Chinese zoo dyed dogs to look like pandas

Visitors to the Taizhou Zoo in Jiangsu, China, noticed something odd about the newest exhibit. The beasts within appear suspiciously like chow chows dyed to look like pandas. And that is, of course, exactly what they are. The dyed dogs are extremely adorable, nonetheless. From reportage, it sounds like a clever but ill-considered marketing stunt: the internet was immediately covered in footage of the zoo.

Zoo officials told Chinese state media that they were Chow Chows — a fluffy dog breed originally from northern China — painted black and white to resemble giant pandas, adding that they had clearly advertised them as "panda dogs" and did not make any false claims. The zoo, which does not have real pandas, was nonetheless criticized by state media and others for misleading visitors and mistreating the dogs. "It is not funny at all to dye Chow Chow dogs to attract tourists," one commenter wrote on the social media platform Weibo. "Their fragile skin and naturally thick coats make them susceptible to skin diseases."

The zoo says the dogs are fine. "Normal people dye their hair," a spokesperson told Qilu Evening News. "Dogs can dye their hair, too. It's the same as hair."

Last summer, Hangzhou zoo in China was forced to state that its sun bears were not people in costumes after their bipedal shenanigans were caught on camera. Though those were indeed real bears, Chinese daytrippers have every reason to be skeptical of the country's carnie-tier zoos. In 2021, one was caught posing a golden retriever as an African lion. In 2017, one gave inflatable penguins a try.