Future of Shar Pei

(Article copied Hong Kong Kennel Club site) 

The Sharpei

is a breed which originated from Dailick, in the Guongdong province of southern China. This breed is a very natural breed and was used for both hunting and fighting purposes. Its original size was said to have reached the height of 23 inches and it weight up to about 60 1bs. Unfortunately, after the 1949 the Communist took over China pets were not allowed. Food was scarce, her people suffered and so did the animals. The Sharpei therefore has lost its original size.

Surprisingly, during the early 50's the border control between China and Hong Kong was not as tight as one could have imagined. Many Sharpei entered Hong Kong and its character as a fighting breed was treasured once again. Prior to mid of 1960, there were Sharpei in Hong Kong bred by, mainly the working class Chinese and they were used for fighting purposes. A few dogs were registered with the Hong Kong Kennel Club as Chinese Fighting Dogs and were being exhibited in the Shows these dogs were not registered as Sharpei which I believe was because the late Mr. Poon, who was then the secretary of the HKKC had doubt about the origin of those dogs.

Some of the game men have seen these Show specimen, realized that they have much better fighting dogs and also knew that they could also show their dogs, then decided to abandon their illegal activities and join the Show ring instead. Unfortunately, they had no channel to do so. The breed remained predominantly in the hands of the working class Chinese and were not being registered. The reasons being that firstly, there were no money involved in the showing even if their dogs were prized the monetary gain and excitement generated in the pit would be more profitable and pleasurable than in the show ring. They further considered that the judges from overseas could not understand this breed and incapable of judging them. Finally, not many of them were actually breeding this original type of Sharpei. This situation was expressed to Mr. Bindley, the, the secretary of the London Kennel Club in early 1968 when I first went to U. K.

By the 1970s, many irresponsible breeders began to cross breed the Sharpei with the bull mastiff, bull terrier, bull dog and boxers believing that this could improve the Sharpei's size and its fighting ability. Some also inbred them to create a type of Sharpei that produced heavy wrinkles and with a huge mouth. Thus the creation of the so called "Meat mouth" type of Sharpei. But I must mention that the fist prototype" Meat Mouth" was a cross between the Sharpei and a smooth coated local Chow bitch, nonetheless, the new meat mouth type of Sharpei have attracted a huge foreign market because of its appearance.

In particularly , in the U.S.A., at the same time, one unrecognized Kennel Association was found to have produced pedigrees and export pedigrees of the Sharpei in order to ship this breed out of Hong Kong. Amongst these Sharpei that were sent overseas, no doubt, some were a fairly high standard but since the genetic pool was still small, again, inbreeding process would seemed to be unavoidable because of the need to produce more stock so as to create a potentially profitable market for overseas and local breeders. Based on what has been stated above, it would be impossible for the HKKC to recognize a breed called Sharpei unless a new breed called "Meat mouth" was to be recognized instead.

While the popularity of this breed grew overseas, the breed did not gain the attention it ought to have deserved locally. The reason was a simple one, most of the Chinese do know that many of the dogs that were shipped overseas have drifted far from the original features and functions that a Sharpei ought to have. This new type of Sharpei was influenced by other breeds that was mentioned earlier. Furthermore, local Chinese favour other breeds as a novelty rather than their own, ie, the Sharpei. Then not until 1989, the breed was officially recognized and was placed in the utility group. (Prior to that, the breed was only allowed to exhibit on its own and therefore, could only attract very few entries).

Fortunately, many true Sharpei lovers have started to breed the original type of Sharpei and have taken the risk of breaking the law by smuggling the dogs into Hong Kong either through land or by sea. However, there were more obstacles to overcome. The reason being that there are three camps of breeders which are totally hostile to each other. One group is those breeders who believed that the Sharpei is now a pet and therefore, the modern type would be acceptable. This group of breeders have started their own Kennel Associations and favour their dogs to ship overseas and make a quick cash. The other group is those who maintain that the Sharpei must possess the qualities of both hunting and fighting, these are those who prefer the traditional type of Sharpei, commonly called the bone mouth. The remaining group is those who feel that there could be a happy medium inbetween.

This problem was reflected in the judging of judges from overseas who have to decide what appeals to them most as a sound dog in order they could judge our dogs more objectively. On each occasions except the 1989 December Pal show, all judges have chosen the more active and less faulty type of bone mouth traditional Sharpei. In fact, in the 1990 Spring show, held on the 13 March, Mrs. Mann placed the original type of Sharpei instead of the more modern type. When asked the reason why, Mrs. Man expressed that she has never seen a true Sharpei before, but whilst judging these two different types one has to pick up a sound dog that could move and with a good balance and correct conformation. Later on, in the Summer show, the Chairperson of the Malaysia Kennel Club, Mrs. L. Lee was judging the Sharpei class, she expressed that all those dogs that were with poor health and genetic faults ought not to be in the show ring at all. What she said could be reflected on the health problem that this breed is facing mostly evident in the heavy wrinkled type. Both two judges have in my opinion, picked up a much better and what could be described as a sound dog.

There is no doubt in my mind that the in breeding and creation of a heavy wrinkled Shar Pei has caused the entropion eye and the skin problems. Further more, I have seen Sharpei with absolutely the wrong conformation, dropped tail, low withers and high hindquarters, a huge mouth and padded lips with excessive wrinkles They are in some cases a vet's nightmare and a total disgrace to the breed.

During twenty years of observation of this breed, most of us have had to get used to see this heavy wrinkled type of Sharpei. This image has imprinted itself upon us and we have then unconsciously, entered into a comedy of errors and have unwittingly accepted the more wrinkled type which to some appear to be more attractive. Many have even rejected the true traditional type of Sharpei when they have seen one. But we must bear in mind that two wrongs doesn't make one right.

I am not saying that the traditional type of Sharpei would have no problems with their skin and eyes. In fact some Sharpei that I have seen in China are undernourished and skinny much smaller in size and in some cases less attractive compared to the heavy wrinkled type. As stated in the beginning, the Sharpei is a very natural breed in China, it is capable of looking after itself, therefore, any dog that carried genetic faults would have less chance of survival. To equip themselves to hunt Sharpei need speed. They must have correct balance and by comparison, they have much better conformation, proper bone structure and free movement.

As to the skin problem, it is worth mention that I used to use Chinese tea to wash my dogs regularly and skins problem could be prevented. I also believe that the diet of the dogs in the West could have also caused skin problems. An old friend of mine, Miss. Collettt, who was a famous breeder of Chow told me that it was also once a problem of the Chow when more meat was given to it's diet. We must understand dogs in the past have never really been loved in China, how could the dogs be fed with regular meat or change itself to a Western diet which Sharpei was originally unaccustomed to. For the dogs in China, to be fed with fish, would have made the dog's day. I remembered that most of the Sharpei owners that I knew then, preferred to give their dogs fish.

Whichever type of the Sharpei one prefers, this breed has survived from extinction, it has gained popularity and what faces us next is what to do in the future?.

Overseas breeders will not be able to convince me that their dogs carry no genetic faults because their gene pool is simply too small, unless they can go through very straight selective breeding program to weed out undesirable faults. Otherwise, this breed will continue to receive a bad reputation because of its health, and the wrong body structure which prevents the dog from moving properly. I would suggest by injecting the less faulty gene pool of the traditional bone mouth type Sharpei it may improve and rectify the mistakes that have been made in the past.