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The Chinese Shar-Pei… Everything You Need to Know at a Glance!

Sometimes referred to as the “Chinese Shar” for short, the Shar-Pei pup is most notable for oversized skin, which seems to hang on his body rather than cling to it.  And while you can be forgiven for thinking that the Shar-Pei is just a cute and cuddly teddy bear, one should know that behind all those wrinkles resides a strong and proud dog who was initially bred for:

  • Dog fighting,
  • Hunting,
  • Livestock herding,
  • And for general guard dog duties.

And As we at IndulgeYourPet always like to point out that while every dog will have its unique personality, the “original purpose” of a particular dog breed will go a long way in providing “clues” on how what the personality of your particular Chinese Shar-Pei be.

So, despite the fact…

That you may love the way that Shar-Pei looks, and even though we are VERY fond of the breed here at IndulgeYourPet, neither are we a good determinant on whether or not they will be a good pet for you!

This is why…

In this article, we wanted to take a moment and discuss the Chinese Shar-Pei in greater detail so that at the end of this article, you may have a better idea of whether or not you should still consider purchasing a Shar-Pei puppy for your own or better yet adopting a Chinese Shar-Pei rescue dog.

Chinese Shar-Pei Fast Facts

Area of Origin:  China

Original Purpose:  Dog fighting, hunting, herding, protection

Best Known For:  Their “wrinkles” and their blue-black tongue (similar to the Chow-Chow)

Height:  18 to 22 inches

Weight:  40-65 pounds

Dog Breed Category:  Non-Sporting Group

Origin of the Chinese Shar-Pei.

It really shouldn’t come as a HUGE surprise that a dog named the Chinese Shar-Pei would have its origins in China.  So, in this respect, knowing where the Shar-Pei first came into existence is pretty straightforward.  Some folks believe the Chinese Shar-Pei dog breed may date back to 200 BC!

Now we here at IndulgeYourPet aren’t so sure about that, but one certain thing is that they date back to at least the 13th century when they are depicted in various art forms dating back to this period.

The problem is…

Much of the “historical” records of the breed were lost when China transitioned from a monarchy ruled by its emperors to a communist regime in 1949.  That said, what is known is that at this time, the Shar Pei was a working dog owned and cherished by many of the peasant farmers working in the fields.

It wasn’t until 1991 when the American Kennel Club finally decided to recognize the Shar-Pei dog and the Breed Standard arrived upon by the Federation Cynologique Internationale.

In this report, the Federation Cynologique Internationale describes him as “an alert, compact dog, medium in size and substance” – which is an eloquent way of saying that he is not fat, he’s just big-boned, and while he may look cute, this dog is TOUGH!

The Shar-Pei puppies…

They fall into the non-sporting category of dog and are theorized to have some DNA in common with a now-extinct breed of wolf found in high-altitude areas within China.  So, make no mistake, Chinese Shar-Peis are fighting dogs, a territorial breed generally considered a “one man” animal.

So… if you are looking for a fluffy family pet, please look elsewhere. The Shar is suitable only for those who know what they are getting into and are OK with only having a “one pet” household.


Although this magnificent animal has been “roaming” the earth since perhaps 300 BC, the breed nearly became extinct in the early 1970s when the Chinese Shar-Pei was considered one of the world’s top three rarest breeds.

At this time, a Japanese man named Matgo Law appealed to America through the power of the media to save the breed and smuggled two hundred Shar-Peis into the States.  His actions are believed to have held the species, and thanks to him, most American Shar-Peis here today are the great-great-great descendants of those dogs.

Because of this split in the family…

There are now two differing types of Shar-Pei.

(although this is not an official designation by the Federation Cynologique)

The two types are distinguished in Chinese culture, referring to their eastern family branch as ‘Bone headed’ and their western cousins as ‘Meat headed.’

This is a vague reference to their appearance since the western branch of the dog breed is bred for its loose skin while the eastern dogs are still working animals, or in some places, they are still used for fighting, even though the rest of us might perceive it to be barbaric.

This brings us to the question…

Why are Shar-Peis so wrinkly?

To answer this question, we’ll want to go back and ask ourselves what this dog’s original purpose was.  And in the case of the Chinese Shar Pei, that purpose was to fight.

And as it turns out…

Having a lot of “loose” skin is advantageous in a fight.  The Shar Pei utilizes a “style” of fighting which involves letting the opponent sink their fangs into the loose skin. While the opponent had a hold of useless flesh, the Chinese Shar could turn back on itself and go in for the kill.

What will my Shar Pei puppy look like?

It depends. If you have an Eastern Chinese Shar-Pei, they will be broad-shouldered and have a few wrinkles here and there.  However, if your Shar-Pei is one of the Western-bred dogs, they will have wrinkles for miles. The western branch of the family was born to be cute, not fighters.

In either event, your Shar-Pei puppy will grow into a dog of medium size, will be a reasonably heavy dog weighing 60 pounds, and will have a stiff coat.

Now for the record…

We have to say it, the Chinese Shar-Pei puppy is one of the cutest puppies, and you will fall in love at first sight, period!  He has a high, short tail and a short brush coat. He has a square frame, with the firm, defiant, but alert stance of a dog made to protect and defend.

Does the Shar-Pei dog breed make a good family dog?

It’s difficult to say. The Chinese Shar can be territorial, meaning they could be better around undisciplined kids or strangers.  He protects all he calls his own – although he will attach his loyalty to one family member.

His temperament is calm, smooth, and watchful, so nothing will happen in your neighborhood without you knowing.


Also, they aren’t the easiest dog in the world to train.  Because they see themselves as the “guardian” of the household, they tend to be pretty headstrong and independent.  Two traits that can make obedience training particularly difficult.

Additionally, Shar-Peis’ can be good with other dogs if socialized well and early, but that will be up to you, so it’s difficult to tell how well “your” Shar-Pei will be.  That said, your Shar-Pei is not a dog. You should walk off the leash as he may be aggressive.

It isn’t his fault…

That is what he was bred for. This is why we here at IndulgeYourPet generally don’t recommend this breed to the “inexperienced” or “novice” dog owner simply because there are a lot of “easier” companion-type dogs out there that won’t be as “challenging” for the novice owner.

Chinese Shar Pei is an excellent choice for those who want a solid and protective dog.  For folks like these, we encourage you to also look for more information about Shar-Peis by contacting the American Kennel Club or visiting a Shar-Pei Club in your area.

Is the Chinese Shar-Pei a healthy breed?

As a breed that has existed since ancient times, the Chinese Shar has a few health conditions you should be aware of before buying.

  • Demodectic mange can be an issue and can cause painful sores as the skin mites breed.
  • They are susceptible to dermatitis, particularly in between their skin folds.
  • Elbow and hip dysplasia are reasonably joint in this breed,
  • Cataracts and entropion – degenerative eye conditions that can lead to blindness.
  • Patellar luxation is another issue for these dogs as well.

For this reason…

When buying a Shar-Pei, consider adopting a Shar-Pie Rescue as an alternative to a breeder-bought dog. But if…. If you have your heart set on a puppy, feel the breeder or pet store closely…

  • Can they give you the paperwork?
  • Can they introduce you to your puppy’s parents?
  • Are their premises dirty?
  • Do they stock multiple dog breeds at the exact location?

Puppy farming is a global problem; we should all know the signs when we buy. Stay safe, report anything suspicious, and always buy from a reputable source.

And on that note…

Even if you do everything “right,” sometimes you never know.  This means that regardless of how “healthy” your puppy appears, illnesses and injuries can always occur during the lifespan of your new loved one.

This is why…

We here at IndulgeYourPet always recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see exactly what it would cost to purchase a pet insurance policy for their new animal.  Because you never know what will happen to them, and as any “veteran” pet owner can tell you, veterinarian bills can be EXPENSIVE.  Particularly if you have to pay for them all by yourself!

For more information about who we here at IndulgeYourPet believe is offering some of the industry’s best pet insurance policies, we encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Companies article.

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