The Shar Pei is a medium-sized breed with the distinctive features of loose skin, deep wrinkles, frowning expression, harsh, bristly coat and a blue-black tongue. The Shar Pei has a square profile and features a broad, full head that is rather large in proportion to the body with wide, padded muzzle. It has fine wrinkles on the forehead and cheeks that form dewlaps. It has a large, black nose with wide open nostrils. The eyes are almond-shaped and dark coloured with frowning expression while the highly set ears are very small and triangular in shape. They are slightly rounded at the tips that points towards the eyes. The breed has a distinct bluish-black tongue, roof of mouth, gums and flews similar to the Chow-Chow. The teeth form a regular scissor bite. The strong, medium-length neck is also full with loose skin under it, and well set on the muscular shoulders which provide strong support to the large head. The whole body is perfectly supported by straight front legs with good bones and similarly muscular and strong back legs. The Shar Pei also features a broad and deep chest with moderate wrinkling over the shoulders and the base of the tail. The highly set tail is rounded and tapers to a fine point, usually carried high and curved in tight curl or curved over. The coat is extremely harsh and off-standing on the body (horse-coat) but a bit more flat on the legs. The length of the coat varies from short and wiry, under 0.5 inch (1.25 cm) or longer and thicker between 0.5 to 1 inch (1.25 – 2.5 cm) but still off-standing and coarse to touch. The coat comes in all solid colours except white.
The Shar Pei is one of the Oriental dog breeds from China that originated from Guangdong province where it was a well known fighting dog and guard dog. It may be a descendant of the Chow Chow but the only solid evidence of their relation is the purple tongue. Nevertheless, based on pictures found on ancient potteries, the Shar Pei may have existed as early as the Han dynasty (around 200 BC) and was used to guard the Chinese Emperor and his court. Moreover, 13th century writings provide evidences that the breed existed during that time. However, its ancestral origin is rather uncertain and difficult to justify mainly due to the loss of breeding records when China became a communist state. One thing is certain though, the Shar Pei was developed as a farm dog with multiple abilities such as boar hunting, guarding, and fighting. When these breeds were ordered eliminated, the few that remained were mostly bred in Hong Kong (a British colony) and Taiwan. Some managed to find their way in the United Kingdom thru importation. After being rescued from near extinction during the 70s, the Shar Pei is now one of the most recognizable breed worldwide.
The Shar Pei is an easy-going and calm breed despite its frowning expression. This serious and independent breed is known to have a stubborn streak which may often ignore commands from family members who have not established leadership over the breed. It has also been known to hunt livestock and other animals. Although the Shar Pei has a natural hate for water, it is typically a very clean breed and will need minimal housebreak training as it will learn to do so by itself.
Firm, gentle and consistent training is required to handle the Shar Pei. It should be socialized with other animals in the house, particularly at an early age to prevent the breed from dominating and chasing other pets.
This breed doesn't require constant bathing with every 12 weeks is about the average. Bathing the Shar-Pei too frequently can cause skin ingratiation's so the most essential part of grooming a Shar-Pei is the maintenance of his wrinkles. As an owner you need to make sure the wrinkles are dried quickly and thoroughly after every bath to prevent yeast or fungal infections.
The Shar Pei has an average lifespan of 8 to 10 years. The most common problem found to affect this breed is entropion, a condition where the eyelashes curl inward causing eye irritation. If this goes untreated, it may cause blindness. Shar Pei fever is also a serious health condition which causes short fevers that lasts up to 24 hours after which no recurrence is observed or may recur at more frequent intervals and may become more serious. Although very rare, amyloidosis is also known to affect some lines. This is caused by unprocessed amyloid proteins depositing in the kidneys or liver which leads to renal failure.
Experts recommend a base diet with a mixture of pork with poultry, beet pulp, wheat and rice. These foods should be high in fibre and carbohydrate content. Recently, commercial dry foods have been formulated specifically made for the Shar Pei prone to skin allergies or sores. Similar to other breeds, the Shar Pei has a tendency to develop skin irritation, itching or sores if not given a proper diet.
The Shar Pei has a moderate exercise requirement. A typical short walk on leash or a session of play in an open and secured area is an ideal daily physical activity that will keep the breed active and fit. Always keep the dog on leash whenever it is in public or it may fight with other dogs. Also, do not leave the Shar Pei under the heat for a long period of time as it is fairly heat sensitive and may suffer from heat stroke. This breed is quite active indoors and will do fine in an apartment living as long as it is given proper diet and exercise.
Despite being detached and independent, this devoted and protective breed is usually good with children. However, it is typically suspicious of strangers and it has a tendency to be dog-aggressive but show lines are more sociable and tend to be less aggressive with other dogs.