In 1978 Time magazine reported the Chinese Shar-Pei to be one of the world's rarest dogs. That situation has changed and, right now, according to the American Kennel Club, right now, the Shar-Pei is the 61st most popular breed in the United States.
The Shar-Pei breed originated in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong. The Shar-Pei is a very old breed which predates most of the modern breeds which were developed in the 19th century.
They were originally developed as a hunting dog and we used to hunt wild boar.
Later they were used as fighting dogs and even today they are still used for this purpose in Tibet. Their wrinkled skin is an advantage in dog fighting because if they are grabbed by their opponent, they can still wriggle inside their skin and bite back.
During the Communist era the population of these dogs in China has declined dramatically. In the nineteen seventies a Hong Kong businessman arranged for approximately 200 of these dogs to be smuggled to the United States. Almost all of the current population of Shar-Peis in the United States is descended from these original dogs.
Appearance of the Chinese Shar-Pei.
It's wrinkled skin gives dog a very distinctive appearance. It is also only one of two dog breeds in the world that has a blue-black tongue.
When it is born a Shar-Pei puppy’s skin is very wrinkled. As they grow into an adult it will lose a lot of its wrinkles.
There are three coat varieties, two of which are recognised by the American Kennel Club. The club recognises the horse-coat and the brush-coat but not the rarer bear-coat. The horse-coat is rough to the touch the brush-coat is longer and feel smoother. The coach on all varieties are usually about 1 inch in length. The American kennel club recognises 18 colours and 7 markings.
These are large dogs with a large head. Adult males usually between 55 and 65 pounds and females between 40 and 55 pounds. Although they have large heads their ears are fairly small and sit on top of the head. In an adult Shar-Pei the wrinkles are mostly on the face and shoulders and around the base of the tail.
Their noses are either black or pink and black and they sometimes have a black mask.
They tend to shed twice a year.
Unfortunately, they don't normally have long lives and few dogs make it past 10 years.
The appearance of Western dogs has diverged quite a bit from those still in China.
Chinese Shar-Pei temperament.
A Shar-Pei will make a great pet and is very affectionate and loyal to its owners and family. It can be suspicious of strangers. As a puppy it must be socialised with other humans and other dogs. If this is not done properly the dog can become territorial and aggressive. The Chinese Shar-Pei is quite independent and if not handled properly will tend to see itself as a leader of the Pack. It needs a confident handler who will firmly and gently show it who's the boss.
They don't tend to bark very often but will bark when strangers are around or they get excited when playing. They are easy to train and respond well to patience and rewards.
Like many other dogs their temperament reflects the way they have been treated.
Shar-Peis suffer from more skin problems than most other dogs. They have an increased risk of suffering from an allergic skin disease called atopic dermatitis. This can lead to allergy induced skin infections. They are also at increased risk from a condition known as dermod icosis. The symptoms skin irritation, inflammation and infection and are caused by a type of mite.
A common problem for Shar-Peis is a condition called entropion which is caused by ingrowing eyelashes. This is a painful condition and can lead to blindness if not treated. The condition can be fixed by surgery. In Australia over 80% of Sharpay's require eye surgery to fix their eye problems.
FSF or Shar-Pei Fever Is a congenital inflammatory disease which affects 1 in 5 Shar-Peis. It causes a fever which usually lasts for 1 day although It can last for up to 3 days. It is usually accompanied by swelling around the ankles. One in 4 dogs with FSF will develop a fatal kidney disease known as amyloidosis.
A number of orthopedic diseases are commonly found in Shar-Peis. These include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and cruciate ligament rupture.
The Shar-Pei makes a loyal and faithful pets. They need to be trained and socialized early to avoid them developing dominant and aggressive traits. They suffer from a number of genetic and skin related health conditions and are not long livers. They like to live inside and don’t need a great deal of exercise.
They are expensive to buy and may not be the ideal dog for the first time dog owner.