History of the Chinese Shar Pei
The Chinese Shar Pei is an ancient breed. Many believe they originated in the Kwangtung Province of China. Paintings on pottery along with a few drawings and some statues that resemble the Shar Pei have dated back as far as the Han Dynasty in 200 B.C. More recently manuscripts dating back to the 13th century describe a wrinkled dog with many of the Shar Pei characteristics.
The ancestry of the Chinese Shar Pei is still somewhat of a mystery. Many believe it is a descendent of the Chow Chow but the only clear link is the purple or black tongue. The bear coat Shar Pei albeit rare bares a strong resemblance to the Chow Chow breed also. Chinese Shar Pei were kept as a general purpose farm dog in the Chinese farming country for hunting, protecting livestock and guarding their family and home. During that period of time the Shar Pei was bred for intelligence, strength and their fighting ability. They also were said to have been used to protect Chinese Royalty and Samurai Warriors.
Later they were used for fighting dogs because of their incredible strength and loose skin and extremely prickly coat they became known as "the ultimate fighting dog". Shar Pei were extremely hard for their opponent to hold on to and take to the ground. They also used their hind quarters to swing at their opponent letting their opponent get a grip on their back side, then they would virtually roll in their loose skin and shred their opponent with razor sharp teeth. The Shar Pei have tremendously strong jaws and could crush the bones of their opposition.
During the communist revolution the Shar Pei breed was rescued by a Chinese business man named Matgo Law, who pled with the Americans through magazine ads to save the breed. At that point in time between 1970 and 1973 the Chinese Shar Pei was nearly extinct. Following the establishment of the People's Republic of China, China became a communist nation. The dog population of China was virtually eliminated. No dogs were seen in the cities and few dogs remained in the country side. During this period of time there were a few Shar Pei bred in Hong Kong and some in Taiwan. There were very few specimens that came to the United States, most by "well off" dog fanciers and unfortunately the rule of the day was inbreeding to save them from complete extinction.
Since that time the Chinese Shar Pei have become extremely popular and the estimated number of the breed now exceeds 80,000 according to the AKC registry. When the Shar Pei first came to the United States they were very expensive and unaffordable to most families. Now they are in the same price ranges as most purebred dogs.
The Chinese Shar Pei because of their being still relatively rare and their unque appearance are very highly sought after. As previously stated they are relative in price to many other pure bred dogs. However they can be "high maintenance" dogs meaning in the early years of their life they can incur some high veterinary bills. As with any pure bred dogs they come with some distinct health problems.
The name "Shar Pei" roughly translated means "sand skin". The horse coat Shar Pei has short hair and feels prickly to the touch which is another of it's unique qualities. Shar Pei also has been loosely translated to "rough, sandy coat" or "sandpaper coat. However there are two distinct varieties of Shar Pei, one is called a "bone nose" and the other a "meat mouth". The meat mouth has a heavily padded muzzle while the bone nose has a more typical muzzle. There are also three different kinds of coats they may have. The one described above and also there is the brush coat which is softer and up to one inch in length. Then there is the rare bear coat which is also soft and can be up to three inches in length.
The history of the Chinese Shar Pei in more recent times is somewhat incomplete. In the United States the breed dates back to 1966 when a few dogs were registered with the Hong Kong Kennel Club. The American Dog Breeders Association registered a Chinese Shar Pei for a Mr. J. C. Smith in October of 1970. Interest in the breed increased in the U.S. and the Chinese Shar Pei Club of America was founded in 1974. It wasn't until 1978 that the Chinese Shar Pei was accepted by the American Kennel Club. (AKC) In the early 90's the Shar Pei became popular and demand for them grew rapidly.