The Shar Pei is easy to recognise from his deeply wrinkled skin which gives the impression of a rather comical frown. Puppies have the most wrinkles and they gradually become less wrinkled as they age.
They are a medium-sized dog with a large head and, like the Chow Chow, have a blueish-black tongue. They come in a wide variety of colours, in fact all Solid colours except white are acceptable. Shading is normal on the coat colours but "Flowered" or "Parti Colour" coat colours are considered faults.
There are three coat types: horse-coat, brush-coat and a bear-coat (which is actually a fault in the breed caused by the addition of other breeds). The last of these is not recognised by some kennel clubs. The horse-coat has a very prickly feel whereas the brush coat is smoother.
They go back many years to early China where they were used as an all-purpose farm dog although the name Shar Pei just means "sandy coat". They were also occasionally used in dog fighting where the prickly horse-coat was an advantage.
They need clear obedience training but are intelligent, playful and affectionate and can form a very good bond with their family. They also make good guard dogs. They are normally good with people and will be with other dogs and children if socialised when young. They need a good deal of daily exercise although care must be taken in hot weather as they are very sensitive to heat.
All coat types need regular brushing. They are prone to kidney failure and mast cell tumours. They are also prone to skin problems but this is not caused, as is commonly believed, by having wrinkles but is a hereditary problem. They can suffer from Shar Pei fever (FSF) which can result in renal and liver failure through accumulation of amyloid in those organs (amyloidosis). They can also suffer from entropion, but responsible breeders are working hard to health test their dogs before breeding to ensure the breed is as healthy as possible.