cinnamon Chows have diluted black (blue) eumelanin.



fawn, cinnamon


Cinnamon Chow Chows have diluted (d/d) black (B/-) eumelanin.

Chow Chows with color dilution can have the common d1 variant or the much rarer d2 variant[1]. Any combination (d1/d1d1/d2d2/d2) has the same effect on the coat and can be simplified to d/d.

However, there is not much eumelanin to be found in a clear sable pattern.

But the blue pigment is visible in the nose, skin, eye rims, lips, or tongue color. Cinnamon Chows will have a dark gray nose despite what the AKC standard says.

  • B/-
    • D/-
      • normal black
    • d/d
      • diluted black


The phaeomelanin intensity on a fawn Chow Chow ranges “from light fawn to deep cinnamon“.

Cinnamon Chows with countershading or light feathering are called “shaded“.

Other Traits

Some traits can modify a pattern by removing pigment or further modifying colors:

Chow Chows are not supposed to have white markings or merle.




White Markings

Chow Chows are fixed for a solid coat color (S/S).


Purebred Chow Chows don’t come in merle.

Merle typically only affects eumelanin and not phaeomelanin. It would only be visible in black puppy shading or black masks. Hence, merle would be hidden in a mostly clear sable pattern anyway.

More Chow Chow Colors

Chow Chows can come in other colors than fawn/cinnamon:

Red Chow Chow

Red Chow Chows have a black-based sable pattern.

Pattern: E/- ky/ky Ay/- (sable)
Eumelanin: B/- D/- (non-diluted black)
Intensity: “light golden to deep mahogany

Black Chow Chow

Black Chow Chows have a black-based dominant black pattern.

Pattern: E/- KB/- (dominant black)
Eumelanin: B/- D/- (non-diluted black)

Blue Chow Chow

Blue Chow Chows have a blue-based dominant black pattern.

Pattern: E/- KB/- (dominant black)
Eumelanin: B/- d/d (diluted black)

Cream Chow Chow

Cream Chow Chows have a recessive red pattern.

Pattern: e/e (recessive red)
Eumelanin: B/- (black)
Intensity: “cream, white

Cinnamon Chow Chow (Fawn)

Cinnamon Chow Chows have a blue-based sable pattern.

Pattern: E/- ky/ky Ay/- (sable)
Eumelanin: B/- d/d (diluted black)
Intensity: “light fawn to deep cinnamon

Learn More


[1] Bauer, Kehl, Jagannathan, Leeb: A novel MLPH variant in dogs with coat colour dilution. Anim Genet. 2018.