8 Facts About the Shar-Pei

shar pei puppies in a basket

Shar-Pei are known for their wrinkly faces. These dogs tend to be highly intelligent. They also tend to bond closely with their families and are loyal and devoted to them even though they also have an independent nature. Here are a few more facts about Shar-Pei:

1. They are an Old Dog Breed

The Shar-Pei is considered an ancient dog breed and is identified as a basal breed. A basal breed is any dog breed that existed before the modern dog breeds of the 19th century emerged and are considered to have a big impact on the development of modern breeds. Although they are an older dog breed, the American Kennel Club did not recognize them until 1992.

They come from China, specifically the Guangdong province. Because this area was a popular hub for trade during the Han Dynasty, which ruled from 206 BC to 220 AD, it is unclear whether the Shar-Pei was originally bred there or they were brought into China from somewhere else.

They were originally used as guard dogs to fend off wild boar and as hunting dogs. Unfortunately, they were also used for dog fighting at one point when it became a popular “sport” in history.

2. They Have a Blue-Black Tongue

Just as the Chow Chow is known for their black tongues, the Shar-Pei also has a dark tongue, which is thought to be the result of potential cross-breeding centuries ago or even more recently.

The Shar-Pei tongue tends to take on more of a purplish hue as it sits in the blue-black range. Although the Shar-Pei is often similar in coat color to a Chow Chow, without all the fluff, the AKC currently recognizes over 16 solid coat colors.

3. The Plural of Shar-Pei is Technically Shar-Pei

Because their name has a Chinese origin, it does not technically have a different plural form. This means that the singular and plural form of Shar-Pei is Shar-Pei, but many people pluralize it to Shar-Peis colloquially. This plural name change is gaining popularity in the United States.

4. Shar-Peis Grow Into Their Wrinkles

Another one of the facts about Shar-Pei is that they grow into their wrinkles. As a puppy, the Shar-Pei often looks like a ball of soft wrinkles. They do tend to grow into their wrinkles. Although some Shar-Peis may be more wrinkly as adults than they were as puppies, they often tend to be less wrinkly as adults.

Once they’re grown, they tend to have a lot of wrinkles on their faces. They also usually have a few wrinkles on their shoulders and also at the base of their tails. Similar to Bulldogs, you’ll need to include wrinkle care into your dog grooming routine.

Thankfully, the Shar-Pei’s coat is relatively easy to maintain. They only require weekly brushing and a bath once a month or so. But, you’ll need to add some time in to wipe and clean their facial wrinkles.

Their shoulder and tail wrinkles usually aren’t very deep. But, depending on your Shar-Pei, you may need to wipe and clean these wrinkles too. This can help prevent irritated skin and other skin issues.

5. They are Natural Guardians

The Shar-Pei is one of the most independent dog breeds. They also still have their guardian and protective instincts and can be quite protective of their families. This also means they are naturally suspicious and wary of strangers.

This guardian background, paired with their independent and stubborn nature, makes early and ongoing socialization and training particularly important for a Shar-Pei. Puppy training classes are also recommended.

6. The Wrinkles Were Developed Intentionally For Protection

Shar-Pei were originally bred specifically as guard dogs that were built to protect and to do so aggressively if needed. Ancient Chinese royals bred lines of Shar-Pei to protect them and their families and to also guard their palaces.

Because the goal was to guard and protect, the breed was developed to have loose skin and wrinkles in areas that might be vulnerable during a fight. This meant that their wrinkles acted a little bit like body armor; if another dog or animal tried to bite a Shar-Pei, they were likely to get some wrinkles or skin and not damage internal organs. The loose skin that folds into wrinkles also allowed a Shar-Pei to maneuver and twist away without serious damage.

7. Guinness Book Once Named Them the Rarest Breed

Much like many other breeds, the Shar-Pei also almost went extinct during World War II. In addition to wartime issues, the Chinese government also put a large tax on all dogs in the 1940s, including the Shar-Pei despite it being a traditional Chinese dog breed.

This hefty dog tax, along with political turmoil and war, almost wiped out the Shar-Pei. In fact, there were only about 60 dogs remaining by the late 1970s. In 1978, The Guinness Book of Records named the Shar-Pei the rarest dog breed in the world.

8. Life Magazine Helped Save Shar-Pei From Extinction

As this breed became scarcer and rarer, a Hong Kong breeder named Matgo Law made a heartfelt plea to the world to help save this beloved breed. Hong Kong was a British colony at the time and there was concern about China taking over the country and imposing the same conditions and strict restrictions that nearly decimated the breed.

Shortly after they were named the rarest breed in the world by The Guinness Book and Law’s efforts, Life Magazine featured a Shar-Pei on the cover of the January 1979 issue. The feature article included Matgo Law’s plea to save the Chinese Fighting Dog as the Shar-Pei was called at the time.

The cover feature in the popular magazine reached a lot of people in the United States. Interest in the breed grew and so did the popularity of the breed. As a result, several Shar-Pei puppies were imported to the United States, and this is credited with helping to bring the breed back from the brink of extinction.

The Shar-Pei can be a great fit for active owners and families who have some experience with dogs and can give them the exercise, mental stimulation, and companionship they need to be happy and healthy.

These are just a few facts about Shar-Pei. If you think this could be the right dog breed for you, learn more about them and check out the available Shar-Pei puppies! You could end up finding your next best friend!