The Shar Pei is not an unnoticeable dog. It is prudent and mysterious; it has a so-called “hippo-like” head shape and it is covered by many wrinkles. As the years went by, the Shar Pei became one of the most popular dog breeds, after being “the rarest one”.
Shar Pei origins date back to the II century, during the Han Dynasty in China. It is thought to be the result of the crossing between the Tibetan Mastiff and the Chow Chow, which has a lot in common with the Shar Pei (for example, their blue tongue).
It is difficult to have a certain theory about its origin because there are no documents with the specific date when the Shar Pei appeared. Most of the material which could have helped us to answers all our question was burnt by the Chin Shih Emperor in the year 255 B.C.
The Shar Pei has lived in the southern coats of China for centuries. There, it was used by Chinese pheasant as shepherding dogs, wild boar hunters and guardians. It is thought that the weakening of the breeds and its damaging all over the country is a consequence of the extreme poverty (result of war) and the difficulties to get supplies.
When the communist took over the territory in the 40s, dog pets started being considered as a luxury, and so all the owners of any kind of breed should pay high taxes.
In 1947, it was decreed that dogs should be used as nourishment to fight hunger. Around 1950, just a few Shar Pei specimens survived in Hong Kong and Macau.
During the 60s, a small group of people in Hong Kong started trying to preserve what was left of this breed. These “fans” decided to smuggle the breed to another country because they were afraid by the idea of Hong Kong being part of China, and so all the dogs would have the same ending as their ancestors.
This breed’s history could start with the Han Dynasty (from the year 206 B.C. to 220 A.D.), and so we would be talking about one of the most ancient existent breeds. It is thought that is was originated in Dah Let (Tai Leh), in the Chinese State of Tung. However, there are other theories which speculate that its place of origin was the Chinese State of Fushan. There are statues from those days with a curved tail and a similar expression to the current Shar Pei.
The current Shar Pei lineages are called American and Traditional; Americans are smaller, thicker, with more noticeable wrinkle and a heavier appearance, have a thicker snout and, generally, a longer coat. Its head must be proportional to its body, without being excessively big, and must have noted wrinkled on its forehead. These wrinkles are very important and characteristically from this breed. They represent longevity and are similar to a dragon’s claw.
Its skull must be round and big on its base, but flat and broad on the forehead. The stop must be moderated, giving way to a big and broad nose, preferably black. The snout must be broad on its base and slightly narrow to the nose. The lips and the upper part of the snout are thick and sometimes give way to the formation of a small protuberance on the nose. The denture must be complete; the absence of any part is not allowed and it must have a perfect scissors bite. Its eyes must be dark (light eyes are undesirable); the eyelid’s function must not be limited by the wrinkles. It must have small, triangular ears, slightly round on the tips and forward folded.
The puppy must have its body full of wrinkles. The adult has wrinkles on its head, on the withers and a beautiful dewlap. The body must be square-shaped, with a deep and broad chest, a strong and straight back, and a lifted and curved tail, which leaves the anus uncovered. The coat is extremely short (less than 2cm), it must not be cut. All colors are recognized, as long as they are single-colored. An average Shar Pei is between 48 and 58 cm tall, and weighs between 18 and 29 kg.
The Shar Pei is characteristically balanced and quiet. It is an independent dog and has only one master. Depending on the animal and its breeding, it may be autistic. Its temperament is similar to the cats, even its way of playing with objects by swatting.
As puppy it is very mischievous, and so the Shar Pei may cause damages during this age to different places of the house, especially the ones which have plenty of wood. For this reason, it is important to accustom it to biting proper toys, avoiding furniture damage.
As it grows up, it changes in a good way and turns less naughty and more calm and sedentary. Because of this tendency to sedentariness, it is important that its master takes it out for a walk frequently and gives it an adequate diet. In case this exercise is not done, it may tend to develop overweight. Physical activity also stimulates the dog mentally, giving it discipline and energy venting.
It tends to be indifferent to strangers, and does a good job being a guardian dog, because it is very affectionate and loyal to its family.
Its slightly stubborn temperament makes it necessary to use training methods in which physical punishment is eradicated, because that way, the master would be encouraging its aggressiveness.
Shar Pei puppies must be treated affectionately and not being trained with these violent training methods, because it would turn it insecure and aggressive. It would be easy to train it if it is given a reward, such as candies, cookies or an uncommon foodstuff.
As all pets, the Shar Pei must be trained since puppy. The master must give it a balanced diet to prevent the alteration of its delicate digestive system. It is recommended to be fed with a low and high animal protein balanced diet, because it does not tolerate it much, and an excess of protein could affect its health and also cause allergies.
Shar Peis do not tolerate low temperatures and enjoy resting under the sun.
Its body fat protects it against many insects, and which is why it is recommended to bath it once or twice a year, because this special fat is very hard to recover.
After a long walk, it is suggested to clean carefully their eyes and ears, and to clean its coat with a wet cloth to remove dirt.
It is though that because of its wrinkles, the Shar Pei tends to suffer dermic diseases, but this is not true. The incidence of these infections are not higher in this breed tan in any other; that way, it does not need more attention in that área tan in any other dog.
A common problem is a painful eye condition, entropion, in which the eyelashes curl inward. The contact and the eyelashes brush cause an irritation in the eyes, and with time, ulceration and corneal ulcers. Despite it is not exclusive for this breed; it does have a tendency to develop in this type of dogs because of their skin type and wrinkles. It is especially frequent in the American Shar Pei, but there are some cases in Traditional Shar Peis where this illness is developed. It is recommended the early suppuration of the eyelids to prevent ocular damage. This is done temporally because, when it has finished its development, some specimens do not need permanent, which consists in removing small skin parts from the animal’s upper and lower eyelids.
You can download the FCI (International Cinological Federation) standard at the following link: http://www.fci.be/Nomenclature/Standards/309g02-en.pdf