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Chinese Shar-pei

Guest Author - Sandy Moyer

Patriotic dog sitting near American flag
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The Shar-pei is an ancient breed that originated in China more than 2000 years ago and became nearly extinct in the 1960s. Following the establishment of the People's Republic of China as a communist nation in 1947, a high tax on dogs and a ban on dog breeding nearly eliminated the dog population there. A few Shar-pei were still bred in Hong Kong and in Taiwan, but in the early 1960’s the Shar-pei became the rarest dog in the world. The first documented history of the Shar-pei in America was in 1966 when a few of the remaining dogs were imported from Hong Kong.

In the early 1970s interest in the breed increased in the U.S. after a letter by a Hong Kong dog enthusiast, named Matgo Law, appeared in an issue of "DOGS" magazine. Mr. Law appealed to dog fanciers in the United States to "Save the Chinese Shar-Pei". The response was amazing. More Shar-Pei dogs were soon imported and bred here and the breed's popularity spread across the U.S.

In 1974, The Chinese Shar-pei Club of America, Inc. (CSPCA), a national dog club and registry, was established to promote the breed, maintain the stud book registry and to provide a standard for the breed. The Chinese Shar-pei was officially accepted into the AKC in 1992. The breed now ranks number 41 among 154 AKC registered breeds. Shar-peis have made a phenomenal comeback and are now popular, much loved dogs all around the world.

Ask anyone who is even vaguely familiar with the breed, to describe the dogs and the answer would be "wrinkled". The abundance of loose skin is unique to the Shar-pei and sets it apart from all other breeds. According to the AKC, "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 Shar-pei belongs to the diverse AKC Non-sporting Dogs group.

Shar-pei puppies actually do grow into much of that extra skin. After they mature, wrinkling is confined mainly to their head and neck area. The Shar-pei is a medium size dog. Adults weigh about 40 to 60 pounds and are about 18” to 20” high at the withers.

In addition to the prolific puppy wrinkles, the breed has another unique trait. Shar-peis have a bluish-black tongue. The only other AKC breed with this odd color tongue is the Chow.

The name "Shar-pei" means "sand-skin", or more loosely translated as "rough, sandy coat" or "sand-paper-like coat", which are distinctive qualities of the Shar-pei. The coat color can be brown, fawn, apricot, red, cream, silver, or black. "Flowered" Shar-peis are now being bred with parti-color coats. According to the breed standard, the Shar-pei coat should be a solid color, and any coat that is not a solid color is a disqualification.

Shar Pei
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Shar-peis with a "Horse Coat" have extremely short hair. The hair is slightly longer on Shar-peis with a "Brush Coat" but the length still does not exceed 1-inch at the withers. These are the only acceptable coat types according to the breed standard. The "Bear Coat", a coat which is longer than 1-inch at the withers, is considered a major fault so dogs with this coat can not be shown in conformation. They can be entered in obedience and agility competition.

Grooming should include wiping the face and eyes with a damp cloth daily and a gentle brushing at least once a week. Frequent ear cleaning and baths must also be part of the grooming routine for a Shar-pei.

Young Shar-pei are usually active and athletic, but they often become very sedentary as they mature. Exercise requirements can usually be met by a regular walking schedule, or with a fenced yard or fenced area to run and play.

Shar-Pei Puppies in Box
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The Shar-pei has a reputation for being clean, intelligent and exceptionally easy to house-train. As pets, Shar-peis are very loving and fiercely loyal. They are watchful, alert, and protective. Early socialization with other dogs, other people, and proper obedience training are absolutely essential since they are also known to be strong-willed and territorial.

Shar-Pei owners should choose a veterinarian that has experience with the breed. The Shar-pei is one of many breeds often affected by Entropion, or turning in of the eyelid, and cherry eye, or prolapse of the of the third eyelid. It's quite common for puppies to need an eyelid "tuck", a surgical procedure to hold the eyelids back so they don't rub on the eye. In some cases, a Shar-pei may need more than one corrective eyelid surgery.

The Shar-pei's narrow ear canal is frequently an incubator for infections that are hard to treat. Veterinary help is needed at the first sign of redness or irritation around the ears.

Deep wrinkles can sometimes create an environment that can cause irritation of the skin, or Skin Fold Dermatitis. The Shar-pei's short hair may also impact inside hair follicles and lead to skin infections. Shar-peis with a “bear coat" have softer, longer hair and tend to have less problems with skin infections. For more information about skin conditions and other special medical concerns of the Shar-Pei, see The Dr.Jeff Vidt Website

If you're looking for a Shar-pei to love, check breed rescue groups first. There are many precious Shar-peis waiting for new, forever homes, You just might find the perfect Shar-pei, already spayed and neutered, and with all the problems of puppyhood and adolescence behind him/her. Do not buy a Shar-pei or any other dog from a pet shop, which is essentially the same thing as buying from a puppy mill. When looking for a puppy, as with all breeds, find an experienced, reputable breeder.

Do not let a breeder tell you that a Shar-pei with a parti-color coat or a longer coat is rare. You should not pay a premium price for a Shar-Pei because of a so-called "rare color" or "rare coat type". Such deviations from the AKC standard are disqualifications. While the dogs will make equally wonderful pets, regardless of their coat color or the length of their hair, they should not cost more than any other companion quality Shar-pei. These traits should not be used as selling points to charge higher prices.


For more online information about the Shar-pei, see ---

The AKC Chinese Shar-pei Standard

Chinese Shar-pei Club of America

Standard of the Chinese Shar-pei in America

Chinese Shar-pei Dogs

The FCI Shar-pei Breed Standard

The Shar-pei Club of Great Britain

Shar-pei Club of Gauteng

Shar-pei Message Boards and Discussion Forums

North America Shar-pei Rescue

California Shar-pei Rescue Chinese Shar-pei Breed Clubs

Shenianigan's Shar-pei Vet Corner

The Shar-pei Search Engine

The Dr.Jeff Vidt Website

The Comeback Kid in a Rumbled Coat

Horsecoat and Brushcoat Shar-peis

Royal Chinese Shar-pei

Rosemary & Earl

Acoolieman and Xioping Chinese Shar-pei


Shar-pei sweatshirts and t-shirts
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variety of custom printed Shar-pei T-shirts and sweatshirts.


Chinese Shar-Pei: A Comprehensive Guide to Owning and Caring for Your Dog
This book provides an excellent introduction to the history of this ancient Chinese breed, as well as a reliable account of the breed’s personality and characteristics, and a discussion of the breed standard. Shar-pei owners will welcome advice about the many possible hereditary conditions that affect the skin and eyes, as well as guidelines for selecting a well-bred puppy and the steps to rear and train the dog. In addition to an extremely authoritative text, this book presents over 135 photographs in full color, which prove to be as informative as they are attractive. Helpful hints and important information are highlighted to provide easy access to everything the reader needs to know about life with this unique breed, the Chinese Shar-Pei from puppyhood to the senior years.


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Content copyright © 2014 by Sandy Moyer. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Sandy Moyer. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Bettina Thomas-Smith for details.

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