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The Shar-Pei is compact and square, with a head slightly large for its body. Its signature wrinkles enabled it to twist away when grabbed by a dog when in a fight. Its stiff bristly coat further afforded protection against bites. The coat can be of either brush (not to exceed 1 inch) or horse (very short) types, both should be extremely harsh, straight and stand off the body. The small, close ears and small, sunken eyes afford further protection. The gait is free, with good reach and drive. The wide, powerful jaws, scowling expression and hippopotamus muzzle create a look unique to the breed.
The Shar-Pei is self-assured, serious, independent, stubborn and very much self-possessed. Although not particularly demonstrative, it is devoted and very protective of its family. It is reserved, even suspicious, toward strangers. It can be aggressive toward other dogs and may chase livestock and other animals, although it is generally good with other family pets. The Shar-Pei needs daily mental and physical stimulation, but its needs can be met with lively games throughout the day or a good long walk. It is not generally amenable to exclusive outdoor living, but it can divide its time between house and yard. The coat needs only weekly brushing, but wrinkles need regular attention to ensure that no irritations develop within the skin folds.
AKC RANKING 40
FAMILY livestock dog, mountain dog, Northern (companion)
AREA OF ORIGIN China
DATE OF ORIGIN 1200s
ORIGINAL FUNCTION dog fighting, herding, hunting, guardian
TODAY'S FUNCTION companion
AVERAGE SIZE OF MALE Height: 18-20 Weight: 45-60
AVERAGE SIZE OF FEMALE Height: 18-20 Weight: 45-60
OTHER NAME Chinese fighting dog
Energy level Medium energy
Exercise needs Medium
Playfullness Not very playful
Affection level Somewhat affectionate
Friendliness toward other dogs Shy
Friendliness toward other pets Friendly
Friendliness toward strangers Shy
Ease of training Easy to train
Watchdog ability High
Protection ability Very protective
Grooming needs Low maintenance
Cold tolerance Medium tolerance
Heat tolerance Low tolerance
The name Shar-Pei means sandy coat, referring to the gritty sandpaper texture of the coat. When rubbed backward, the prickly coat can be uncomfortable, and even cause welts on the skin of an occasional sensitive person. Major concerns: entropion, CHD
Minor concerns: patellar luxation, elbow dysplasia, demodectic mange
Occasionally seen: ciliary dyskinesia, renal amoidosis
Suggested tests: hip, knee, elbow, (eye)
Life span: 8 10 years
Note: The breed is susceptible to fevers of unknown origin, often
occurring with swollen hocks.
The Chinese Shar-Pei may have existed in the southern provinces of China since the Han Dynasty (around 200 B.C.). Certainly by the 13th century strong evidence in the form of writings describing a wrinkled dog point to the breed's existence. Its origins are unknown, but because only it and the chow chow have blue-black tongues, and both come from China, it is likely that they share some common ancestry. The Shar-Pei's history is difficult to trace because most records relating to its past were lost when China became communist. At this time Shar-Peis were the working breed of peasant farmers, fulfilling roles of guard dog, wild boar hunter and dog fighter. After the nation became communist, most of China's dogs were eliminated, with only a few remaining outside of the cities. A few Shar-Peis were bred in British Hong Kong and Taiwan, and the Hong Kong Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1968. Around this same time, a few specimens came to America, but the turning point occurred with a 1973 article alerting American fanciers to the breed's perilously low numbers. Touted as the world's rarest dog, fanciers vied to obtain the few available Shar-Peis. The breed has since been brought from the brink of extinction to the height of popularity, and it is one of the most recognizable breeds in America. Though known for its loose skin and profuse wrinkles, which are superabundant in puppies, the wrinkles of adults may be limited only to the head, neck and shoulders.