By Macy Gen Veterinary AssistantMacy Gen Last updated: 17th March 2023



Macy Gen Veterinary Assistant Macy Gen
Last updated: 17th March 2023

A medium sized dog having a pleasing appearance because of its wrinkled face, the Shar-Pei originated in China’s Canton region. The British spelling is a translation from the Cantonese word sā pèih meaning sand skin referring to its short and rough coat. The Times and Guinness World Records named these fighting dogs as the world’s rarest breeds.

Shar-Pei Pictures

Quick Information

Other NamesCantonese Shar-Pei
CoatHorse coat brush coat, bear coat
ColorBlack, brown, blue, cream, apricot dilute, blue dilute, cream dilute, chocolate dilute, fawn, cream sable, red fawn, red sable, brown sable, blue sable, white
Breed typePurebred
GroupFighting dogs
Average life expectancy (How long do they live)8 to 12 years
Size (How big do they get)Medium
Height of a full grown Shar-PeiStandard:18 to 22 inches
Mini:15 to 18 inches
Toy: under 15 inches
Weight of a full grown Shar-Pei45 to 60 lbs
Litter size4 to 6 litters approximately
Behavioral characteristicsLoyal, calm, independent, devoted, strong-willed
Good with childrenPreferably older kids
Barking tendencyModerately low (only when it is anxious)
Climate compatibility Not adaptable to humid and warm climate
Shedding (Do they shed)Moderate, except for spring and fall
Are they HypoallergenicNo
Competitive Registration Qualification/ InformationFCI, ANKC, AKC, CKC, NZKC, KC(UK), UKC

How does the Shar-Pei look like

Head: Well-proportioned, large, wrinkled.

Skull: Flat, broad, moderately defined.

Muzzle: Broad and full resembling that of a hippopotamus.

Ears: Small, thick, triangular-shaped, a little rounded to the tip and curved at the edge.

Eyes: Small, dark, almond-shaped, sunken

Tail: High set, round at its base, tapering to a point, being curled on any one side of its back.

Wrinkles: They are severely wrinkled as puppies which begin to reduce as they age.

Video of Shar-Pei Puppies

Varieties of Shar-Pei by Coat :

  • Horse Coat: Have rough, prickly coats. The puppies have wrinkled skins while the adults’ skins are smooth alongside a lean, athletic built. They shed less since they do not have an undercoat in the winter months and are the most active of the lot.
  • Brush coat: Possess long and soft hair in comparison to the horse varieties and retain their wrinkled expression even through adulthood, which in turn makes them the most popular among the three varieties. They are heavy with big head and muzzle, with a more laid back temperament than the horse variety.
  • Bear coat: They are the lesser known varieties and a product of the recessive gene, meaning both parents must possess a coat of this kind. Though similar to the brush-coat type regarding built and disposition, their coat is comparatively long as well as short. However, AKC considers Shar-Peis with such coat texture to be a fault.

History and Origin

The history of the Shar-Pei can be traced about 2000 years ago, during the reign of the Han dynasty, where their usage pertained to fighting dogs, also emerging as the Chinese Emperors’ choicest pets. The traditional Shar-Pei was different in appearance in comparison to the modern kinds developed in the Western world. Because of their less wrinkled appearance, bony snout short hair and pointed tail, the older ones were called ‘bone-mouth’ Shar-Pei. On the other hand, the modern varieties were referred to as ‘meat-mouth’ since they had hefty muzzles, alongside longhair.

Later it also came to be used as the peasant’s dog, thus being versatile and employed by the farmers to do a host of duties like hunting, herding and guarding livestock.  Their loose skin helped them to defend themselves against wild boars.

Their numbers declined during the Communist regime in China when many canines all over the country were brutally slaughtered. However, a handful of good varieties were taken to Taiwan and China, being preserved there.

Though it had made its entry into America in the middle part of the 1960s, it was only in 1973 that people out there started taking a specific interest in these dogs. The credit for this goes to Matgo Law, a Hong Kong-based breeder who had appealed to the dog fanciers of the United States through a particular magazine to ensure protection to these dogs from getting extinct.

The 200 Shar-Peis brought into America contributed to the breeds in the United States of the present times. The Chinese Shar-Pei gained the AKC’s acknowledgment in 1992 as its 134th breed.

As fighting dogs

They were used as fighting dogs in the past, developed in such a way that they could perform their job well. Their prickly coat and loose skin made the opponent find it challenging to hold on to it during a fight. Even if the other dog managed to get a grip, it did not last for a long span as the Shar-Pei could at once twist its wrinkled skin and turn to face their opponent. Though at present dog fighting is illegal, their inherent aggression could be a result of their ancient lineage.

Temperament and Personality

Alert, independent and protective, they excel as affectionate family dogs, devoted and protective towards their loved ones. Because of this trait, they detest when left alone for extended durations and mostly love to be in the same room as their owners.

However, they have a reserved nature too, which is reflected when interacting with a stranger, keeping up to their reputation as efficient guard dogs, a job that their ancestors performed in the palaces of China.

It is mostly a silent breed that would rarely bark except when worried, agonized, stressed or engaged in play.

Though they are protective towards the children of the family, the Chinese Shar-Pei would be better suited for homes having kids above the age of 10 rather than younger ones who could be careless in their interaction with the dog.

Keeping in mind their fighting dog descent, they are known to be territorial and aggressive to other dogs especially of the same sex. They were used to guard livestock, and the chasing instinct is still inherent in them. This could make the dogs perceive cats and other smaller pets as prey and get after them.

Click here to read the list of popular Shar-Pei mixes



They have moderate exercise needs and can do well in apartments if they are worked out on a regular basis. Besides brisk walks a couple of times in a day, they can also be made to play in a sufficient fenced yard as well as indoors. Do not take them out when the temperature is soaring as they are unable to withstand the humid and hot weather.


They do not have high grooming requirements, with the brush and horse-coated types needing to combed once in a week. They are sensitive when it comes to their feet. Hence, you need to be careful while brushing the hair of its paws.

However, Shar-Peis are vulnerable to skin problems like flea, food or seasonal allergies, needing regular brushing and weekly bathing.

Take special care in wiping their skin folds and use a dry towel to lessen chances of accumulation of moisture. After a bath dry the folds well to avoid yeast or fungal infection.

Trim your Shar-Pei’s nails at least two times a month to prevent any wear or tear.

They have small ear canals that could get irritated and infected easily. Avoid using a cotton swab and make sure water does not enter the ears during bathing. Instead, go for a vet-approved ear cleanings solution.

Brushing its teeth on a routine basis and checking its eyes for any redness and infection are the other measures which are needed to be adapted.

Health Problems

Post its introduction in the United States of America, the Shar-Pei fell victim to inexperienced and hushed breeding which also took a toll on its health affecting it adversely. Shar-peis mostly suffer from skin problems like atopic dermatitis, allergies, and demodicosis. Other diseases or illnesses they may be afflicted with include Familial Shar Pei fever (short fevers from 24 hours to 3 days where fluid is mostly accumulated in the ankle region), amyloidosis (buildup of protein tissues in the liver and kidney), entropion (problem of the eyes), yeast infection mostly affecting its ears and Vitamin B-12 deficiency.


Shar-Peis are known for their aggressive and hostile demeanor, hence training these dogs since the time they are puppies is essential to help them mend their undesirable behavior. However, they have a good level of intelligence and can take to training well if bestowed upon the hands of an efficient trainer.

  • Socialization training to the Shar-Pei puppies would help them understand which stranger has come to their home with a friendly purpose and who has an evil intention. In fact, for this, exposure to various types of experiences and people is essential to help them understand the difference between a friend and a foe. To help them get rid of their aggression towards other canines you should acquaint them with different types of dogs since their puppy days. Take them to a dog park, though leashed, and let them wait outside and watch various dogs. If it yells or gets anxious bring it away, but in case it is quiet and well-behaved reward it with a treat.
  • Obedience training is essential to lessen their destructive habits like the urge to chase or bark. Commands like “no,” “stay” and “stop are to be taught early in its life. To curb its chasing instinct, you need to watch out for triggers and the moment you see it trying to get after something you can drop a treat on its way or divert its attention by clapping loudly or making an intense sound. If it stops chasing reward it appropriately so that it would get to understand that good behavior means gifts.
  • Crate training would help it to get rid of its bouts of separation anxiety, making it learn to stay alone for some time without you.


The National Research Council of the National Academies says that adult and active Shar-Peis weighing about 50 pounds need 1312 calories a day. Besides giving your dog good quality dry dog food, you can also provide a homemade diet having a balanced amount of animal protein as well as other nutrients. These dogs tend to suffer from food allergies. Hence it is necessary to keep a watch on the food you give it. If you notice any symptoms of allergies in your Shar-Pei after the consumption of a particular food, stop it right away and talk to the veterinarian at once.

Interesting Facts

  • The veterinarians saved a Shar-Pei aged six named Hoshi at Glasgow after it had eaten a chicken kebab along with the metal skewer at a barbeque.

Shar-Pei Bite

Of the several news of the Shar-Pei’s bite, a significant one was of a man, aged 52, bitten by his sister’s dog that he was looking after in her absence.

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