The Chinese shar pei is a very unique breed that is characterized by its deep wrinkled face and blue-black tongue. It is one of the world’s ancient dog breeds and is believed to have originated in China’s Kwangtung Province. Although there is no definite date as to when the sharpei first came into existence, there are some historical drawings and statues from the Han Dynasty that feature an animal that closely resembles the pooch and date as far back as 200 B.C. In addition, there are also manuscripts from the 13th century that clearly describe a wrinkle dog with many similar characteristics.
Nevertheless, despite the fact that the Chinese shar pei has been around for a long time, his actual ancestry is still shrouded in mystery. Many people think that he is a descendant of another Asian breed – the Chow Chow. However, the only distinct connection between these two canines is their purple or blue/black tongue and the bear coat shar-pei’s strong resemblance to the chow. Other dogs they have been linked to include the Great Pyrenees, sharing the double dew claw similarity, and the Tibetan Mastiff.
It is likely that they were originally bred as general purpose farm dogs. Their jobs consisted of hunting and guarding livestock, as well as their home and family. They were prized for their intelligence and fighting capability and were also said to have been protectors of samurai warriors and Chinese Royalty.
As time passed, the Chinese shar pei were used for animal fights. With their impressive strength, strong jaws, sharp teeth, loose skin and bristly fur, they became known as ultimate fighting dogs and could easily break free from a grasp and crush their opponents. In fact, the name Shar Pei roughly translates to “sand skin” or “shark skin”, referring to the texture of the pooches’ short, rough coat.
Although sharpeis spent many centuries thriving in China, they almost became extinct when the dog population was practically eradicated when the People’s Republic of China was established. It was through the efforts of a dedicated Chinese businessman from Hong Kong, Matgo Law, that the breed was saved and introduced to America in the 1970’s. However, though this canine was accepted into the U.S. they did not actually meet the requirements and were not recognized by the American Kennel Club until 1991. This is because it took some time to re-strengthen the pedigrees from the desperate inbreeding that had occurred in an effort to preserve the dog.
Today the Chinese shar pei is a popular family pet and is still considered rare and exceptional. He is a lovely companion and a bold beautiful creature who has withstood the test of time.