Shar Pei

Breed At A Glance


Loyal, intelligent and active

Life Expectancy
Up to 10 years

Average Height
18-20 inches

Average Weight
40-55 lbs

Coat Color
Red, sand, cream, black, and blue (with a blue/black tongue)

Coat Length/Texture
Three coat types: horse coat (short and bristly), brush coat (longer and softer), and bear coat (longest, does not meet breed standard)

Shedding Propensity
Bush coat sheds consistently year-round; horse coat sheds only during molting periods

Also known as Chinese Shar Pei, Chinese Fighting Dog

General Temperament

The Shar-Pei (Chinese Shar-Pei) is a loyal and calm spitz-type breed that loves the affection of their families. They are exceedingly clean and almost housebreak themselves. But they are also stubborn and bold, and therefore can be difficult to train. An owner must establish and maintain their role as “top dog” from the start, otherwise a Shar-Pei will take over. Even if such leadership over the dog is maintained, he will often refuse commands from family members who have not established leadership over him. This is generally a quiet breed, barking only when playing or worried.

Shar-Pei make excellent watch dogs, and will protect it’s family at all costs. Although often suspicious of strangers, they are not normally aggressive or vicious, and usually become amenable once given time to adjust to new visitors. Nevertheless, socialization from an early age is extremely important if the Shar-Pei is to live in harmony with other dogs or pets.

The Chinese Shar-Pei is an energetic breed that needs a considerable amount of exercise, which may include a daily walk (but be careful to not let the dog get overheated).

Breed History

The Shar-Pei is an ancient breed developed in the Guangdong province of China. The breed originally functioned as a cattle herder, guardian, and hunting helpmate for farmers and peasants. But the loose skin, nettlesome coat, and small ears also protected the Shar-Pei in battles; as a result, the breed gained favor as a fighting dog. The breed’s fighting career was cut short when traders opened China to the West during the Han dynasty approximately 2000 years ago, introducing larger mastiff-type fighting dogs. From that point forward, the Shar-Pei returned to it’s farming and peasant roots. When Communism was instituted in China after World War II, dogs were considered a luxury item, and taxes on pets thinned the ranks of the breed.

At it’s lowest point, the breed was given the title of “Rarest Dog in the World” by the Guiness Book of World Records. But a few breeders in the British colony of Hong Kong managed to maintain and promote the breed to Americans. Their plan worked almost too well, and created a huge demand for Shar-Pei pups. The sudden demand for the breed led to irresponsible breedings without regard to temperament, health or body structure. Some of the more reputable breeders formed the Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America to preserve and promote the well-being of the breed.

Body Structure and Composition

The Shar-Pei is one of the only breeds with an all black/blue tongue. It is a compact, square, muscular breed with a square head, tiny ears that lie against the head, and a short, curled tail. The characteristic wrinkles come in two varieties: the original type has skin somewhat tight on it’s body, with wrinkles only on the face and at the whithers; the more Western type is covered in large folds of wrinkles, even into adulthood (Shar-Pei puppies are all born with wrinkles over their entire bodies).

The Shar-Pei comes in three coat types: horse coat (short and bristly), brush coat (longer and softer), and bear coat. The bear coat is the longest, and athough attractive, does not meet breed standard.

Medical Information

Due to irresponsible breeding practices during the breeds early years in the U.S., the Shar-Pei is prone to many health problems. One of the more common problems is a painful eye condition called entropion, in which the eyelashes curl inward, irritating the eye and if left untreated, causing blindness. Inherited allergies can also be a problem for the Shar-Pei. one of the more perplexing medical issues is called Shar-Pei Fever, and causes sudden 24-hour fevers that have no apparent cause but nonetheless can become quiet serious. It’s possible that a disease called amyloidosis may be related to these fevers. Amyloidosis is caused by unprocessed amyloid proteins depositing in the organs, most often in the kidneys or liver, leading to renal failure. Hip Dysplasia, when head of the thigh bone no longer fits firmly in the “cup” provided by the hip socket, can cause pain and arthritic problems for the Shar-Pei.

The small folded ears and tiny ear canals, which allow little air to circulate within the ear, can lead to ear infections. Owners should check the Shar-Pei’s ears frequently to keep these types of infections in check. The bush coat Shar-Pei sheds consistently year-round, but the horse coat sheds only during molting periods. Molting can make this breed look unkempt, and a weekly bath during these times can help remove dead fur.

The Shar-Pei is ill-equipped for exceptionally warm climates, as they are sensitive to heat and can become overheated easily. Even in cooler-climates, it’s important to make sure the dog does not get overheated in summer.

Anecdotal Information

Shar-Pei have had cameo roles on many modern television shows such as The Simpsons and Lost.

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