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What is a Chinese Shar Pei?

By L.K. Blackburn
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Chinese Shar Pei is a medium to large sized breed of dog known for its wrinkled skin, stocky frame, and blue-black tongue color. Originally from southern China, the dog breed was first used for farm activities such as herding and guarding livestock. Chinese Shar Pei grow to around 20 inches (50.8 cm) in height, and around 60 pounds (27 kg) in weight.

Loose skin may have developed in the breed of the Chinese Shar Pei as the result of a gained advantage when fighting other animals. It makes the dog difficult to grab and can allow the dog to easily shake itself free when caught in another animal's grip. Chinese Shar Pei were eventually bred as fighting dogs in ancient China, partially as result of their wrinkled skin. The dog's muscular build developed from its use as a working farm animal.

In terms of temperament, Chinese Shar Pei are shy around people they do not know, and calm around family members. It is important for the dogs to be well socialized beginning at a young age to control their personality and ensure they respond well to training. Due to lineage, Shar Pei are usually easily trained as guard and watch dogs.

The coat of a Chinese Shar Pei is solid, short, and bristly. Coat colors vary and include chocolate, fawn, cream, and black. The tongue and mouth of a Chinese Shar Pei is solid blue-black, meaning the dog breed likely shares an ancestor with the Chow Chow, who also has a blue-black tongue. Spots may occur on the tongue, and the dogs may rarely have a longer and curlier coat, but these are considered disqualifying traits for the accepted breed standards.

Chinese Shar Pei require only occasional grooming and bathing but may need frequent nail trimming. The small size of the dog's ears and ear canal sometimes result in ear infections, and Shar Pei skin may be prone to allergies and irritation that is exacerbated by the dog's wrinkles and folds. Loose skin near the dog's eyelids can cause major health issues, and may need to be corrected by surgery. Hip dysplasia is also common, which is the result of the dog's genetics. Skin around the mouth of the Shar Pei may also lead to breathing and eating issues.

During the late 1940s and 1950s in China, the Shar Pei dog breed waned almost to the point of nonexistence due to an extreme decline in pet ownership. Numbers of the breed surged due to the efforts of breeders in Hong Kong importing the dog to the United States, and it was accepted into the American Kennel Club in 1988. The name of the breed means sand skin in Chinese, in reference to the color and texture of the dog's coat.

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