Newsletter: Volume 6, Issue 2 August 2002

Current Information on the Development of DNA Markers for Familial Shar-Pei Fever

One of the first research projects funded by the Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America, Inc. and the CSPCA Charitable Trust was began in 1997 by Dr. Gary Johnson at the University of Missouri, Columbia. The main objective of the project was to test the the- ory that FSF is a canine version of Familial Mediterranean Fever in humans. It was felt that a mutation occurring in the canine equivalent of the human FMF gene was responsible for FSF in the Shar-Pei breed. Initially this was to be accomplished by several molecular genetic techniques including link- age analysis and the use of genetic markers.

In the Fall of 1997, two human FMF research groups independently cloned the human FMF gene and the DNA sequence was reported. Using this information Dr. Johnson and his group were able to sequence the canine FMF gene. Unfortunately, further studies revealed that the canine FMF gene is not the site of the mutation responsible for Familial Shar-Pei Fever in the Shar-Pei breed. One of the major problems encountered in this study was the difficulty in evaluating the phenotype of many members of Shar-Pei families in which FSF exists. Phenotype refers to the physical manifestations of the underlying genotype or genetic makeup of the individual. The primary symptom of FSF is the significant fever which occurs during an episode. Obviously there can be other causes of fever in dogs and fever is not specific for FSF. Other symptoms such as lameness. Swollen Hock Syndrome (SHS), pain, amyloidosis, and kidney failure occur sporadically and unless the constellation of signs occurs together, a diagnosis of FSF is always tentative. In addition, there are no specific blood tests or laboratory findings which allow a diagnosis of FSF. Likewise, the age of onset of FSF is extremely variable making it difficult to determine “normal” individuals.

Future research on FSF will have to focus on using genetic information from other episodic fever disorders in humans and find the equivalent gene locations and DNA sequences on the canine genome to search for mutations which are responsible for FSF. This was recently done with two human FMF- like diseases and the mutations in these genes are being looked at as possible sources of the FSF mutation. Dr. Johnson’s research has helped to fill out the canine genome and this information will be invaluable in the future. As an aside, there is still considerable confusion among the Shar-Pei fancy concerning FSF and amyloidosis. Familial Shar-Pei Fever is not synonymous with amyloidosis. My opinion, and others may agree, is that FSF is one genetic problem and amyloidosis is another. I believe FSF is a significant risk factor to those Shar-Pei with a genetic tendency to develop amyloidosis and I still strongly feel we need to pursue research to give breeders the tools to breed away from FSF.


The American history of the Chinese Shar-Pei is as colorful and interesting as its Chinese and Hong Kong past. It actually consists of three distinct phases: Phase I – This phase began in 1966 and was short-lived, but had a major impact on the development of the breed in America. Interestingly enough, this phase was very much a family affair as will be described later on. During this time there was little to no effort made to publicize the breed or any attempt among Shar-Pei breeders to organize on a local or national level. Phase II – This phase had its beginnings in 1971 with the article in Dogs magazine concerning rare dog breeds, which featured the Chinese Fighting Dog. While this article stirred up interest in the breed it remained for Matgo Law in his article entitled “Chinese Fighting Dogs” which again appeared in Dogs magazine in 1973 to motivate to action the American dog fancy. His appeal to save the Chinese Fighting Dog from extinction can be credited with doing just that – saving the Shar-Pei from almost certain extinction. This phase has been characterized by rapid growth in numbers of Shar-Pei and by successful efforts to organize into a viable national organization. Phase III – This phase began in May 1988 when the breed was formally recognized by the American Kennel Club and is continuing to this day. This phase has been characterized by declining membership in the National club, a decrease in the number of Shar-Pei breeders and a decrease in numbers of Shar-Pei litters produced.

The first phase of the American history began with Mr. J.C. Smith of Phoenix, Arizona who went to China sometime in 1966 and returned with a Chinese Fighting Dog named “Lucky”. J.C. has a fondness for unique and unusual things and was rather a “free spirit” with a colorful past. He gave “Lucky” to his brother, Herman Smith, of Fresno, California. “Lucky” was born on August 14, 1965 in Hong Kong at the kennel owned by Mr. Chung Ching Ming (also known as C.M. Chung) whose kennel prefix Jones’ can be found in many Shar-Pei pedigrees if one goes back far enough. He was a male Chinese Fighting Dog whose dam was Jones’ Chow Chow and sire was Blue Mynah of Taileh. Of interest is that Taileh is now the name of the village of Dah Let where the Shar-Pei is said to have originated from. Hence, the Jones’ stock can trace its foundations back to the locale where the breed began. J.C. Smith also distributed Chinese Fighting Dogs to other members of his family – brothers first phase of American Shar-Pei history was truly a family affair. These dogs were eventually registered by the American Dog Breeders Association (no longer in existence) beginning in October 1970. Three litters of Chinese Fighting Dogs were born in this country and registered with the ADBA prior to Matgo Law’s article in 1973. Most of the Jones’ dogs had parents who where registered with the Hong Kong Kennel Club. However some of these dogs were showing deviations from the standard — brushcoats and stub tails for instance. You will recall in previous discussions that by 1966 the Hong Kong Kennel Club had stopped the registration of Chinese Fighting Dogs from Hong Kong due to significant deviation from the breed standard and questionable breeding practices. Thus by January 1971 there were fourteen Chinese Fighting Dogs in the United States, some with questionable backgrounds. Mr. Chung Ching Ming later helped form the Hong Kong and Kowloon Kennel Association, which played a major role in the second phase of the American history of the Shar-Pei. Bear in mind that this period of Shar-Pei history was characterized by a lack of communication and organization among Shar-Pei owners and breeders as well as no public relations effort. There also existed other non registered Shar-Pei in the United States at this time related to other importations or litters not registered with the ADBA.

If Phase I could be summarized in one name, J.C. Smith would have to come to mind first. In a similar manner, Matgo Law is synonymous with Phase II. This phase began in 1971 with the article in Dogs magazine, which featured rare dog breeds including the Chinese Fighting Dog. Many American dog fanciers became interested in the Chinese Fighting Dog and sought more information. The main impetus to this movement came in 1973 due to Matgo Law’s article in Dogs magazine entitled “Chinese Fighting Dogs”. In this article the author outlined a plan to save the breed from extinction and asked American dog fanciers to take some of the dogs with express purpose of preserving the breed. Over 200 responses were received to this plea and shipments of Shar-Pei began to be sent to the United States in the fall of 1973. A few points about these first dogs from Matgo Law need to be mentioned. First, these dogs were not recognized and not registered with the Hong Kong Kennel Club. They were registered by the newly formed Hong Kong and Kowloon Kennel Association of which Mr. Chung Ching Ming and Matgo Law were founding members. Second, these Shar-Pei had incomplete pedigrees indicating questionable ancestry. Some of these dogs were actually smuggled into Hong Kong from the surrounding regions. Third, many of these dogs arrived in the United States in poor health — some dying shortly after their arrival in this country and some being short-lived dying months to a few years later. Fourth, many of the first arrivals were less than ideal representatives of the breed either having defects such as flowered tongues, large or pricked ears, entropion problems, hip dysplasia, etc. or producing such traits in their offspring. In fact, a well-known Matgo Law foundation sire, Down-Homes Sweet Pea, was a spotted dog and the spotted gene entered the U.S. Shar-Pei gene pool though some of the first dogs imported — China Souel, China Love, China Wall and China Faith. These dogs are found in the pedigrees of almost every Shar-Pei in the country today and the owners of these dogs wre influential in the development of the Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America, Inc. Many of these early Shar-Pei fanciers have served or are serving as officers, directors and committee heads of the national breed club and pioneered the direction the club is embarked on even to this day.

I think it would be interesting and illustrative to look at the stories of the first 5 Shar-Pei imported from Matgo Law and registered in the newly formed CSPCA, Inc. The first Shar-Pei to arrive in the United States from Matgo Law was a black, male puppy, Down-Homes Kong Fu, shipped to Dee-Jon and Victor Seas on July 6, 1973. This dog was actually smuggled out of Macau, so in addition to paying for the puppy and its shipping charges, the Seas’ also paid a smuggling fee. The breeders was not Matgo Law, but Y. Leung of Macau. The Seas owned Walnut Lane Kennel located in Claridon, Ohio and were instrumental in the early history of the breed in America as we shall see later on. Kung Fu recveived CSPCA #6 and died on Thanksgiving Day 1979. He sired Walnut lane’s China Foo on May 5th, 1975 (CSPCA #11) who himself went on to become a famous early breed champion and sire of champion Shar-Pei. The second Shar-Pei to arrive in this country from Matgo Law was a female, Down-Homes Mui Chu. She was two years old on her arrival August 20, 1973. Her dam and sire are unknown and so she serves as an example of what kind of dogs were being shipped by the Hong Kong breeders, although she also was obtained from Macau. Mui Chu arrived in poor health having heartworm disease and other problems. Her owner, Ernest Albright, became well known and well loved in the Shar-Pei fancy and helped to form the Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America, Inc. the national breed club. The third Shar-Pei from Matgo Law imported to the United States arrived October 21, 1973. She was named Down-Homes Little Pea owned by Lois Alexander. Little Pea’s sire was whelped on November 17, 1971. She had been bred to her father, Down-Homes Sweet Pea, just prior to being shipped and she whelped three pups on December 29, 1973. None of the litter lived past the age of three years old. Later, Little Pea’s offspring went on to become champions and to produce champions as well. In fact, a litter whelped in October 1978, produced the CSPCA’s first Honorary Champion, Sis-Q’s Fu Man Chew. The fourth imported was Down-Homes China Love, shipped to the Seas on November 29, 1973. She was whelped October 21, 1973 and one of five pups in a very important litter consisting of China Love, China Souel, China Hope, China Faith and China Will. The dam of this litter was Down-Homes Anne Revival and the sire was Down-Homes Sweet Pea. Unfortunately, China Love died May 9, 1975 shortly after delivering a litter by Caesarean section, due to complications. The fifth dog to enter this country was Down-Homes China Souel, a litter brother to China Love. He arrived on December 29, 1973 to Ernest Albright. China Souel has the distinction of being the first Shar-Pei to be registered by the CSPCA, Inc. on November 9, 1976 as CSPCA#1.

Shortly after these early importations, Shar-Pei fanciers in the United States recognized the need to or- ganize and publicize the breed. This was necessary for the following reasons:

  1. It became important for breeders to know what breeding animals were available and who owned them This facilitated correcting breeding problems and adding new breeding stock to the genetic pool as new individuals were imported into the United States.
  2. It facilitated the sale of puppies from these planned breedings.
  3. It helped in the dissemination of information to the public concerning Shar-Pei. This was a necessary step in the process to achieve recognition by the AKC.
  4. To achieve AKC recognition for the breed registration procedures and a registry were needed, a breed standard had to be developed, a constitution and by-laws had to be written, etc.

In a future issue of this newsletter we’ll look on the formation of the Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America, Inc. and provide a synopsis of some of the early meetings.

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