Shar Pei – a true individualist

Shar Pei – the wrinkled dog

The Shar Pei is one of the most characteristic dog breeds that you can find. These dogs have a particular character and very strong personality, they’re patient, gentle and very loyal to their owners. Despite their love for long walks, they don’t prefer too much activity.

Shar Peis are cheerful and amicable towards the world and people, but only when the world is friendly to them.  These dogs can be distant and suspicious towards strangers, they show their true feelings only to the members of their human family, especially one particular owner.

The representatives of this breed are known not only for their adorable looks but also many sounds they make when they are happy and comfortable. They are often compared to cats: they purr and walk like them, and their paws look similar.

Let us know “the wrinkled dog” and its habits better.

Shar Pei
Shar Pei

FCI Classification

  • Group 2: Pinscher and Schnauzer – Molossoid and Swiss Mountain and Cattle-dogs
  • Section 2.1: Mastiff type
  • Working trial: not subject
  • Origins: China
  • Use: hunting and guarding dog
  • Other names: Chinese Shar-Pei, Chinese fighting dog
Shar Pei
Shar Pei

History of the breed

“Shar pei” means “sand skin”. These dogs come from southern China, but the main breeding programs were conducted by breeders from the USA. Initially, they dogs were used for boar hunting, and also as herding dogs. Sometimes they would guard temples, and even participated in dog fights.

Each owner of a Shar Pei in China was forced to pay high taxes because these dogs were treated as a luxury, however, after some time, their breeding was banned, and owning a Shar Pei meant bourgeois decadency. When the number of these dogs decreased dramatically, one of the breeders – Matgo Law – turned to an American cynologic magazine for help in the preservation of this breed.

The magazine published an illustrated article about the Shar Pei, which caused great enthusiasm among Americans. The dogs started to be brought to the New World and became a symbol of wealth and prosperity, thus, they became more and more popular and started to appear also in Europe at the end of the 20th century.

Shar Pei
Shar Pei



Wrinkles are the most characteristic element of the Shar Pei’s look. Their heads are large, disproportionate as compared to the thorax, their wide and dark nose is also distinguishable.

The eyes are quite small, dark and gloomy-like, it is caused by the folds on the muzzle. However, they don’t affect the dogs’ sight. The ears are small, with a thick layer of skin, widely set, and slightly rounded at the ends.

Puppies have folds on their whole bodies, and adult dogs have them only on their thorax, near the ramp and the tail base. The tail itself is thick and curly at the base, pointed at the end.

Shar Pei
Shar Pei


You can find Shar Pei individuals with different coloration – but it has to be uniform and cannot be white. These dogs have no undercoat, their coat is short, rough and stiff.

There are three types of coat:

  • Short – horse coat – to 1.25 cm (0.49 in)
  • Medium – brush coat – 1.25 to 2.5 cm (0.49 to 1 in)
  • Long – bear coat – more than 2.5 cm (1 in) – unusual within the breed pattern
Shar Pei
Shar Pei


The Shar Pei is even-tempered and calm, it hardly shows any aggression or domination without being provoked. These dogs are not fond of physical activity, although long walks are mostly recommended. Therefore, these dogs are recommended for non-active, although physically fit, people.

Shar Pei are curious about many things, though they get bored very fast, give their current activity up, and search for another entertainment. They are good observes, thanks to their alertness they know exactly who approaches their house, and who leaves; it’s best when they have their observation point situated in the sun or a warm place.

The Shar pei is not a dominant dog that tries to draw attention at any price, but it’s good to train it well in order to make the dog obedient and not too lazy. The representatives of this breed feel good in the city, so people living in blocks of flats can have them without any problems.

Shar Pei
Shar Pei


It is important that Shar Pei don’t have many folds when they’re grown up, because it’s harmful for their health – numerous infections may occur between the folds. They will also occur when you don’t take care of your dog, which means that you need to comb their hair often with a rubber brush when they moult, in order to remove dead hair.

An ungroomed Shar Pei will scratch itself, feel discomfort, which may cause wounds and infections. These dogs often have their eyelids curled inward which may be caused by conjunctivitis. Any eye secretions need to be removed with wet tissues, and you have to make sure that the eyes of your dog are clean.

Also the ears should be taken care of regularly, because they excessively produce earwax; the ears should be cleaned with a wet tissue every week. In case of secretions other than earwax, you need to contact a veterinarian, because it may be a sign of an infection, fungal infection, or mites.

Shar Pei
Shar Pei

Why is the Shar Pei wrinkled?

The excessive skin in some dog breeds, including the main subject of this article, is caused by the mutation of the HAS2 gene. It sounds smart, right? But what does that actually mean? The HAS2 gene is responsible for the synthesis of hyaluronic acid. Its mutation causes folding of the skin in Shar Pei. Unfortunately, it also contributes to familial Shar Pei fever.

Let’s clarify – not all Shar Pei are wrinkled. What is more, one litter may include both “smooth” and “wrinkled” dogs.

Shar Pei
Shar Pei

Detailed information and measurements

Shar Pei

  • Height at withers: 44–51 cm (17-20 in); maximum 56 cm (22 in)
  • Weight: males: 25-29 kg (55-64 lb), females: 18-25 kg (40-55 lb)
  • Lifespan: 7–13 years
Shar Pei
Shar Pei

Shar Pei – interesting facts

  • These dogs are considered to be sticklers for cleanliness – they won’t step into any puddle, they don’t like to wallow in mud and dirt, so when the weather is bad, they may not want to go outside.
  • They are real individuals that do what they want at a given moment. It’s difficult to make them do something against their will, unless it’s their favorite owner who makes them do it.
  • The Shar Pei is a dog for people who are familiar with this breed and will be able to get through to the dog and its complicated nature.
Shar Pei
Shar Pei


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