The Shar Pei, or Chinese Shar-Pei, is a breed of dog known for its distinctive features of deep wrinkles and a blue-black tongue. The breed comes from China.
The Westernized Shar Pei History
The origin of the Chinese Shar-Pei can be traced to the province of Kwun Tung (present-day Guangdong) and has existed for centuries in the southern provinces of China. These dogs helped their peasant masters with various tasks, such as herding cattle and guarding the home and family, and have proven themselves to be qualified hunters of wild game-usually wild pigs-and, of course, they were used for generations as fighting dogs by the Chinese nobility, although the practice became rarer after the people's revolution, when such activities were seen as the preserve of the decadent classes.
The ancestry of the Shar-Pei is uncertain. Pictures on pottery suggest the breed had existed even as far back as 206 BC. It may be a descendant of the Chow Chow, however, the only clear link between the two breeds is the purple tongue. The name "Shar-Pei" means sandy coat. The dogs were used as multipurpose working farm dogs for the Chinese, hunting, tracking, as a ratter, herding, protecting stock, and guarding the home and family. The dogs happily worked all day long. It was also used in dog fighting events where the loose skin and extremely prickly coat made it hard for the other dog to grab onto. According to old-time dog-fighting fanciers, when a dog's toes were slightly turned out as the body was viewed head-on, it was thought to help the dog with balance. The Chinese crawling dragon with its feet pointed east and west was considered a sign of strength. Because of poor breeding practices, many of the Shar-Pei have bad fronts. A dog with straight forelegs is correct. Up until the introduction of Breed Specific Legislation, designed to target breeds alleged to be "more likely" to attack and largely aimed at criminalising the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Shar-Pei was regarded as a breed designed, bred and selected for dog fighting. After the introduction of various Breed Specific Legislation, many breeders started to deny the fighting ancestry and concocted fanciful tales of a hunting heritage.
It is worth mentioning that the Chinese and Taiwanese still regard the Shar-Pei as a dog-fighting breed, although the prohibitive cost of the breed has done much to discourage such abuse. The Chinese believed that the image of the wrinkles and black pigmented mouth would scare off any evil spirits. During the Communist Revolution the Shar-Pei population dwindled.
In 1973 a Hong Kong business man named Matgo Law acquired a few of these dogs in an attempt to save the breed. He attracted people's attention through an American magazine. If not for the efforts of Matgo Law of Hong Kong, the Westernized Shar-Pei would not be here today. Due to his dedication to the breed, a small number of Shar-Pei were brought to the United States in the 1960s and early 1970s. In 1974, American and Canadian fanciers answered Matgo's appeal for help, and, in 1976, the first Shar-Pei was registered.
Westernized Shar Pei Appearance
Body: an alert, compact dog of medium size and substance; square in profile, close coupled; the well-proportioned head slightly, but not overly large for the body. The short, harsh coat, the loose skin covering the head and body, the small ears, the "hippopotamus" muzzle shape and the high set tail impart to the Shar-Pei a unique look peculiar to him alone. The loose skin and wrinkles covering the head, neck and body are superabundant in puppies but these features may be limited to the head, neck and withers in the adult. The body is short-coupled, compact and well-balanced, with a broad, deep chest that gives the dog a square appearance. The back is short and close-coupled and the topline dips slightly behind the withers, rising slightly over the short, broad loin. The tail is set high, thick and round at the base, tapering to a fine point and is carried in a curl.
Head: the head is large and full and is covered with profuse wrinkles on the forehead continuing into side wrinkles framing the face. The eyes are dark, small, almond-shaped and sunken, displaying a scowling expression. In the dilute colored dogs the eye color may be lighter. the ears are extremely small, rather thick, equilateral triangles in shape, slightly rounded at the tips; edges of the ear may curl. The ears lie flat against the head, are set high, wide apart and forward on the skull, pointing toward the eyes. The ears have the ability to move. A pricked ear is a disqualification. The skull is flat and broad, the stop moderately defined. The muzzle is one of the distinctive features of the breed. It is broad and full with no suggestion of snipiness. (The length from nose to stop is approximately the same as from stop to occiput.) The "butterfly" nose is large and wide and darkly pigmented, preferably black but any color conforming to the general coat color of the dog is acceptable. In dilute colors, the preferred nose is self-colored. Darkly pigmented cream Shar-Pei may have some light pigment either in the center of the nose or on the entire nose. The lips and top of muzzle are well-padded and may cause a slight bulge above the nose. The tongue, roof of mouth, gums and flews are preferrably solid bluish-black in all coat colors except in dilute colors, which have a solid lavender pigmentation. A spotted pink tongue is a major fault. A solid pink tongue is a disqualification. (Tongue colors may lighten due to heat stress; care must be taken not to confuse dilute pigmentation with a pink tongue.) The teeth are strong, meeting in a scissors bite. Deviation from a scissors bite is a major fault. Many people have said their face; especially the muzzle reminds them of a hippopotamus.
Height at Withers: the height at the withers for males is 46 centimeters (18 inches) to about 51 centimeters (20 inches). Bitches are around 44 centimeters (17.5 inches) high to about 49 centimeters (19.5 inches). The dog is usually larger and more square bodied than the bitch but both appear well proportioned. The height of the Shar-Pei from the ground to the withers is approximately equal to the length from the point of breastbone to the point of rump.
Weight: dogs weigh 25 up to 30 kilos (55-65 pounds ) and bitches 18 up to 20 kilos (40-45 pounds), in balance with their size.
Coat: the coat is extremely harsh, short and straight, neither slick or glossy. Coat length ranges from extremely short bristly harsh coat up to the brush coat, which should not exceed one inch in length at the withers.
Colors: they have several colors they can be including red, fawn, chocolate, cream, and black. The red and cream are the most popular of the breed.
Westernized Shar Pei Temperament
Character: The Chinese Shar-Pei is easy-going, calm, independent, devoted, intelligent playful, active, dominant, and brave. They make a delightful companion and good watchdogs.
Social Build: Shar-Pei are very loyal to their handler. They bond with their family, but are not unfriendly toward strangers. If the dog meets cats and children while they are still young, they usually will not have a problem with them. Mixing other dogs can sometimes be a problem if one of the dogs is displaying dominate behaviors. However some Shar-Pei are less dominant then others and show lines tend to be less dog-aggressive, mixing well with other dogs.
Westernized Shar Pei Socially
Care: This breed is very clean and one of the easier breeds to housebreak. Shar-Pei are sensitive to warm weather, partly do to the wrinkles on their head holding in the heat. On hot days shade should always be provided. Water should be available at all times. Some Shar-Pei tend to slobber, especially when in pain. It is important to find a reputable breeder when seeking a Shar-Pei. This breed was very popular in the 1980's. It was referred to as one of the "Yuppie Puppies", meaning the breeds that were carelessly over-bred. Prone to kidney failure (amolydosis) which causes a fever and swollen hocks syndrome. One misconception is that the Shar-Pei have skin problems due to their wrinkles; it is not their wrinkles as such but more a hereditary condition which is increased due to the wrinkles.
Education: Puppies are very tidy and they nearly housebreak themselves. The dogs temperament depends on how the owner treats the dog. Dogs who are allowed to believe they are the boss over humans will developed behavior issues. Dogs who are not taken for daily pack walks will also begin to display a varying degree of issues. Shar-Peis are quick learners and are easy to train, but they often do not respond well to repetitive tasks. Socialization to people, children, pets and other dogs is important. The Shar-Pei needs a confident handler. If you are uncertain, inconsistent, too soft, or mild, in the dog's eyes, it will take over as the boss. Shar-Pei need a firm, but gentle, extremely consistent authority figure. The dog must be taught all humans are above him in the pecking order. Those who see themselves as above humans will be stubborn and bold. This breed needs firm obedience training to establish your leadership. They may refuse commands from family members who have not established leadership over them. They need an owner who as the ability to be "Top Dog".
Activity: The Chinese Shar-Pei will do okay in an apartment if it is sufficiently exercised. It is moderately active indoors and will do okay without a yard. Provided they get enough exercise, they will be very peaceful indoors.
Westernized Shar Pei Quotes / Trivia
Shar-Pei are generally not fond of water and often try to avoid it.