Distinguished by their frowning, wrinkly face, Chinese Shar-Pei have a peculiar and arresting look. With square, medium-sized frames, Chinese Shar-Pei stand with alert confidence. Their well-proportioned heads have heavily wrinkled faces, muzzles and necks. They have dark, sunken, almond-shaped eyes and small, thick ears. Like Chow Chows, their tongues are purplish. They have muscular front and back legs and curled tails. The word Shar-Pei means “rough, sandy coat,” and their coat indeed has a prickly coarseness sometimes likened to horsehair. Two other coats are found: the softer and longer brush-coat, and the rare bear-coat. Shar-Pei come in a wide range of colors—red, sandy, cream, blue and black.
Chinese Shar-Pei may look sad or wistful, but once you get to know one, you’ll find them goofy and fun, the perfect roll-on-the-grass companion. They are lovable and fiercely devoted to their families, building strong bonds and powerful attachments to the people who care for them.
However, they also have a dignified, proud and sometimes aloof side, especially when new people or pets enter the mix. They can be independent, willful and choosy about which commands to follow.
Generally silent dogs, they will bark—and sometimes do more than just bark—when they sense a threat. It’s no wonder they were used as guard dogs in ancient China. With the proper introduction, however, they will allow their friendly and goofy sides to shine through.
This noble and dignified breed can sometimes be hard to train. Bored with repetition, they need a firm but loving hand to remind them who’s the boss. Chinese Shar-Pei were bred to hunt and fight, and those instincts can sometimes resurface. Proper training and socialization will soften that side.
Chinese Shar-Pei will get along fine in apartments, provided they get daily walks. Their padded heads are sometimes sensitive to heat, so make sure they get plenty of shade and water.
Because of the skin folds around their eyes, Chinese Shar-Pei have poor peripheral vision. Their wrinkles, in general, should be cleaned for dirt, dust and insects. Their coats should be brushed regularly.
A healthy Chinese Shar-Pei can live as long as 10 years. Common health problems include skin allergies, ear infections and an eye condition called entropion in which the eyelids fold inward.
The Chinese Shar-Pei breed, which can be traced as far back as China’s Han Dynasty (200 B.C.), was originally used as a hunting and fighting dog—their trademark wrinkly face allowed them to avoid fatal bites. During the Communist takeover of China, the Shar-Pei—along with most of the dog population—was eliminated. However, breeders in Hawaii, Hong Kong and Taiwan kept the breed going, and the dogs eventually made their way to the U.S. In 1974, the Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America was formed.