There are many types of unique dog breeds around the world, each with their own characteristics. One of the most interesting I’ve come across recently is the Shar Pei. The breed originates from China and is recognised by the loose, wrinkled coat. They were named one of the world’s rarest dogs in 1978 by TIME Magazine and Guinness World Records. Despite Shar Peis being an ancient breed they were not recognised by the American Kennel Club until 1992.
Shar Peis have their origins as hunting and fighting dogs. Their loose skin made it difficult for opponent’s to hold on and the dog could twist around and bite back. This technique was also used when hunting wild boar. During the Communist Revolution, the number of Shar Peis dropped significantly and a Hong Kong businessman called Matgo Law launched a campaign to rescue them in 1973. He appealed to Americans through magazines and 200 were smuggled into the USA. It’s thought the current Sharp Pei population in the US stems from the original 200.
The breed is reserved around strangers and needs to be socialised early around children and other animals. The Shar Pei’s suspicious nature derives from its origin as a guard dog and their own independence. Nevertheless, they are loyal, devoted and loving to their family. The dog is a silent breed, only barking when worried or playing.
Shar Peis come with various health problems, partly because of inexperienced and rushed breeding based on their popularity in America during the 1970s. This created a different look to the traditional Chinese version, with the wrinkles and snout becoming greatly exaggerated. In addition, few Shar Pei make it past ten years because of illness.
Such problems include Familial Shar Pei fever that causes short fevers lasting 24 hours. FSP can last for up to three days and is accompanied by a build up of fluid in the ankles. The breed also suffers from an eye condition called entropion where the eye lashes curl inward. Another problem is a yeast infection built up in the ears because of the wrinkles. Owners should also note the breed can cause skin rashes and allergic reactions because of their prickly coats.
The Shar Pei Club of Great Britain is dedicated to promoting awareness of the breed and offers tips on how to care and look after them. The Shar Pei is one of the world’s rarest dogs and we should continue to safeguard them.