At a glance


The Shar Pei, an ancient dog breed that originated from China 2,000 years ago, carries recognizable traits, such as distinctive deep wrinkles and a rough, near-abrasive coat. The breed was once so few in numbers that shar pei was labeled one of the world’s rarest dog breeds by Time magazine and the Guinness Book of World Records.


  • Names – Chinese Shar-Pei, Chinese Fighting Dog
  • Group – AKA: Non-Sporting Group; KC: Utility
  • Size – medium
  • Life expectancy – average of 12; range of 9 to 15 years
  • Cost of ownership – medium
  • Ease of ownership – medium
  • Aggressive tendency – low
  • Amount of Exercise – medium
  • Amount of Grooming – medium
  • Ease of Training – medium
  • Obedience level – medium
  • Suitable for Children – high
  • Amount of Care Required – medium
  • Susceptibility to Health Problems – medium

Shar Pei have loose folds of skin on their bodies, which produce the effect of a ‘frowning’ expression on their faces. They have a compact build and radiate an aura of strength. Their image of balance translates to a free and vigorous motion. Their coat, a unique feature of the breed, is almost-prickly, and when stroked against the grain may produce a burning, itching sensation.


  • Female – 40-55 lbs. (18 to 25 kg.)
  • Male – 55-65 lbs. (25 to 30 kg.)


  • Bitch – 18-20 inches (46-51 cm.)
  • Dog – 18-20 inches (46-51 cm.)


  • Color – chocolate, cream, black, sand, red, apricot, and several type of sables and dilutes
  • Coat – very harsh and straight, ranging in length from being either extremely short, to no longer than an inch long at the withers
  • Shedding – low
  • Allergies – medium
  • Causes Allergies – medium

The Shar-Pei is independent-minded, but is also capable of unwavering loyalty to his family. This latter factor makes this canine a good watchdog, protective of his home and wary and cautious around strangers. He is dignified, level-headed, intelligent, confident and ever-ready.

  • Separation Anxiety – low
  • Barking tendency – low
  • Aggressive tendency – low
  • Compatibility Other Animals – medium
  • Suitable for Children – high
  • Watchdog suitability – high

In general, the breed has consistently showed itself to be an affectionate and protective household pet. However, these dogs are also capable of independence and reserve. A dog deprived of socialization or training, as a puppy, will surely grow up territorial and aggressive. That said, some adult shar pei will still manifest the breed’s watch dog tendencies, which include barking at strangers. Far from being a noisy barker, he is silent for most of the day, and usually only play or uncertainty will make him vocalize. While he is very receptive to training, the breed can tire of repetition.

His intelligence is not enough to keep him in line, which is why this breed needs consistent training and a confident handler. Anybody who seeks to bond with the dog must take care by not being too soft, too uncertain or too inconsistent, since the dog will want to take over if he thinks nobody is in charge. In fact, many of them are too stubborn to train!

  • Obedience – medium

Exercise required
An active Shar Pei will not mind participating in any form of exercise, as long as they can have some off-leash time.  Since this is the case, a well enclosed area/yard is ideal.

  • Energy – medium
  • Amount required – 10 – 20 minutes per day.

The Chinese Shar-Pei’s coat is not high maintenance, and the occasional brushing for loose or dead hair is often enough. The ears should be cleaned regularly as well as under the folds of the skin.

Chinese Shar Pei are known to react negatively when given foods that contain gluten, sugars, soy, glutens, corn and wheat (or can develop these allergies if not properly attended to at the start). The ideal food for the breed is a totally grain-free diet to prevent the occurrence or worsening of allergies. Shar Pei who have a diet free of these foods often mature as adults with the least possible skin irritation, itching or sores.

Puppies tend to require the most care. Some breed lines have tails that are tightly curled and these need regular checking and cleaning to ward off infection. Dog shampoos need to be carefully selected and the coat should be washed every few months to prevent drying out the skin. Nails need to be trimmed monthly and their eyes should be inspected everyday.

  • Ease of grooming – high
  • Amount of grooming – medium

Reputable breeders do their best to reduce the breed’s risks of incurring entropion, a situation where the edges of the eyelids roll inward and lead to the lashes irritating the eyeball. Some breeders are also working to reduce the occurrence of the longer “bear” coat.

Responsible breeders are at the forefront of bringing down the frequency of these genetic problems, so that many of the dog-development issues associated with the Shar Pei are actually solved and facilitated when prospective puppy owners get in touch with an experienced, well-established Shar-Pei breeder. Some problems (ie, the need for eye-tacking as a solution to entropion) do not typically occur among an experienced breeder’s litters. Breeders are also the ideal experts to consult with regard to detailed diet information that is appropriate for the Shar-Pei they produce.

  • Litter size – average of 5; range of 4 to 6 puppies

The breed is prone to fevers of uncertain causes, often afflicting the dog simultaneously with swollen hocks. Skin problems also bother the breed and are not commonly due to the wrinkles, but rather because of inheritable factors. In fact, the boom in shar pei breeding in the 1980’s may have helped aggravate most hereditary skin issues. Nevertheless, obtaining a puppy from a reputable breeder will help prevent this condition. Lastly, a common allergy in the breed is hay fever.

  • Life expectancy – average of 12; range of 9 to 15 years
  • Susceptibility to illness – medium
  • Common health problems – entropion, CHD; occasionally seen: ciliary dyskinesia, renal amoidosis.

The Chinese Shar-Pei will thrive, abstain from destructive behavior and do well in a small house or apartment, provided there is sufficient exercise for the dog. The dog is moderately active indoors and can manage without a yard to move around. Like all small faced breeds, the Shar Pei can overheat more easily and needs access to shade and plenty of water on warm days.

Living conditions
Can live anywhere, town, country, house or apartment. Of course, if in an apartment they will need extra exercise.

  • Good with Children – They enjoy the company of children but children need to learn how to treat the dog with proper care and respect.

The exact age of the Shar-Pei breed is unclear. There may even be a link between them and the Chow Chow, but the only evidence that seems to support this is the purple tongue. However, ancient pieces of pottery indicate that the breed was already around during the Han Dynasty (206 BC) of China. For many years the Shar-Pei was an able partner in hunting, guarding the home and family and protecting stock. He was a well loved family pet and protector and everybody knew of the Shar-Pei’s intelligence, strength and wrinkly face. The loose skin and extremely prickly coat were developed to aid the dog in fighting, making the Shar-Pei difficult for the opponent to grab and to hold on.

When China adopted Communism, the ruling government set about prohibiting the raising and keeping of dogs. When the breed reached the stage of being known as “rare,” a Hong Kong business man named, Matgo Law, appealed to American dog enthusiasts in 1973 to rescue the decimated breed. Since that plea, which met considerable success, the shar pei population has risen tremendously over the past decades, worldwide. When first introduced by breeders to the public, the breed carried sky-high prices. Over the years, their value has shifted to match that of any other purebred dog. The Shar Pei is currently in the Non-Sporting Group of the AKC with over 70,000 dogs registered as foundation stock.

  • County or origin – China
  • Group – AKA: Non-Sporting Group; KC: Utility
  • Recognition – CKC, FCI, AKC, UKC, KCGB, ANKC, NKC, NZKC, APRI, ACR

Did you know…

  • Some famous Shar Pei’s and Shar Pei owners include:
    • Zac Lichman from Big Brother had a Shar Pei named Molly, who undertook a task on Day 55, and was also reunited.
    • New Kids on the Block member Jonathan Knight had a Shar Pei named Nikko that went on tour with him and appeared in many magazine articles and pictures focused on the group.
    • In a British television advert for a Garnier anti-wrinkle cream, a Shar Pei puppy is featured.
    • In Australia and New Zealand, a Shar Pei puppy named Roly has been used for many years in television commercials for Purex toilet paper.
    • Popeye, a Shar Pei dog that appeared in Hong Kong TVB comedy shows.
    • Alfie, a Shar Pei from Essex. Owned by the Seaton-Collins family. Best known for winning the Crufts 2006 gold show dog award.
    • A Shar Pei appears in the television show Lost as character Sun Kwon’s pet, Bpo Bpo.
    • Fu Dog from the Disney cartoon American Dragon: Jake Long is a Shar Pei.
    • Malcolm and Derek, from the TV version of Creature Comforts.
  • The AKC acknowledges fifteen different colors for the shar pei coat.
  • Some people may actually get a negative reaction when they stroke the shar pei’s coat against the grain.

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