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The Shar Pei is a breed of dog that originated in China and has the distinctive features of deep wrinkles and a blue-black tongue. The name (pinyin: shā pí; English name probably derived from British spelling of Cantonese equivalent sā pèih) translates to “sand skin,” and refers to the texture of its short, rough coat. As puppies, Shar Pei have lots of wrinkles, but as they mature, the wrinkles disappear as they “grow into their skin”. Shar pei’s were once named as one of the world’s rarest dog breeds by Time magazine and the Guinness Book of World Records, and the American Kennel Club did not recognize the breed until 1991.
Appearance Shar Pei come in many colors: red (rose), sand, cream, black, and blue, and have the same characteristic blue-black tongue of the Chow Chow. Loose skin and wrinkles cover the head, neck, and body of puppies, but adult Shar Pei most often grow into their skin so that these features are limited to the head, neck and whithers. Shar Pei usually come in two varieties: one is covered in large folds of wrinkles, even into adulthood, and the other variation’s skin seems tighter on its skin, with wrinkles just on the face and at the whithers. Small, triangular ears, a muzzle shaped like that of a hippopotamus, and a high set tail also give the Shar Pei a unique look.
The Shar Pei also comes in three coat types, Horse, Brush and Bear Coat.
The Horse Coat has short bristly hair and is closer to the original Shar Pei breed in looks and coat type than the Brush or Bear Coat. The Horse Coat is generally thought to be more active than the Brush Coat.
Brush Coats have a slightly longer coat and are softer to the touch than the Horse Coat. The Brush Coat is generally thought to be more of a ‘couch potato’ than the Horse Coat.
Unlike the two coat types above, the Bear Coat does not meet breed standards and therefore cannot be shown. The coat is much longer than the Brush and Horse Coat, so much so, in most cases you can’t see the famous wrinkles. A Bear Coat can occur in any litter.
The plural of Shar Pei is actually Shar Pei.
Health A common problem caused by irresponsible breeding is a painful eye condition, entropion, in which the eyelashes curl inward, irritating the eye. Untreated, it can cause blindness. This condition can be fixed by surgery (“tacking” the eyelids up so they will not roll onto the eyeball for puppies or surgically removing extra skin in adolescent and older Shar Pei). Allergy-induced skin infections can be a problem in this breed caused by poorly selected breeding stock. Shar Pei fever is also a serious problem for the breed. The disease causes short fevers lasting up to 24 hours, after which there may be no recurrence or they may recur at more frequent intervals and become more serious. A possibly related disease is called amyloidosis, and is caused by unprocessed amyloid proteins depositing in the organs, most often in the kidneys or liver, leading to renal failure. At this time there is no test for these seemingly prevalent diseases.
Recently, dry foods have been formulated that are specifically made for breeds such as the Chinese Shar Pei that are prone to skin allergies or sores. Shar Pei whose food intake is restricted to these allergy-free dry foods and receive an antihistamine or two daily will enjoy much healthier lives with little or no skin irritation, itching, or sores common to the breed.
Temperament The Shar-Pei is known for being a naturally independent and reserved breed. Shar-Pei are often suspicious of strangers, which is related to their origins as guard dogs. Nevertheless, the Shar-Pei is extremely devoted, loyal and affectionate to its family, and is amenable to accepting strangers given time and proper introduction. If poorly socialized or trained, it can become especially territorial and aggressive. Even friendly and well-socialized individuals will retain the breed’s watch dog proclivities (such as barking at strangers). Chinese Shar-Pei were originally bred for fighting in China. Whilst this breed is adorable it is also very protective of its home and family, a powerful dog that is willing to guard its family members at all costs. The breed is amenable to training, but can get bored from repetition. Overall, the Shar-Pei is a dog that is loyal and loving to its family while being very protective & independent.
History The Shar Pei breed comes from the Guangdong province of China where it was well-known as a fighting and guard dog. The original Shar-pei from China looked very different from the breed now popular in the West. People in southern China, Hong Kong, and Macau differentiate the Western type and the origianl type by calling them respectively “meat-mouth” and “bone-mouth” Shar-pei.
Originally, the intense loyalty of the Shar Pei defined its work — guarding the Chinese royal family. The dogs are ideally suited for defense; the small ears and deep-set eyes are tough to grab and if grabbed on the skin, the wrinkles enable the dog to turn around and bite back. At one point they were close to extinction, and were listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as “The rarest dog in the world”. Since then, however, the Shar Pei has begun to thrive in many parts of the world as an excellent family dog, due to their loving and devoted nature, suggesting they may have originally been a utility and companion breed rather than a fighting breed. A nickname for the breed is “Golden Lion”, referring to dogs who have a light brown coat.
DNA analysis has concluded that the Shar Pei is one of the most ancient dog breeds. (information from Wikipedia)