Well known for its wrinkled skin and short, almost bristle like coat, the Shar Pei is a striking dog to look at. The name translates as 'sand skin' and refers to the rough, sharp coat.
The Chinese Shar-Pei originated in the southern provinces of China where it was a dog bred to hunt, herd, watch and fight. The exact origins are unknown, but there are statues of dogs in China that resemble the Shar-Pei and have been dated to around 200BC. It is thought that it may be a descendent of the Chow, as the Shar Pei has a similar black tongue as the Chow, and also maybe the Pug.
The Shar Pei was developed with folds upon folds of loose and wrinkled skin, which is much more pronounced in any other breed seen. The idea behind this was that if the dog found itself in combat, for example with a dangerous wild boar, it would offer protection to the dog. In later years when it became a popular choice for dog fighting, not only was it defensive but also practical in the way that if its opponent grabbed it by the skin, the Shar Pei still had the ability to turn around and fight, with the loose skin giving the body of the dog the manoeuvrability to turn.
Following the creation of the People's Republic of China, the dog population in the country was practically wiped out. A few Shar Peis, however, were bred in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the West but this resulted in a slightly different dog to the original breed. If not for the efforts of one man, Matgo Law, the Shar Pei may have become extinct and most modern Shar Peis are a result of his work.
Average height to withers: Makes and females both up to 22 inches, males being on the larger side.
Average weight: Males 25-29 kg and females 18-25 kg.
The most notable physical trait of this breed is the loose covering and folds of skin over the dogs' body, along with the short, sharp and fairly hard coat.
The Shar Pei comes in different coat types - horse, brush and bear coat. The horse coat is rough to the touch and prickly and is thought to be closer to the original Shar Pei breed in coat type than the brush or bear variations of the coat. The brush coated variety has slightly longer hair and a smoother feel to it. The bear coated variety is longer yet again and has a similar appearance to it of the Chow. The coat is so harsh in some aspects, that occasionally some humans can develop a prickly type rash allergy to it. The coat itself is usually solid in colour and is seen in red, black, cream, brown, blue, sable, fawn and apricot to name a few. The skin pigmentation is black inside the mouth including the tongue, with a domed forehead, small triangular shaped ears and deep set eyes. The tail is short, thick and curls over its back. All in all, the impression Shar Pei should give is one of solid strength with an overall body that is well muscled.
Pups always have a much more prolific amount of wrinkling with regards to the skin than adults, giving them 'something to grow into'.
The Shar-Pei is an alert and independent sort of dog and given its heritage this is not surprising. Devoted to its family pack, it can be aloof with people it doesn't know. The Shar Pei is known not to be the best of breeds around other dogs, and seems to genuinely enjoy human company more. It can become aggressive with other dogs, especially those it does not know and early exposure to other dogs, animals and situations will serve this breed well to ensure it is a well rounded character. As devoted as it is to the family, the Shar-Pei is also independent and strong willed and this breed can also be very protective of the family making for an excellent guard dog.
This is a dog that can become easily bored and it requires much in the way of mental and physical stimulation and interaction with its human owners. They can be good with children but caution should always be used, especially with younger children. Training should always take the form of a reward based situation as harsh treatment and negative behaviours towards this breed will only serve to bring out the side of the dog that may make it aggress towards the trainer.
The Shar Pei is a relatively rare dog these days.
The life span of this breed can vary greatly between 7-15 years. Primarily, a condition known as Shar-Pei Fever affects this breed. Also known as Swollen Hock Syndrome, this condition manifests in the swelling of the hock joint or joints, and results in reluctance to move, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea. Dogs have one or more bouts of unexplained fever with temperatures as high 107 degrees. The condition usually starts at 18 months, but can appear when the dog is an adult. The fever lasts 24 to 36 hours, and treatment includes reducing fever and pain and you should seek immediate veterinary advice at onset.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is also commonly found in this dog as a hereditary condition, and may make the dog lethargic. Due to the amount of the folds of skin, Shar Pei's can be prone to a number of bacterial and yeast infections. This includes ears infections.
The coat of a Shar Pei requires little attention in itself, but the owner must care for and clean within the folds of skin which cover the dogs' body. They need to be routinely cleaned with a clean damp and lint free cloth, and then dried thoroughly. By doing this, the owner can inspect for signs of bacterial and yeast infections which can thrive within the folds. The owner also needs to do the same for this breeds ears.