Traditional Shar-Pei Standard


Strong, compact, active and agile, Shar Pei means ” Sand Skin”. The skin must be tough and rough, while the coat must be short and bristly. Tight wrinkles over the body at puppy stage. In the adult dog pronounced wrinkles are only allowed over the forehead and withers. As to temperament, the Shar Pei is a calm, independent dog who is loyal and affectionate to people.

The skull is round and big at the base, but flat and broad at the forehead. Muzzle and skull are near to equal length. Muzzle moderate in length, broad from the eyes but narrowing slightly towards the nose. Moderate stop. Wrinkles on the forehead must be apparent but must not to obstruct the eyes. The Chinese description of the head is ” Wu Lo Tau”, meaning ” Calabash” shaped head.

Medium sized, almond shaped. As dark as possible. Light colored eyes are undesirable. Function of eyeball or lid in no way disturbed by surrounding skin, folds or hair. Any sign of irritation of eyeball, conjunctiva or eyelids highly undesirable. Free from entropion.

Small, thick, equilaterally triangular in shape slightly round at tips. Tips pointing toward eyes and folded to the skull. Wide apart and close to skull. Erect and standing ears are permissible but less desirable.

Bluish-black tongue and gum preferred, pink or spotted only permissible in lighter colored dog, for example light fawn or cream. Jaws strong, teeth with a perfect, regular and complete scissors bite, i.e. the upper teeth closely overlapping the lower teeth and set square to the jaws. Over large size mouth or over padding of lips are not acceptable. The shape of the mouth when viewed from top should either be in the shape of a drain pipe commonly known as “Roof Tile Mouth” or with a wide jaw in the shape of a toad’s mouth, commonly known as “Toad mouth”.

Large, wide. Black color preferred lighter color permissible in lighter colored dogs.

Strong, muscular with slightly loose skin around the throat. The loose skin should not be excessive.

Shoulders muscular, well laid and sloping,. Forelegs moderate length, slightly longer than depth of body. Good bone.
Pasterns slightly sloping, strong and flexible.

Very strong and straight back. Chest broad and deep. Slight fold of skin on withers. Excessive skin around the body in adults is most undesirable. Very strong back bone. Length of breastbone to rump is almost the same as height at withers. Bitches can have a slightly longer body length. Low saddle and high pommel desirable.

Strong and muscular. Moderately angulated. Hocks well let down.

Moderate size, compact, well padded, toes well knuckled.

Free and balanced, vigorous.

There are several types of tail. The most common are the curl, and double ring. The tail must be firm and lightly over the hip. Any dropped tail is a serious fault.


Short, hard, bristly and as straight as possible. No undercoat. Length must not be over 2.5cm (1 inch) long. Never trimmed.

Solid colors black, blue black, black with a hint of rust, brown, red, fawn. Cream is acceptable but less desirable.

19-23 inches at withers and 40-65 lbs. A dog well up to this size and weight is desirable, but if a dog is not, it should not be heavily penalized. Over 23″ is to be penalized.

Mixed color of black and tan, spotted body. Overshot or undershot teeth. Splayed feet. Low set saddle and high pommel. Excessively heavy head and jowls. Excessive wrinkles on body, forequarters and hindquarters of adult dog. Large ears that flow down side of head and do not point to eyes. Coat over 1 inch long. Dropped tail.

Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

(Pictures taken by kynon melathron dogs)


The traditional shar-pei even if it lives for hundreds of years (according to last scientific studies of his DNA, it is one from the ancient breed of dogs that came directly from the wolf),only the last 3-4 of them , has made intense his presence in the canine world and this make some people to do malicious comments and gossips. These people are mostly breeders of the western meat mouth type of shar-pei, with the fleshy mouth, that still support that this type (meat mouth) they breed and raise, with the oversized cheeks, the tiny and very deep set eyes in the skull and the excessive wrinkles, is the authentic primitive type that first appeared in the china. And that the ‘’traditional’’ with the bone mouth , is a mixed dog of our modern season, with final purpose the creation of impressions and easy money.

This story with the two different types of shar-pei (Chinese or traditional bone mouth and American or western meat mouth),has been commended many times through articles, texts, web sites, magazines, forums and in the canine world of breeding and shows. And even if all are so clear about the first Chinese type , however , some people ,maybe from ignorance or because of the marketing and its benefit , they want to turn the world against the traditional shar-pei and its breeders, but mostly against its history trough the years that past away.

And because I don’t like to see my loving ancient breed to be in danger of extinction because of some ‘’breeders’’ that want to sell and benefit from their own breeding of meat mouth type, I will analyze you with examples , the reasons, why a western meat mouth shar-pei is not the authentic primitive type that leaved in China. After that its in your crisis and logic to make your own conclusions and to research it more if it needed , in order to make your own opinion and not the one that others want to ‘’serve ‘’ you…

Starting from the beginning of the history of this breed, its widely known and acceptable in ALL around the canine world and breeders of shar-pei , that this breed was clearly , a pure ‘’working dog’’ in China, that was hunting (from rabbits and birds to wild boards), guarding the life stock and houses and been used in dog-fights also. No one can deny these, because they ‘ve been testimonies , written texts , pictures and drawings and even today, some shar-pei still ‘’work’’ in China.

So, whoever denies it, means that know nothing about the dogs that loves and breed, and of course that the ‘’path’’ that has taken for his breeding is wrong and destroys the breed. And this because every kind of dog must been raised only in base of his aim of creation and his usefulness and thus a race is kept healthy and strong . The fact that some people transformed this dog from a working one to a fashion accessorize, brought the breed into complete deformity and even worse , it leads it to extinction, because the western meat mouth shar-pei has so many health issues and genetic problems, that decrease their years of life (some times even in 3-4 years) a lot. This trend of breeders , judges , clubs and buyers for the overtype dogs, never helped any kind of breed.

That’s why the German shepherd, that we see it trotting with grace in the rings, threatened by paralysis at 7 years of age, the English bulldog, that has nothing to do with the ‘’working’’ dog it was once in the past, has so many breathing and heart problems, the Cavalier king charls spaniel commonly safer from encephalitis and the story goes on.. Everything for money and vanity of the human race. And the sooner the judges and kennels clubs understand the good of their breeds and the proper selection of good types (and no overtype dogs) of each of them, the more likely to have healthy and correct dogs close to their primitives, for many more years.

Going back to the shar-pei now, lets see all the parameters and study the way that dog act and ‘’work’’ , so we can get to a conclusion about which type is the primitive, the meat mouth western type or the traditional bone mouth?

So, think about , how is possible a dog that its own breeders support that has not good vision because of the excessive wrinkles in the face that block its optical field, and the too deep set eyes in the skull (very often I hear from breeders to say to the new owners of their dogs, to be careful with the way they approach them, and never do it from behind or by side, because the dogs can’t see very well and maybe they got afraid and bite them ) could be capable to chase any prey by sight?

And we can take a second version, and suppose that shar-pei never was a sight hound, but was hunting only by tracking ,with his sense of smell. Which one of the today’s western meat mouth shar-pei has so clean and big nostrils , for a proper good and long tracking for hours until it finds its pray? And which one of them is able to smell and breath proper in the same time , wile for showing them to the ring the warm seasons, they need shady place, quick transfer, fast judgment and then quickly water and immobility in order to prevent a heatstroke? Their short head and muzzle combined with the over padding and many wrinkles in the face are making their breathing difficult and the intense exercise impossible, for the majority of the samples of the breed.

But even if I overcome all these and conclude that with some ‘’magical’’ way this type of meat mouth shar-pei can actually find its pray, it comes afterwards the question : ‘’how they cutch it?’’

The shar-pei didn’t just find the pray and immobilized it by barkings, until the hunter comes and kill it, but actually fell over it with courage and strength, they nailed it in the ground and kill it by biting it to the throat. A shar-pei can’t stand waiting the hunter to come, and you can’t make it to be calm and patient while is being to a hunt. Its instincts of hunter are very strong and can’t bring them down . So the shar-pei is killing its pray in the hunting after chasing it. And because of this it needs a strong and ‘’clean’’(without padding, fold skin and over size cheeks) mouth and jaws to catch and nailed or even kill one of his bigger prays the wild board.

So, how a dog with ‘’hippopotamus’’ mouth , padding, wrinkles and fold skin in the head and mouth can be deadly and bite its pray, when in the same time cannot even be fed by it shelf? Many of the today’s western meat mouth shar-pei, have a lot of mouth problems, because of the morphology of their mouth, such as hyperplasia of the lips, lips and gums cover the teeth, leading to permanent injury’s, hypertrophy of palate leading to suffocation, and overshot and undershot jaws, sometimes so intense that the animal can not recruit and chew food, and even discomfort during meals because the food often sticks to the cheeks, or bite them wile they chew and the animals are disturbed and leave food.

So, tell me , how is it possible a dog like this to be able to give a good ‘’clear’’ deep bite?

The answer might be shocking for some, but it is negative. It just can’t. And this I m telling it with all the certain, because I ‘’work’’ with all type of shar-pei (IPO-Schutzhund, protection) and I can see what every type is able to do with the battings . An over type western meat mouth shar-pei it is if not impossible, then difficult to nailed a big game for some time on the ground and even harder to kill with a bite to the jugular and carotid artery, because it is needed for this a big, bone mouth, with powerful jaws that does not ‘’chew’’ his victim but to keep property and gradually pushing the jaws of exerting pressure and kill the pray by suffocation.

For the very distrustful ones, lets take another version and suppose that the Chinese shar-pei didn’t hunt big games like wild boards as the old breeders and owners of China claimed, but only small ones like rabbits and rodents. With which resistance, strength, speed and flexibility, a lazy , slow moving brush coat meat mouth shar-pei with short legs and ‘’heavy’’ bone structure, can hunt? What speed can develop a dog of this type and for how long is it possible to keep this speed constant? And in position with the natural obstacles that it will find wile it is hunting, how much flexibility has in order to avoid them or jump over them?

If you ever have seen a shar-pei of this type chasing for fun other dogs in the park , then you have answered by yourselves. Its speed is not enough to hunt and cutch a rabbit.

The same practical reasons, that make impossible the hunting version of a western brush coat meat mouth shar-pei, make also impossible the version of this type as a dog-fighter. Because for the arena, the dog needs exactly the same virtues and capabilities of a hunter.

So lets look now and analyze the version of a traditional bone mouth shar-pei as a hunt dog and make up our won conclusions about which type was and still is the primitive in China (keep in mind that we said it is widely accepted that the primitive shar-pei was a hunt dog).

The body structure of a traditional bone mouth shar-pei, it looks like it has nothing unnecessary and excessive on it. It seems to be the perfect hunter.

Long , strong legs for speed, flexible back like spring for the most incredible ejections and changes of direction, deep breast for resistance, broad, wide feet for better balance, ascension and use of their fingers, incredibly hard skin (that it can be healed by it shelf very quickly ) and coat, that protects him from the bites (the American breeders created a longer version of coat, the brush coat, that tend to be established and is also preferred from the horse coat, because is softer and create less allergies), bone mouth with no muzzle and fold skin to interrupt the bite, and jaws with such an anatomy that allows the deepest scissor bite (‘’toad mouth’’ as characteristically Chinese call it) and the same time comfortable breathing. Big, not too deep set eyes in the skull, with fine vision that allows the dog to keep optical contact with the prey while chasing it. Open , big nostrils (‘’like Chinese cookie’’ as documented in ancient Chinese writings) and excellent sense of smell for tracking.

But the most perfect of all, that this dog has, is its primitive temperament. Intense, strong, indomitable hunting and guarding instinct. Tenacity and uncompromising courage, something that the western shar-pei has lost in order to ‘’fit’’ better to the show rings and life in the city (for the shows they needed a dog, calm, easygoing, friendly, and for the life in the city they had to destroy its past temperament, in order to be a good companion pet dog. So, no hunting and guarding instincts any more..).

But it was agreed however by all, that the shar-pei was a very capable guard-dog , and this we will analyze below, in order to see if this characterization, which is been describing it, even today in the American breed standard., ‘’fit’’ to the western meat mouth shar-pei.

For the Chinese, the shar-pei, wasn’t just a watch dog, warning only by barking, like the little Chihuahua.

In fact, the shar-pei is the opposite of this. The traditional shar-pei is barking only in real emergency. These dogs are capable to defend and attack with no fear, in order to protect their owners, house, livestock and area.

I personally, rarely see a western meat mouth shar-pei in the role of a capable guardian, and I m telling you this, with all my regret, because the standard clearly says ‘’utilization-hunting and guard dog’’. I have seen almost none of them to defend and attack with no fear at all with strength and courage. In the first difficulty they will leave in fear, and you will se a phobic character. And to be honest they rarely guard the house. And all these because some breeders, selfishly decided, to change the guarding instinct of this breed. And the excuse is again the same as with all the other transforms of the breed. They will be many more buyers for their puppies , when the gene of the ‘’gladiator’’ or ‘’fighting dog’’ will stop to exist in their breed. Because this don’t like to the new buyers that want a fluffy dog. And that’s why they have transport this ‘’Chinese fighting dog’’ as we all knew from the beginning, to a chirpy doggie that want to kiss everybody in the street and wagging its tail from friendliness all the time. And they actually feel proud for this change in their breed and advertize it as a plus to their breeding lines.

But please tell me, will be something in this dog’s morphology or temperament that will be followed by the standard, or everyone can do, everything he wants with it? They step away and change the Chinese standard, but now they are close to get away from the American standard too, that wants that breed to be ‘’suspicious of strangers’’.

So, now we are far away from this version too, of the western meat mouth shar-pei as a guard dog and hunt dog. And then, I wonder which relation has this dog with the primitive in China?

Why they still want to believe that the western type is the primitive and the ‘’traditional bone mouth’’ the mixed dog of today’s? And in the end which of them has suffered the bigger changes? I think its obviously. The one has remained unchanged for hundreds of years, while the other, has changed not only appearance, but also character and mainly health.

And if anyone think that I m malicious, or bad and I accuse every shar-pei type is not traditional to me, I will mention the followings. I m a fun, lover, breeder and owner of meat mouth shar-pei too, and about all these I have write to this article, I m not referring to every single western type shar-pei. But only to the overtype ones, that however are more preferable and with much bigger breeding value. And even if they are the ones that destroys the breed, the same time are those that pose to the most pedigrees and to those of champion dogs and that’s how a bred is being transformed.

And now lets go back in time again, when the first American breeders took to their hands, the first imports from China, in order the most not to save them…but to breed them and sell them for a lot of money. The shar-pei back then was worth a fortune, after the advertising of ‘’the most rare dog of the world’’. Well, all of the old American breeders through their books that occasionally wrote and published for the breed, when they reached into the point of description the mouth of the shar-pei, they ALL without exception, write about the bone mouth, as the authentic characteristic and first known of the shar-pei that were imported in the country and fill that is the most difficult to find but also the real Chinese one. Every book I open of every chronology .the same report I find.

And here is my question. If everyone (the breeders) knew about it from the beginning, and accepted it , and write it down in their books, so why then suddenly all of them want to forget and ‘’put away’’ the bone mouth shar-pei, and tell to the world that is a mixed dog of the today’s? And wile all of them hide a bone mouth shar-pei in the bottom of their dogs pedigree, why they shamed to admit it? And why many of the champion breeders have a bone mouth as a stud dog or whelping mother but hide it from the canine world and never get it on shows?

And since we all admit that the correct first known type was the bone mouth, then, what is the meat mouth and by whom, how and why they created and established it in the canine world, breeding and shows?

And perhaps here is not right to blame only the American breeders, but some Chinese dealers too, and not breeders as many want to call them. When the first exports to America began , in order to ‘’save’’ the breed, the most of the first these export dogs where just mixed shar-pei. There ware the only samples they could find, because with the communism, Mao Tse Tung had ordered the mass extermination of all dogs. The shar-pei that saved ,where those who went to the forest, hide and survived alone and those who had been hidden by their owners and breeders in the country . But the shar-pei that lived in the villages where the ‘’tools’’ of the farmers that helped them in hunting and many more, so they didn’t want to give them away (in order to go to America for survival). Some of the villagers were hiding and breeding them, and the most of them didn’t want their dogs to go into foreign hands, it was something like an offence for them. So the real traditional bone mouth shar-pei remained in the hands of a few famous old breeders and villagers.

So, those few samples that been collected back then to export China, where mostly shar-pei mixed with tang dogs (local dogs), with as much as possible shar-pei characteristics and few pure, but bad breeding.

When the Americans took in their hands the first imports, they didn’t knew nothing about standard and had no idea what breeding program to follow (the Chinese breeders that where breeding shar-pei for centuries, had a standard in a poem, and all the knowledge that was going from father to son, about the breeding, just like many others local breeds in all around the world). So they actually experimented with the ‘’new breed’’, and basically breeding guide for them were the requirements of buyers. . And the buyers required continuously more and more wrinkles and fold skin and bigger cheeks and more ‘’hippopotamus look’’. For such a puppy they paid a lot of money. And so, quickly, the primitive bone mouth shar-pei disappeared in the west.

Fortunately for the traditional bone mouth shar-pei, its real funs and breeders, kept their dogs genes away from this frenzy of the season for easy money. And in my opinion these are the ones that saved the traditional shar-pei until today, and not the ones that export it to America to rescue the breed, which eventually led simply to its transformation.

Its not the ‘’evolution’’ of the breed, as many want to believe. No, evolution is the ‘’canis lupus familiaris’’ that came out of wolf. Then, all the others man did it in order to create several breeds for several purposes. He is the one that transform every breed in the way he wants. The breeds does not developed by their own, the breeders do it. So please stop this excuse about natural evolution of breeds that made the shar-pei looks deferent among the centuries.

So, we have Chinese ‘’breeders’’ and importers (dealers) to admit that it all started for pocket money, and that, those first dogs that exported were of poor quality. We have American breeders to admit that they bred the shar-pei with no standard, and without knowing anything about the new breed. We have the buyers who gave huge amounts of money , and waiting for years in the breeders list, for one just puppy of ‘’the most rare breed’’. We have Chinese adventures to admit that they mate their shar-pei with bull terriers and mastiffs in order to create the ultimate fighting dog. We have American breeders to admit and whisper each other that by mistake a shar-pei mate with a blue dane and that’s how we have blue shar-pei today (but together with the blue gene, we have now also the big ears. The blue its not permitted in the traditional shar-pei). We have Chinese to admit, that in their effort to make the shar-pei more charming and acceptable from the new buyers they crossed it with chow-chow and from there we have the first meat mouth puppies.

And after all these facts that really happened and all know, but trying to hide, we have some people to defend and support that the western meat mouth shar-pei is the original first known in china, and the one we call ‘’traditional bone mouth’’ and hasn’t been transformed it among centuries, is the mixed dog of modern time, and we create it for profit. And that all these is just an advertisement for publicity. But don’t you think its time for kennels to act, and the traditional bone mouth shar-pei to gain the respect that deserves?

And if there are still some people that wonder about the original Chinese type, and all the latest popularity and the request of Chinese people to gain back their breed, I will tell you this.

Seeing a traditional bone mouth shar-pei, you will understand that this dog will never ‘’sells’’ in market. Its nobody’s ‘’dream dog’’ of his childhood. And has not that impressive or cute look that most people want. It’s a breed for very few people, that really know what they want from a dog. And also a ‘’tool’’ for somebody’s that want a pure working dog. And no breeder sells them for huge amount of money. They cost some times less than a western type. So this myth of advertising the ‘’new’’ breed for profit, has brought down . We don’t want to get money from all this. Just vindication and acceptance. Nothing else. So this breed type be able to continue to exist. Because, unfortunately, the real dog of advertisement and fashion, the meat mouth, has overwhelmed even in China. And the remaining traditional bone mouth breeders, are very few and old in age. Younger’s prefer the type that pays more money…

And I want to conclude to the last but perhaps most important clue, about this ‘’strange’’ transform of the breed and the original type. Its something that must put all of you, in thoughts.

The breed standard that was given to FCI in 25th January in1994, by the Hong Kong kennel club, was a very different standard than the one we know today (see ”differences of two types”), with basic difference, except all others, the bone mouth of the breed. For some still, unknown reasons, that the kennel club of Hong Kong still waiting for answers, FCI changed that standard in 9th August in 1999 , and was referred since then to a shar-pei with ‘’hippopotamus ‘’muzzle and big head!

So , why such a large global organization like the FCI, processing data and standards of Chinese nationality and why now the same organization deny the existence, authenticity and nationality of the traditional bone mouth shar-pei?

The Chinese excepted some way this change of the standard and asked to split at list the two types , just like the Akita’s standard (another Chinese breed that was degenerated in America, but FCI split it into two different types and is worldwide recognized as the Japanese Akita and American Akita). However the FCI seems unyielding and the questions are continued.

Why all want to keep in silence the world of traditional shar-pei? Why, while they want it in their genes and blood lines, don’t want it in the show rings too? Why they don’t admit that is them who transformed the breed that say they love? And why they want with any way, to brake down and get off the traditional breeders all around Europe?

The answers on all these questions of my lengthy article, have given by themselves, through their statements in moments of despair and moral dilemmas.

They claim that if the two types split, then it wouldn’t be possible to use the traditional’s genes in order to help their meat mouth shar-pei blood lines that suffer from so many issues and health problems (its well known that every primitive breed is healthier than the modern ones).

Well, we finally understand that all these happened for one simple reason, to ‘’cover’’ the mistakes of the past and maintain a situation. The breeding of the most wanted and commercial type of shar-pei. And with this way to extinct one of the ancients breed of dogs that came directly from wolf.

Why to leave all these happened, when the two types (bone mouth-meat mouth) can leave in peace both in the canine world?

I hope I gave you reasons to think and search and to open your minds. And I hope next time you will see a traditional bone mouth shar-pei, to look at it with respect and no malicious, because this type is so old as the Chinese legends and traditions that surround it.

And if I wrote all these, its not from envy for the western type, but from desperation, to where we lead that breed, with the so many health problems we cause it, within the multiple ‘’experiments’’ of breeding..

Knowing the truth, both types can be helped. For the traditional bone mouth, not to extinct, and for the western meat mouth to be healthier and eventually the ‘’shar-pei’’ to stop being synonymous with the ‘’vet’.

over typical examples of western meat mouth brush coat shar-pei
see the short lenght muzzle, the small very deep set eyes, the heavy bone stracture and the short legs. This type is absolutely non sporting.

typical western meat mouth brush coat shar-pei.
see the lighter body stracture, less wrinkles and the muzzle with no excess.This type has some working abilities, but usually, not enought endurance and tamperament

traditional bone mouth , horse coat shar-pei.
maximum working abilities because of the bone mouth and body stracture that gives endurance and agility


Elena Tsalikidou