Once seen, never forgotten, the highly distinctive Shar-Pei boasts a unique appearance. Folds of skin and a blue tongue characterise this dog which boasts a long history. Loyal and protective, the shar-pei can be a great pet and isn’t high-maintenance but does need company and may be aggressive to other animals.
Which breed group is the Shar Pei in?
Breed group: Utility
Shar-Pei breed history
The instantly recognisable, the Shar-Pei originated in the Guangdong province of China. Representations of the dog appear in art dating back to the second century AD. As the breed has existed for centuries, it isn’t known exactly which dogs were crossbred to produce the Shar-Pei. However, these dogs possess blue tongues which suggests that chow chows were amongst the Shar-Pei’s ancestors. Mastiffs and Nordic dogs may also have been used to produce the Shar-Pei.
The breed became less popular in China over time for a variety of reasons including a tax levied on pet dogs. The result was a dramatic decline in the number of Shar-Pei (the plural of Shar-Pei is Shar-Pei)! but breeders in America saved the dogs from disappearing completely courtesy of dogs sent to them from Hong Kong. Selective breeding largely rid the Shar-Pei of entropion, a painful eye condition while the number of folds in their skin was reduced. The first shar-Pei arrived in the UK in 1981 and their numbers have grown steadily. The breed was awarded championship status in 1999.
Sharp Pei breed characteristics
It’s the folds of skin, coarse coat and blue tongue which set this breed apart. The dramatic folds cover the dogs’ heads and bodies. Shar-Pei are compact animals which look incredible powerful and they have large heads which appear out of proportion with their bodies. Their almond-shaped eyes are of medium size and are dark in colour. The folds and wrinkles on the face create the impression that the dogs are frowning.
The tongue, roof of the mouth, gums and flews of these dogs are generally bluish/black in colour. However, dogs with lighter coats and amber eyes may have self-coloured mouths and gums together with a lavender tongue.
These dogs are deep-chested and broad with powerful hind quarters and back legs. Their tails are rounded and taper to fine points. Tails are carried curved and high over the dogs’ backs. Shar-Pei possess short, straight and coarse coats with no undercoat which can be a variety of colours including red, fawn, lilac and chocolate.
Shar-Pei are calm, confident and loyal dogs. They are protective of their owners, good watchdogs and relatively friendly to people but can be aggressive to other animals. Their appearance makes them prone to skin conditions and they don’t enjoy being left on their own.
- Lifespan: 9-15 years
- Height: up to 56cm
- Weight: up to 29kg
- Powerful build
- Folds of skin
- Frowning expression
- Blue tongue
- Short and harsh coat
- Variety of colours
- Loyal and protective
- May chase other animals
- Good watchdogs
- Don’t require regular grooming
- Need only moderate exercise
- Don’t like being home alone
- Dislike the cold
Health issues with the Shar-Pei
As with most breeds, the Shar-Pei is prone to several hereditary health issues as follows:
- Familial Shar Pei Fever (FSF)
- Primary Lens Luxation (PLL)
- Excessive wrinkling
- Bowed legs
- Joint luxations
- Hip dysplasia
- Kidney disease
- IgA deficiency
- Ear infections
- Swollen hock syndrome
What is the Shar-Pei bred for?
This powerful dog was originally bred for herding livestock and hunting but became popular as a fighting dog. Its loose skin and coarse coat provided protection during fights while its hooked canine teeth enabled it to grip its opponents effectively.
What sort of owners does the Shar-Pei suit?
The loyal shar-Pei can be a wonderful pet and companion. This is a confident dog which is easy to house train. However, Shar-Pei may not get on with other pets and so are best suited to cat-free households who are happy to keep a single dog. Owners must be able to afford significant vet bills as the Shar-Pei is prone to fungal infections which develop due to its wrinkles. Shar-Pei can be stubborn which could be problematic for inexperienced owners.
Shar-Pei dislike the cold and so require a warm and cosy home. They are famously messy eaters and drinkers which means that owners should have an appropriate place for them to feed which is easily cleaned. They are a great choice for those with busy lifestyles as they don’t require regular grooming or a great deal of exercise. But Shar-Pei have a low boredom threshold and can become destructive if left on their own. As a result, they are most likely to thrive in households where someone is at home all day.