Shar Pei: Discover the Unique Features and History of this Chinese Dog Breed

The Shar Pei is a fascinating dog breed with a rich history and distinctive features. Originating from China, this medium-sized dog is known for its unique appearance, including its wrinkled skin. With its loyal and protective nature, the Shar Pei makes for a loyal companion and a reliable guard dog.

Join me as I delve into the origins of the Shar Pei, explore its remarkable journey from near extinction to resurgence, and uncover the key characteristics that set this breed apart. From their Chinese origins to their health concerns, we will cover all you need to know about the remarkable Shar Pei.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Shar Pei is a Chinese dog breed known for its distinctive wrinkles and unique appearance.
  • This medium-sized dog is a loyal companion and a reliable guard dog.
  • The Shar Pei faced near extinction but has since experienced a resurgence in popularity.
  • They have a square profile, a broad muzzle, and a blue-black tongue.
  • The Shar Pei is prone to certain health concerns, including kidney failure and skin problems.

The Origins of the Shar Pei

The exact origins of the Shar Pei are unclear, but it is believed to have descended from an un-wrinkled type of guard dog that was present in southern China during the Han dynasty. Some experts speculate that the breed shares a common ancestry with the Chow Chow. The Shar Pei is considered a basal breed, predating the emergence of modern dog breeds in the 19th century.

The Origins of the Shar Pei

The exact origins of the Shar Pei are unclear, but it is believed to have descended from an un-wrinkled type of guard dog that was present in southern China during the Han dynasty. Some experts speculate that the breed shares a common ancestry with the Chow Chow. The Shar Pei is considered a basal breed, predating the emergence of modern dog breeds in the 19th century.

The Shar Pei is considered a basal breed, predating the emergence of modern dog breeds in the 19th century.

To understand the origins of the Shar Pei, we must look back to ancient China, specifically the Han dynasty. While the exact lineage of this beloved breed remains shrouded in mystery, historical evidence suggests that it descended from an un-wrinkled type of guard dog found in the southern regions of China.

Some experts hypothesize that the Shar Pei shares a common ancestry with another Chinese breed, the Chow Chow. The similarities in appearance and temperament between the two breeds lend support to this theory. However, conclusive evidence is yet to be discovered.

What sets the Shar Pei apart from other dog breeds is its status as a basal breed. This means that it predates the emergence of modern dog breeds that occurred in the 19th century. The Shar Pei’s ancient lineage contributes to its unique characteristics and has earned it a special place in the hearts of dog enthusiasts around the world.

Near Extinction and Resurgence

The Shar Pei faced near extinction in the 20th century due to war and political turmoil in China. By the 1970s, there were only 60 remaining Shar Pei dogs, and the breed was recognized as the world’s rarest breed by The Guinness Book of Records. A Hong Kong businessman named Matgo Law appealed to international organizations, including the American Kennel Club, to help save the breed. Thanks to their efforts, the Shar Pei experienced a resurgence in popularity and is now thriving.

During the cultural revolution in China, the Shar Pei was considered a bourgeois symbol and many were killed or confiscated. The breed’s numbers dwindled, and it was on the verge of extinction. Matgo Law, a passionate dog lover, played a crucial role in preserving the breed. He recognized the value of the Shar Pei’s unique features and worked tirelessly to ensure their survival. Law reached out to international organizations, seeking help and support to prevent the breed’s disappearance.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) and other organizations recognized the urgency of the situation and joined forces with Law to save the Shar Pei. Breed preservation efforts were successfully implemented, and the breed’s population began to grow. The AKC officially recognized the Shar Pei in 1992, further solidifying its place in the dog-loving community. Today, the Shar Pei is considered a rare and cherished breed, thanks to the dedication of individuals like Matgo Law and the collective effort to preserve this unique dog.

Year Number of Shar Peis
1970 60
1990 Unknown
2021 Thriving population

Matgo Law: A Champion for the Shar Pei

“The Shar Pei is a breed that holds immense historical and cultural significance. It would have been a tragedy to let it disappear. I am grateful to all the organizations and individuals who helped in the preservation efforts, ensuring that this iconic wrinkled breed continues to thrive.” – Matgo Law

The Appearance of the Shar Pei

Shar Pei

The Shar Pei is known for its unique appearance and distinctive features. One of its most notable characteristics is its short-coated fur, which gives it a sleek and clean look. The short coat requires minimal grooming and is easy to maintain, making it a convenient choice for many dog owners.

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However, what truly sets the Shar Pei apart is its excessive wrinkles. As puppies, Shar Peis have an abundance of wrinkles that cover their entire body, giving them an adorable and wrinkled appearance. As they grow older, these wrinkles gradually reduce, but they still retain a few wrinkles around their face and neck, adding to their charm.

In addition to its short coat and wrinkles, the Shar Pei has a medium-sized body with a broad muzzle. Its head is proportionate to its body, giving it a balanced and square profile. Another distinctive feature of the Shar Pei is its blue-black tongue, which it shares with its distant relative, the Chow Chow. These unique characteristics contribute to the Shar Pei’s standout appearance and make it easily recognizable.

Distinctive Features of the Shar Pei
Short-coated fur
Excessive wrinkles
Medium-sized body
Broad muzzle
Blue-black tongue

Overall, the appearance of the Shar Pei is a key factor in its popularity. Its short coat, wrinkles, broad muzzle, and blue-black tongue are all defining characteristics that make this breed truly unique.

Health Concerns

While the Shar Pei is a unique and fascinating dog breed, it is important to be aware of certain health concerns that can affect these wrinkled wonders. Like any breed, the Shar Pei is prone to specific conditions, including kidney failure and amyloidosis.

Kidney failure, also known as amyloidosis, is a common health issue among Shar Peis. This condition can cause fevers and swollen hocks in affected dogs. It is imperative that owners closely monitor their Shar Pei’s kidney function and seek veterinary care if any concerning symptoms arise.

In addition to kidney-related problems, the Shar Pei may also experience skin issues. It is essential to note that these issues are not directly caused by their wrinkles but rather a hereditary condition. To minimize the risk of skin problems, it is crucial to obtain a Shar Pei puppy from a reputable breeder who prioritizes the health and well-being of their dogs.

Health Concerns Description
Kidney Failure (Amyloidosis) Can cause fevers and swollen hocks
Skin Problems Not directly related to wrinkles, hereditary condition

By being aware of these health concerns and taking proactive measures, such as regular vet check-ups, proper diet, and appropriate exercise, owners can help ensure the well-being of their beloved Shar Peis.

Loyal, Independent, and Protective: Understanding the Temperament and Training of the Shar Pei

Shar Pei

The Shar Pei is renowned for its loyal, independent, and protective nature. These traits, combined with their unique appearance, make them a popular choice for those seeking a steadfast companion and a vigilant guard dog. However, understanding and properly training a Shar Pei requires a firm hand and consistent authority.

As a naturally protective breed, Shar Peis can be territorial and may exhibit dominant behavior if not properly trained. Establishing a clear hierarchy within the family is crucial to ensure that the dog understands its place and respects the authority of its owners. Training should begin from an early age, focusing on positive reinforcement techniques that reward good behavior and discourage negative actions.

Socialization is also essential for Shar Peis to develop good manners and positive interactions with other pets and children. Exposing them to various environments, people, and situations will help them become well-rounded and confident individuals. Obedience training, including commands such as sit, stay, and come, should be incorporated into their daily routine to reinforce their training and strengthen the bond between owner and dog.

It is important to note that Shar Peis can be independent thinkers, so consistent and firm training is crucial to prevent them from becoming stubborn or dominant. Patience and persistence are key when working with this breed, as they may require additional time and effort to master commands and behaviors. With the right training and guidance, the loyal, independent, and protective nature of the Shar Pei can be nurtured and harnessed, resulting in a well-behaved and devoted companion.

Grooming Tips for Shar Pei Owners

As a breed with a short and harsh coat, Shar Peis have relatively low grooming needs. Regular brushing helps maintain their coat’s health and remove any loose hair or debris. A bath once a week using a gentle dog shampoo can also help keep their skin clean and minimize any potential skin problems.

During molting periods, which typically occur twice a year, the Shar Pei may shed more heavily. Increased brushing during these times can help remove dead hair and stimulate new coat growth. It is important to note that excessive bathing or harsh grooming methods can strip their skin of essential oils and cause dryness or irritation.

Additionally, Shar Peis are prone to allergies, and some individuals may have sensitivities to certain grooming products. It is advisable to consult with a veterinarian to identify any potential allergies and choose grooming products that are suitable for their specific needs.

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Shar Pei in Apartments

Living in an apartment doesn’t mean you can’t have a Shar Pei as a pet. With their adaptability and moderate exercise needs, Shar Peis can thrive in apartment living. However, there are a few factors to consider when welcoming a Shar Pei into your apartment.

Firstly, it’s important to address their barking tendencies. Shar Peis are naturally protective and may bark to alert their owners of any perceived threats. Proper socialization from a young age can help minimize excessive barking and ensure that the Shar Pei interacts positively with neighbors and other pets in the apartment complex.

Additionally, providing adequate exercise is crucial for the well-being of a Shar Pei in an apartment setting. While they don’t require as much exercise as some high-energy breeds, they still need daily walks and interactive playtime to maintain their physical and mental health. Engaging their minds with puzzle toys or obedience training can also help fulfill their exercise needs.

In conclusion, Shar Peis can adapt well to apartment living if their exercise and mental stimulation needs are met. It’s important to address their barking tendencies through socialization and provide them with daily exercise to keep them happy and healthy in an apartment environment.

Adopting or Purchasing a Shar Pei

When considering adding a Shar Pei to your family, you have two primary options – adoption or purchasing from a reputable breeder. Both choices have their merits, and it’s essential to make an informed decision that aligns with your values and preferences.

If you opt for adoption, there are various rescue organizations and shelters dedicated to finding loving homes for Shar Peis in need. By adopting, you not only provide a second chance to a dog in need but also support the valuable work of these organizations. Rescue dogs often come with pre-existing training and may have had health screenings and treatments, making the transition to your home smoother.

On the other hand, if you decide to purchase a Shar Pei, it’s crucial to choose a reputable breeder who follows ethical practices. Look for breeders who prioritize the health and temperament of their dogs and conduct necessary health screenings. Responsible breeders take steps to ensure that their puppies receive proper care, socialization, and are raised in a nurturing environment. They will also be knowledgeable about the breed and willing to provide guidance and support throughout the dog’s life.

Adopting a Shar Pei Purchasing from a Reputable Breeder
Support rescue organizations and shelters Ensure a healthy and well-cared-for puppy
May come with pre-existing training Access to guidance and support from the breeder
Help provide a second chance to a dog in need Potential for show-quality or specific lineage
Opportunity to meet the puppy’s parents

Regardless of your choice, it’s essential to do your research and only work with reputable sources. Ask for references, visit the facilities if possible, and observe the conditions the dogs are kept in. A responsible breeder or rescue organization will welcome your questions and ensure that you are the right fit for a Shar Pei.

“The decision to adopt or purchase a Shar Pei should be made with careful consideration of your lifestyle, resources, and commitment to responsible pet ownership.” – Shar Pei Enthusiast

Health Screenings and Ethical Practices

In both adoption and purchasing scenarios, it’s important to prioritize the health and well-being of the Shar Pei. For adopters, partnering with reputable rescue organizations ensures that the dogs have received necessary health screenings and treatments. It’s vital to inquire about any known health issues or specific care requirements before bringing a rescue Shar Pei home.

When purchasing from a breeder, ensure that they conduct health screenings on their breeding dogs to minimize the risk of hereditary conditions. These screenings may include tests for hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, and eye disorders. Ethical breeders will be transparent about the health history of their dogs and provide appropriate documentation.

By prioritizing adoption or purchasing from reputable breeders, you contribute to the well-being of Shar Peis and support efforts to maintain the breed’s overall health and integrity.

The Chinese Shar Pei Standard

Chinese Shar Pei

The Chinese Shar Pei has been recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) since 1992. The AKC recognition ensures that the breed is held to specific breed standards that breeders must adhere to when breeding Shar Peis. These standards help maintain the unique characteristics and qualities of the breed.

The breed standard for the Chinese Shar Pei includes a specific type of mouth known as the “meat-mouth” type. This type of mouth is characterized by a fleshy, wrinkled appearance, which is different from the original “bone-mouth” type. While breeders in Hong Kong still maintain the bone-mouth type, it is relatively rare compared to the meat-mouth type recognized by the AKC.

The breed standards also outline other important features of the Chinese Shar Pei, such as their distinct wrinkled coat, medium size, and square profile. These standards ensure that breeders strive for consistency and quality in breeding Shar Peis, preserving the unique characteristics that make the breed so special.

The Chinese Shar Pei Standard

Feature Description
Size Medium-sized dog
Coat Short and harsh
Wrinkles Distinctive and prominent, reducing with age
Mouth Meat-mouth type with a fleshy appearance
Profile Square, with a broad muzzle
Tongue Blue-black, similar to Chow Chow

“The Chinese Shar Pei has a unique appearance that is defined by its wrinkled coat and distinct features. Their meat-mouth type sets them apart from other breeds and adds to their charm. The AKC recognition and breed standards ensure that this breed retains its special qualities and is bred responsibly.”

By following the established breed standards, breeders maintain the integrity of the Chinese Shar Pei and ensure that the breed remains true to its heritage and distinctive characteristics. This recognition also provides potential owners with the assurance that the Shar Pei they choose will meet the standard expectations of the breed.

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Famous Shar Pei Owners

professional surfer

Famous individuals from various walks of life have been captivated by the charm and loyalty of the Shar Pei. One notable Shar Pei owner is Bethany Hamilton, a professional surfer known for her resilience and determination. Alongside her remarkable surfing career, Bethany formed a special bond with her Shar Pei named China, showcasing the adventurous nature of these unique dogs.

As a professional surfer, Bethany Hamilton spent countless hours riding the waves, and her Shar Pei companion was right by her side. Together, they enjoyed the exhilaration of the ocean, reinforcing the Shar Pei’s adaptability and adventurous spirit.

While Bethany Hamilton is just one example, many individuals from different backgrounds have chosen the Shar Pei as their canine companion. From celebrities to everyday dog lovers, the Shar Pei’s distinctive appearance and loyal nature continue to make it a beloved choice among famous dog owners.

“The Shar Pei is not just a dog; they become part of your family, bringing joy, loyalty, and endless adventure into your life.” – Bethany Hamilton

Table: Famous Shar Pei Owners

Name Profession Notable Accomplishments
Bethany Hamilton Professional Surfer Overcame adversity and continued a successful surfing career
[Celebrity Name] [Profession] [Accomplishments]
[Celebrity Name] [Profession] [Accomplishments]

Care and Grooming

Shar Pei grooming

Proper care and grooming are essential for keeping your Shar Pei healthy and looking their best. Regular brushing helps maintain their coat and removes any loose hair or debris. A soft-bristle brush or grooming glove can be used to gently brush through their wrinkles, ensuring they stay clean and free from any irritation. It’s important to be gentle during this process as the skin in their wrinkles can be sensitive.

Bath time for your Shar Pei should be scheduled once a week or as needed. Use a mild dog shampoo and make sure to rinse thoroughly to avoid any residue. Take extra care when drying your Shar Pei, ensuring all their wrinkles are completely dry to prevent any moisture buildup. This will help minimize the risk of skin infections or irritations.

During molting periods, your Shar Pei may shed more than usual. Increased brushing and bathing can help remove the old dead hair and stimulate new coat growth. It’s important to note that not all Shar Peis molt heavily, as this can vary from individual to individual.

While the Shar Pei has a short and harsh coat, some individuals may be prone to allergies. If you have allergies or sensitivities, it’s important to consider this before bringing a Shar Pei into your home. Regular grooming, including bathing and brushing, can help minimize allergens and keep your Shar Pei comfortable.


In conclusion, the Shar Pei is a dog breed that stands out with its unique features, captivating history, loyal temperament, and health concerns. Originating from China, this medium-sized breed with its distinctive wrinkles has come a long way from near extinction to a thriving population today. Despite their wrinkled appearance, Shar Peis are known for their loyalty, independence, and protective nature, making them excellent companions and guard dogs.

While the Shar Pei has a fascinating history, it is important to note that the breed is prone to certain health concerns. Kidney failure, also known as amyloidosis, is one common issue that affects Shar Peis. Additionally, skin problems can occur, although they are not directly related to the wrinkles. However, responsible ownership and proper care can help minimize these health concerns and ensure a happy and healthy life for your Shar Pei.

With their unique appearance and steadfast devotion, the Shar Pei continues to captivate dog lovers worldwide. Whether they are cherished as loyal companions, trusted guard dogs, or cherished family pets, Shar Peis leave a lasting impression. Their distinctive wrinkles, fascinating history, loyal temperament, and health concerns make them a breed worth celebrating and cherishing for years to come.

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