Chinese Shar-Pei

When it comes to distinctive characteristics and unique traits, the Chinese Shar-Pei is one breed that first comes to mind. This ancient breed from China is of medium size and a member of the Non-Sporting Group.

Yet, the Shar-Pei is and always will be a guard dog that garners much fanfare for their loyalty and calm demeanor.

While the breed is considerably rare and once nearly extinct, the interest for this dog continues to rise.

So why the interest and is this a breed that is right for your family?

Here is everything you need to know about the Chinese Shar-Pei.

History

Much like most breeds, when it comes to history there is room for conversation as to ancestry and origin. While some believe the Chinese Shar-Pei is an ancient dog, others aren’t quite sure how archaic this breed truly is.

Following the popular narrative, the Shar-Pei dates back to the Hans Dynasty, where statues and scriptures seem to feature a dog resembling this breed.  Although there’s a possibility that the breed on those statues and scriptures were actually a Chow Chow. Of course, some historians speculate the Chinese Shar-Pei may owe its ancestry to the Chow Chow along with other breeds.

Having said that, the Chinese Shar-Pei dates back as far as thousands of years ago specifically around 200 BC.  Historians trace this breed’s roots back to small villages in Tai Li from the Kwantung province. Moreover,  the Shar-Pei was a peasant dog, where people would use the breed for hunting, herding and guarding. 

At some point in time, possibly in the region of Dah Let, which is near the South China Sea, the Chinese Shar-Pei became a fighting dog. In fact, before breeders began making bigger and more gruesome dogs. Additionally, this breed was a very successful fighting dog due to its elusive and unique “sand-skin.” 

As most historians note,  the Chinese Shar-Pei name means “Sand Skin.” Their distinctive wrinkles and folds made it hard for other fighting breeds to latch on to the Shar-Pei. Due to the banning of the bloodsport ritual and other breeds that were bigger and stronger, the Chinese Shar-Pei found itself losing its popularity.

Insofar, that the breed was nearly extinct in the mid-20th century. During the oppressive Communist regime in the Republic of China, a ban against the Shar-Pei was put into place. In fact, there was even a progressive tax, that most owners couldn’t afford to pay. This led to the breed’s diminishing role in Chinese society.

The few that did survive did so in Macao and Hong Kong. 

Fortunately, the breed had a friend in fancier, Matgo Law, who made a famous plea in a popular dog magazine for Americans to help revive the Chinese Shar-Pei. Americans took notice and fanciers began breeding imports from Hong Kong. 

In 1981, the U.K. began receiving imports of the Shar-Pei. The registration numbers went up and in 1985, the Kennel Club gave the breed official recognition. A few years later, the Hong Kong Kennel Club made the decision to give formal recognition to the Shar-Pei. This would end the long battle the club had with breeders of the Chinese Shar-Pei. 

It would take a few years after the breed made an appearance in Life magazine for the AKC to accept the breed. In 1988, the American Kennel Club did just that, accepting the Chinese Shar-Pei into the Miscellaneous Class. The breed would gain official recognition in 1992 and become a part of the Non Sporting Group

Today, the breed is still a guard dog, that takes its role quite serious. While some countries may use the Shar-Pei as a herding and hunting dog, the breed enjoys its role as companion. According to the AKC, the breed is the Chinese Shar-Pei is the 61st most popular dog.

Size

The Chinese Shar-Pei is a medium size dog that can stand between 18 to 20 inches. According to the American Kennel Club, the Shar-Pei should weigh between 45 to 60 pounds.

Personality/Temperament

Like a rock with wrinkles and folds throughout their body is a prudent way to describe the Chinese Shar-Pei. They are calm, cool and level in their temperament. The Shar-Pei is loyal and devout to its master and family. Your property is this breed’s kingdom, worthy of defending and protecting.

Yet, this isn’t just a guard dog, that isn’t capable of doing other great things. But in reality, this is a breed that does much better as a single person’s pet. The Chinese Shar-Pei is a better fit for someone who doesn’t have other dogs. 

If you do have pets and smaller children, then clearly supervision is necessary. 

Having said that, the Chinese Shar-Pei is a great fit anywhere. They do adapt well to life inside an apartment or a farm home.

They don’t require a ton of exercise. The Shar-Pei is a medium energy breed. When it comes to training, this is a breed that will make you earn their time and energy. They can be somewhat stubborn at times. This doesn’t mean they won’t learn and don’t want to, but the breed has other ideas it may want to entertain first. Persistence is key with this breed.

As far as strangers, the Shar-Pei will act on the side of suspicion. They may be aloof and weary of anyone coming near their “kingdom.” This is the breed’s territorial side and protective nature. Expect barking towards people they don’t know.

All in all, if you are the right fit for a breed like this, they are loving and sometimes goofy in nature. Great guard dogs that aren’t extremely active. This is a breed for a family with older children or a single person.

Health

As cool as their distinctive appearance is, the Chinese Shar-Pei pays for it when it comes to health. Right off as a puppy, you’ll need to pay special attention to this breed’s eyes. In fact, the Shar-Pei comes with a slew of health concerns mainly affecting their eyes.

As puppies, they don’t enjoy the same freedom to see as other breeds. Moreover, this is a breed that doesn’t have full access to their peripheral vision like other breeds do.

When you buy from a breeder, especially with the Chinese Shar-Pei, be sure that you buy from someone with a good reputation. Someone that can show you the proper health clearances and documentation to clear this dog. Issues with the eyes can be detrimental for this breed’s future. 

You’ll certainly want to get together with the veterinarian on diet needs and how to approach this breed’s health moving forward. If all goes well, expect the Chinese Shar-Pei to live between 8 to 12 years.

This is a Brachycephallic breed, which means a short nose, furthermore, a condition that will make this breed endear issues with breathing and heat. Expect to hear the Chinese Shar-Pei snore and sneeze often. You will want to monitor them around the heat and this is a breed that may have sensitivity issues with anesthesia.

Entropion, which is a condition where the eyelid rolls in, which causes the eyelash to scratch and rub against the cornea causing irritation. This can lead to tearing, squinting, pain, ulcers and scarring. Retinal Dysplasia, Ectropion, Cherry Eye, and Glaucoma are also likely health bandits affecting the Chinese Shar-Pei.

Like other breeds, there is a possibility of the Shar-Pei suffering from Hip and Elbow Dysplasia. Both can lead to lameness, pain, discomfort and sometimes osteoarthritis.

Patellar Luxation is another condition that seems to affect this breed. This is one of the most common orthopedic conditions affecting the joints. When the knee slips out of the trochlear groove it causes an immense deal of pain. Common with small breeds like the Boston Terrier.

One condition that is fairly relevant with the Chinese Shar-Pei is Hypothyroidism. This is when the thyroid gland is under active, leading to issues with the metabolism system. This can cause hair loss, weight gain and lethargy. Labs, Dobermans and English Setters have the highest occurrence rates with this condition.

Finally, the breed does have various skin issues. Pyoderma and Demodetic Mange are common problems affecting the breed. Also, bloat, ulcers, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Care

You’ll have your hands full with the Shar-Pei. The wrinkles and folds on their face and throughout their bodies will need regular cleaning and inspecting. The Chinese Shar-Pei should have their nails trim once a month or whenever you inspect overgrowth. A bath when you deem necessary. You should check their ears frequently to avoid buildup or bacterial debris from festering.

The Chinese Shar-Pei should have consistent firm reinforcement as a puppy and throughout most of their adult life. Early training and socialization is an absolute must with this breed. The more friendly of a dog you raise, will reduce the chances of an aggressive adult. 

This is a breed that should have a firm hand with experience. Someone who can afford the nuances of a rather challenging breed with regards to health. Smaller children and smaller pets aren’t the greatest fit.

A walk once in the day and at night should suffice this breed’s activity requirements. You’ll want to keep this breed on a leash or provide adequate fencing. Hot and cold days can be brutal for the Chinese Shar-Pei, so be mindful of their short nose.

Feeding

Due to the breed’s skin and allergy issues, you may want to consult your veterinarian on this breed’s diet. Of course, how much and what your dog eats will depend on their activity rate, metabolism and age. Spaying and neutering can also be a factor in the breed’s feeding regime.

A recommendation of 1.5 to 2.5 cups of dry kibble  per day should suffice this breed’s feeding needs. You can break that up into two meals per day to help counter obesity and issues like Bloat.

You should feed them high quality meat first food. Again, you may need to ask your veterinarian if the food is appropriate for your Chinese Shar-Pei.

Of course, you should always provide your Shar-Pei with fresh drinking water.

Coat

If you enjoy a breed with a variety of coats, then the Chinese Shar-Pei is your dog. This is a breed that is broken into two types of coats. The first is the short coat type or “Horse Coat.” The term “sand skin” reflects the texture of this coarse feeling coat. The other type is “Brush Coat,” which is longer but shouldn’t exceed 1 inch in length.

They do shed seasonally and will require occasional grooming.

The American Kennel Club claims the breed has 18 colors for coat options: Red sable, red fawn, red, lilac dilute, isabela dilute, five point red dilute, fawn sable, fawn, cream sable, cream dilute, cream, chocolate dilute, brown, blue dilute, blue, black sable, black and apricot dilute.

There are also seven markings: Brindle, mask, pointed, sable, saddle pattern, spotted on white, white markings.

Fun Chinese Shar-Pei Facts

  • The Shar-Pei is the 134th breed to gain AKC recognition.
  • This is one of two breeds with blue black tongues.
  • Chinese Shar-Pei is said to be a breed of the peasants.
  • Some historians believe the Shar-Pei shares ancestry with the Chow Chow. There’s also the chance the breed has bloodlines with the Bloodhound, Boxer and Bulldog.

Closing Words

It was only a few decades ago, that the Chinese Shar-Pei was facing real possible extinction. Thankfully, a few breeders and an American effort helped revive the breed back to grace. 

Now, the Shar-Pei enjoys a life less vicious and as a popular but rare companion in many households. With the right family or owner, the Chinese Shar-Pei is an excellent choice as a pet.