The Shar-Pei is a Chinese breed of dog that has been around for centuries, perhaps even as far back as 200BC. The breed was mostly used by peasant farmers. The strength and willingness to work shown by these dogs meant that many farmers used them for guarding, herding and hunting game. This breed’s signature folds of skin and their blue-black mouths were believed to ward off evil spirits. The exact lineage of this breed is unknown, but their tongue colour suggests they are related to the Chow-Chow.
During the Communist Revolution the Shar-Pei population dwindled almost to extinction. In 1973, however, a Chinese business man brought the breed to the attention of the world through a magazine. Since then, the population has risen and today they’re one of the more popular breeds.
The Shar-Pei is hard to miss. They are very large dogs that tend to be covered with wrinkles. Their eyes are small and dark and their ears are high and triangular. Besides their wrinkles, the most unique feature of this breed is their tail. Their tails are set quite high and thick at the base. At the tip the tail tapers in and curls up tightly over the dog’s back. The height of a Shar Pei can be between 46 and 51 centimetres and weight is normally around 18 to 25 kilograms.
There are three types of coats associated with this breed: the horse coat, the brush coat and the bear coat. The horse coat is short, rough and prickly, while the brush coat is slightly longer and softer. The bear coat is quite rare and not in line with breed standards. This coat is longer than the other two types, making it difficult to see the wrinkles underneath. Shedding is usually not much of a problem with this breed, although the bear coat will shed quite heavily twice a year.
Shar-Pei make for very loyal, playful and intelligent companions. They tend to be a little wary of strangers, but not so much that it’s problematic, especially if they have been well socialized at a young age. They make excellent watchdogs and are one of the easiest breeds to housebreak. They’re a very clean breed, although they are prone to slobbering, more so after eating and drinking.
Depending on the line a Shar-Pei comes from, they can tend to have a dominant personality. This means that they do best with experienced trainers who know how to “be the boss” in a firm but gentle way. If the dog feels like he is the one in charge, problems can result. It is very important to socialize this breed at an early age so they can relate to children and other animals.
Because of their rapid growth in popularity during the 70’s and 80’s, Shar-Pei were bred hurriedly and haphazardly. This led to a number of hereditary health problems that can still be seen today. It is important to get your Shar-Pei from a reputable breeder in order to lessen the risks of these problems. Even under the best circumstances, this breed is prone to problems like skin infections, kidney problems, fevers, entropion (eyelashes that curl inward) and food allergies.
Some Shar-Pei have a problem getting along with other dogs. If the other canines they interact with show dominant behaviour, they may feel the need to compete and prove that they’re the “top dog”. This tendency varies depending on the line and can be avoided through proper training and socialization.