Chinese Shar Pei/Ghost


Maple Heights, United States

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19×24 watercolor enhanced colored pencil on bright white bristol. Original available.

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The origin of the Chinese Shar-Pei can be traced to the province of Guangdong and has existed for centuries in the southern provinces of China. These dogs helped their peasant masters with various tasks, such as herding cattle and guarding the home and family, and have proven themselves to be qualified hunters of wild game—usually wild pigs—and, of course, they were used for generations as fighting dogs by the Chinese nobility, although the practice became rarer after the communist revolution, when such activities were seen as the preserve of the decadent classes.

The Shar-Pei is believed to have shared a common origin with the smooth-coated Chow-Chow because of the blue-black mouths and tongues; possibly the Great Pyrenees, a source of the double dew claws; and the Tibetan Mastiff. It was believed in ancient times that the dark mouth of the Chow-Chow, exposed when barking, helped to ward off evil spirits. Shar-Pei, when translated, means “sand skin”. This uniquely rough, loose, prickly coat enabled the Shar-Pei to wriggle out of its opponent’s grasp while fighting in the dog pits. When stroked against the grain, the coat may be abrasive, producing a burning, itching sensation. The tail is carried over the back on either side, exposing the anus. The first tail set is a tightly curled tail, a “coin” tail. The second tail set is the loose curl, and the third is carried in an arch over the back. Any Shar-Pei with its tail sticking out straight or between its legs was thought to be cowardly. The tail should connote bravery.

According to old-time dog-fighting fanciers, when a dog’s toes were slightly turned out as the body was viewed head-on, it was thought to help the dog with balance. The Chinese crawling dragon with its feet pointed east and west was considered a sign of strength. Because of poor breeding practices, many of the Shar-Pei have bad fronts. A dog with straight forelegs is correct.

Incidentally, Western breeders maintain that any dog in China that protects property is called a fighting dog, whereas in Canada and the United States, they are referred to as guard dogs. This is still a moot point. Up until the introduction of Breed Specific Legislation, designed to target breeds alleged to be “more likely” to attack and largely aimed at criminalising the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Shar-Pei was regarded as a breed designed, bred and selected for dog fighting. After the introduction of various Breed Specific Legislation, many breeders started to deny the fighting ancestry and concocted fanciful tales of a hunting heritage. It is worth mentioning that the Chinese and Taiwanese still regard the Shar-Pei as a dog-fighting breed, although the prohibitive cost of the breed has done much to discourage such abuse.

Following the establishment of the People’s Republic of China as a communist nation, the dog population was virtually wiped out. If not for the efforts of Matgo Law of Hong Kong, the Shar-Pei would not be here today. Due to his dedication to the breed, a small number of Shar-Pei were brought to the United States in the 1960s and early 1970s. In 1974, American and Canadian fanciers answered Matgo’s appeal for help, and, in 1976, the first Shar-Pei was registered. The foundation stock brought over from Hong Kong were of poorer quality than the Shar-Pei we see today. In August 1991, the Shar-Pei officially completed the requirements for recognition by the American Kennel Club and was placed in the Non-Sporting Group. In 1992, the Canadian Kennel Club also officially recognized and grouped the Shar-Pei in group 6, Non-Sporting events. Since that time, several Shar-Pei are now and are continuing to become CKC and AKC champions.

Over 100,000 Shar Pei exist in the United States and Canada. This unique breed is also recognized by the FCI, HKKC, and the CSPCGB. The CSPCGB operates independently, receiving no input or influence from the UK Kennel Club. The FCI recognizes the HKKC standard, which is based on the traditional type, and not the AKC’s Western modified type at this time, as per its general policy of using the standard from the country of the breed’s origin (info from Wikipedia).

  • Complete 08-08-2011 in 36.24 hours spread over 26 days (in 2 years!!)

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