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 (Chinese) Shar-Pei

Origin: China (Hong Kong)

The breed is believed to have originated almost 2000 years ago in China, in the city of Dialak in Kwun Tung Province, during the Han Dynasty. The original Shar-Pei is a type of Tang dog, like the Chow Chow. In Hong Kong, some of the stock was crossed with other breeds, and these were taken to America in the 1970s, where the breed was refined into its own type, the "American type", or the Meat Mouth. The bluish black mouth and tongue are thought to come from the short-haired Chow Chow. The name Shar-Pei means "sand skin": most likely the name signifies the short and coarse coat.


The Shar-Pei has multiple purposes: it functioned as a hunting and guard dog for Chinese peasants as well as in dogfights. In the 1970s the breed was nearly extinct, and was recognized in the Guinness Book of Records as a cynological rarity, which is to say it was one of the rarest breeds in the world. The Shar-Pei stock grew larger in America, whence it began, through various stages, spreading to Europe and elsewhere.


Currently there are two types of appearance for the Shar-Pei (in China, three are judged). The types are the original Bone Mouth and the more refined Meat Mouth which, among other things, has a more massive head and of which most of the stock is comprised. There are also two types of coat: the short Horse Coat and the longer Brush Coat. There is, however, only one breed standard, and the dogs are judged in the same ring regardless of type or coat. This is often a source of confusion for appearance judges.

The most common color is fawn, but all solid colors are approved, for example brown, black, red, and grey. More on colors here.

 General impression

Alert, compact, short coupled and squarely built dog of medium size. Wrinkles over skull and withers, small ears and "hippopotamus" muzzle impart to the Shar Pei a unique look. Dogs larger and more powerful than bitches. Height at the withers is 44-51 cm or 17-20 inches.

Pictures most commonly depict Shar-Pei puppies whose skin straightens out with maturity. An adult dog must not have too much loose skin or wrinkles. A normal, healthy dog requires no special treatment.


The Shar-Pei is devoted to his masters and does not necessarily care for strangers or is standoffish about them. There can, however, be substantial variety in character one way or the other. The Shar-Pei is also relatively stubborn, and not all Shar-Pei get along with other dogs of the same sex. The Shar-Pei needs an assertive upbringing, and especially a male is not suitable as one's first dog.