Chinese Shar-Pei

AKC Non-Sporting Group


Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Little is known about the origins of the Chinese Shar-Pei, but pictures on pottery suggest the breed was present even in the Han Dynasty (206 BC). For many years, the Shar-Pei was kept as a general-purpose farm dog in the Chinese countryside, used for hunting, protecting stock, and guarding the home and family. During that time, it was bred for intelligence, strength, and a scowling face. Later, the Shar-Pei was used in dog fighting. The loose skin and extremely prickly coat were developed to aid the dog in fighting, making the Shar-Pei difficult for an opponent to grab and hold on to. During the Communist Revolution, dogs were outlawed in China and many were destroyed. The Shar-Pei almost became extinct. Luckily, the ancient breed was dramatically rescued by a Hong Kong businessman named Matgo Law, who appealed to Americans in 1973 through a dog magazine to save the Shar-Pei. From those few specimens, the Shar-Pei fancy has grown tremendously over the past decades. Now the Shar-Pei is in the Non Sporting Group of the AKC with more than 70,000 dogs registered as foundation stock. When first introduced, these dogs were astronomically expensive. Now they cost about the same as any other pure-bred dog.


The Chinese Shar-Pei is square-profiled, of medium size and substance, with a slightly large head for his size. The head has a distinctive wide, padded “hippopotamus” muzzle, and extremely loose, wrinkled skin. Wrinkles may cover the entire body in puppies but are less pronounced in adults, perhaps only covering the head, neck, and withers. The ears are very small, in the shape of an equilateral triangle, and lie flat against the head. Another distinguishing characteristic is the blue-black tongue (shared with the Chow Chow). A scissors bite is strongly preferred. The tail is set high, is wide at the base, and tapers to a point, curling up over or off the side of the back. The coat comes in two types: “horse” coat, which is extremely prickly and offstanding or “brush” coat, which is smoother and longer (but still not to exceed 1 in. at the withers). All solid colors and sables are allowed.

Key Facts

  • Height:  18 to 20 in.
  • Size:  Medium
  • Weight:  45 to 60 lbs.
  • Availability:  Widely available
  • Talents:  Watchdog, guarding, and performing tricks


This very clean breed almost housebreaks itself. The brush coat sheds a little year round, but the horse coat tends to shed only during molting periods. Molting may leave the dog looking unkempt. Bathing about once a week and brushing the coat daily during this period will remove the old dead hairs and allow the new coat to grow in. Because of its padded muzzle, the Shar-Pei is very sensitive to heat. Shade and water must always be available. Puppies grow very quickly and must be fed accordingly. Some owners are allergic to the harsh coat. Shar-Pei generally hate water and try as hard as they can to avoid it. Familial Shar-Pei Fever is a hereditary condition in which the dog develops a fever and, often, swollen hocks; such dogs may also develop amolydosis (kidney failure).


Devoted and loyal to his family. Reserved with strangers. Very intelligent, but can be willful. Regal and aloof. Dignified. Sober. Calm and confident. A breed with strong natural guarding instincts, the Shar-Pei must be properly socialized or can become quite aggressive. Many have CD and CDX obedience titles. Firm, positive, and motivational training is needed. They become bored easily with prolonged repetition; strive for variety and fun in training. The horse coat variety is generally more dominant, more dog-aggressive, and less friendly with strangers than the milder-mannered brush coat variety.


  • Children:  Good with children
  • Friendliness:  Reserved with strangers
  • Trainability:  Easy to train
  • Independence:  Moderately dependent on people
  • Dominance:  High
  • Other Pets:  Good with other pets if raised with them from puppyhood
  • Combativeness:  Tends to be fairly dog-aggressive
  • Noise:  Not a barker
  • Indoors:  Moderately active indoors
  • Owner:  Not recommended for novice owners


  • Grooming:  Some grooming needed to maintain skin health in wrinkles
  • Trimming and Stripping:  No trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat:  Short coat
  • Shedding:  Average shedder
  • Exercise:  Moderate exercise needed
  • Jogging:  A fair jogging companion
  • Apartments:  Will be OK in an apartment if sufficiently exercised
  • Outdoor Space:  Does all right without a yard
  • Climate:  Prefers cool climates
  • Longevity:  Short (under 10 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Chinese Shar-Pei Breed Standard

Chinese Shar-Pei Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Chinese Shar-Pei

Chinese Shar-Pei Gifts