Shar Pei

The Shar Pei was once a fighting dog in its native China. This is an independent, protective and loyal dog which is naturally quiet and clean. They require an experienced and confident owner who is prepared to socialize and train their puppy.


There are no precise records to tell us about the origins of this bizarre dog from southern China, but it seems likely that both it and its close relative, the Chow Chow, are descended from the Han Dog, the ancient guard dog. Effigies of that dog show an unwrinkled version of the Shar Pei and it would seem that, from its guard-dog beginnings, it developed in two diverging directions, leading by increased bulk and heavier coat to the food dog we call the Chow, and by increased skin-wrinkling to the fighting dog we call the Shar Pei. The reason we know that these two breeds are related is that they both possess a blue-black tongue, but they were specialized for different purposes and their anatomy reflects this fact.

When the Shar Pei puppy is born it is soon clear that it has a coat several sizes too large for it. Its skin lies over its body in loose folds that soon settle into characteristic, deep folds. These decrease as the dog grows into adulthood, but never vanish completely. This odd appearance could be obtained by a simple genetic change — a gene reducing the dogs body-size, but without reducing its skin-size. The reason that early Chinese breeders retained these oddities is that the looseness of the coarse, bristly coat made it extremely difficult for an opponent in a dog fight. The Shar Pei that found itself clamped in enemy jaws could twist and turn with ease and quickly slither out of its rivals grasp. In addition, the harsh, bristly surface of the Shar Peis thick coat would be unpleasant inside the other dog’s mouth. So this "genetic oddity" was, in reality, a godsend to a fighting dog and was carefully selected for and increased over the years. But then two unhappiness occur the breed and it nearly became extinct. First, the Chinese dog-fight sponsors start importing more bigger, fiercer fighting dogs from Europe and, for these monsters, the Shar Pei was no match, even with its sliding skin. Second, in the 20th century, the Communist rulers in China became massively opposed to the existence of domestic dogs, seeing them as signs of Western triviality and decadence. Countless thousands of much loved pets were wantonly destroyed on the instruction of these barbaric politicians, and the Shar Pei was nearly wiped out.

However, thanks to some canine enthusiasts in the havens of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, a few were saved and used as the basis for a new breeding population. Their unique appearance appealed to certain breeders in the United States and within a few years their numbers were climbing again. Today they exist in their thousands and this unique animal is now safe for the future.


It is not without its problems, however, some physical, some mental. The deep folds in its skin cause health problems that are still being solved at the present time. In particular the hard skin near the eyes has created difficulties that have often required corrective surgery.

Height: 46-51 cm at the shoulder

Weight: 18 kg


In personality, the Shar Pei has inherited a strongly aggressive personality, and reducing this by selective breeding is taking time. But rapid progress is being made in all these matters.

The standard of this extraordinary dog sums up its eccentric appearance.

Coat and Grooming

The course coat conies in varying lengths and in many colours including solid fawn, cream, black and red. The coat may cause allergic reactions to people's skin. Loose folds of skin and wrinkles cover the face and body but these are less defined in adults. Groom the coat weekly.


Skin and eye problems are a concern.

Expected lifespan is 10-12 years.

Environment and Exercise

This breed is not well suited to hot conditions and will optimally be able to divide its time between house and yard. The Shar Pei requires a long walk and a game each day. Always keep this breed on a leash and avoid exercising in the heat.

Compatibility with Kids

The Shar Pei is very good with children and pets it has been brought up with. A child's friends may be viewed with suspicion and strange animals (including livestock) may be viewed with aggression.


Each litter consists of four to six strong puppies, which should have regular contact with people as early as possible.

Gallery of Shar Pei