There is no direct evidence to indicate the Chinese Shar-Pei, as we know it today, is an ancient breed. There is much evidence to support the theory that Hong Kong dog breeders developed the breed in the 1960’s by crossbreeding the Chinese Fighting Dog with several breeds including the Boxer, the Bloodhound, Bulldog and possibly others. Consider the following documents:

  1. Letter from the Hong Kong Kennel Club to R.G. Horsnell dated July 15, 1975 concerning dropping the Chinese Fighting Dog from its registry due to crossbreeding and deviation from type. This letter is found in the Chinese Shar-Pei Stud Book Registry Vol.3, page 47-48
  2. A standard published in the same issue of the Stud Book, which has a partial description of the standard of the Chinese Fighting Dog in old Mandarin, which dates it prior to 1943 and is probably 19th century (1800’s).

I think there is clear evidence that our breed descended from the Chow and they did not develop from a common ancestor. Marco Polo published his journal of his travels in China in 1271 and while he mentions the Chow, he does not mention the Shar-Pei or Chinese Fighting Dog. Most likely the Chinese Fighting Dog history begins shortly after 1751 when an imperial edict permitted maritime trade in a special area along the Pearl River in Canton (southern China). We also know that the first Chows were imported into England in 1775. As China was opened up to the West, dogs from the West entered China with the sailors. It is my contention that the Chinese Fighting Dog was developed in the Period of Imperialism (late 1700’s to early 1800’s) in Southern China. During this time the Chow was crossbred with several English breeds such as the Bulldog, Boxer and others in an attempt to develop a fighting dog. Because the English were restricted to where they could go in Southern China dog fighting and gambling became a popular past time and breeding for fighting temperament was popular. The breed was probably developed in Dahl Let or at least in the Pearl River delta area around Canton. Smooth-coated Chows were more prevalent in this region and were used in the breeding “experiments”. The similarities of the Chow and the Shar-Pei are undeniable. The Chow is the only native hunting dog in China and was used as a hunter, cattle dog and sheep dog. The Chow does go back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) and maybe as early as 1000 BC – truly an ancient breed.

Many proponents of the ancient history of the breed point to tomb dog figurines of the Han Dynasty, which lasted from 206-220 AD, as evidence that the Chinese Fighting Dog is an ancient breed. I think the tomb dog statuettes represent a stylized “Han Dynasty” dog, which resembles the Chow. With the lack of corroborating written history of the existence of the breed during this time period I think the likelihood of the figurines representing Chinese Fighting Dogs is remote. There existed in China several other dog breeds. These included a greyhound breed, mastiff breed, toy breeds, etc.

Beginning in the late 1950’s, the center of Chinese Fighting Dog history moved, or rather was driven into Hong Kong by the Chinese Communists. Prior to this time, Chinese Fighting Dogs were found exclusively in Macau (Macao). Even as late as 1974 clandestine dog fighting involving Chinese Fighting Dogs could still be found in this region. The Communists declared dogs as non-productive, bourgeois luxuries and ordered their large-scale extermination. An increase in the tax on dogs, designed to discourage dog ownership, occurred in 1947 and didn’t improve the sad situation. Hong Kong provided one of the few safe havens for dogs in all of China and the canine refugees swelled the dog population of this coastal city. The Hong Kong dog breeders faced a serious dilemma since the Chinese Fighting Dogs smuggled into Hong Kong from the surrounding regions were the “best types available” and not necessarily purebreds. Many of these Chinese Fighting Dogs included dogs whose appearance indicated prior crossbreeding. Pedigree and registration information was virtually non-existent on these dogs due to poorly kept records, which were lost or destroyed during the Communist Revolution in China. Bear in mind also that the “sport” of dog fighting is cloaked in secrecy wherever it is practiced and records, other than those of gambling transactions, are seldom kept. Little, if any, effort was made to document the breeding of dogs used in the dog fighting pits. Also, the question confronts us whether a purebred Chinese Fighting Dog ever existed at all. Many people feel the Chinese Fighting Dog became extinct and was re-created in the 1960’s. It is known that the Hong Kong Kennel Club registered the breed as early as 1949 and these dogs may be considered, for the purposes of this discussion, as purebred Chinese Fighting Dogs.

While attempting to preserve these Chinese Fighting Dogs or re-creating the breed, some of the Hong Kong fanciers crossbred these early dogs with Bull Mastiffs, Chow Chows, Bulldogs, Boxers, pit bull types and possibly other dog breeds and inadvertently (or intentionally?) created a new breed – the Shar-Pei. The Shar-Pei has since developed along two separate lines. The purebred Chinese Fighting Dog remains basically unchanged as the Chinese Shar-Pei, which still exists in Hong Kong today and shows up in the U.S. as the horsecoat variety. The American Shar-Pei is found in the U.S. and had its origin in Hong Kong in the late 1960’s. It is undoubtedly derived from the crossbreeding of the Chinese Fighting Dog with the other breeds previously mentioned. This divergence in type will be discussed in more detail later.

The important point concerning the crossbreeding, which took place in the Shar-Pei, bears more consideration. One can surmise this crossbreeding was done for several reasons. First, it may have been undertaken to improve the quality of the few remaining Chinese Fighting Dogs and/or re-create the breed if, in fact, it had become extinct. Second, it is entirely possible it was done to create an entirely different and unique breed – a breed in which the minimal wrinkling of the Chinese Fighting Dog was accentuated. Third, it may have been done to create large numbers of dogs from which further refinements could be made and which were needed to meet the demand of American buyers. Accidentally or intentionally, a new breed was created characterized by heavy bone, abundant wrinkling, large head, the longer and softer coat (brush coat), and the milder temperament of the American Shar-Pei. This new breed immediately captured the fancy of the American dog breeders and an unlimited demand was thus assured.

The situation in Hong Kong had reached such a state that in a letter dated July15, 1975, the Hong Kong Kennel Club indicated it had stopped the registration of Chinese Fighting Dogs because, “a kennel here has “created” a breed by crossing a Chinese dog with several breeds including a Boxer, Bloodhound and a Bulldog, named it “Chinese Fighting Dog” and sold quite a number abroad. These animals looked ugly with too many wrinkles or folds on every part of the body, even on the legs. They are therefore quite different from the correct type of Chinese Fighting Dog.” (Chinese Shar-Pei Stud Book, Vol.3, 1982, CSPCA Inc., pages 47-48). This statement could well represent one of the first descriptions of the American Shar-Pei. This letter also indicates that by the late 1960’s and early 1970’s the Chinese Fighting Dog found in Hong Kong had sufficiently deviated from its standard as to become unrecognizable as a Chinese Fighting Dog by the Hong Kong Kennel Club. It appears by 1966 the HKKC had stopped registering the Chinese Fighting Dogs from Hong Kong. Evidence does exist however, that the HKKC did register Chinese Fighting Dogs from other parts of the world up until 1978. Many of these dogs were also registered with the Tai Pei (Taiwan) Kennel Club. I think enough evidence shows that illegal breeding practices were going on in Hong Kong at this time and the HKKC had to step in and cease the registration of Chinese Fighting Dogs in Hong Kong.

Since the Hong Kong breeders engaged in the breeding of the American Shar-Pei could no longer register their dogs with the Hong Kong Kennel Club they formed a new kennel club known as the Hong Kong and Kowloon Kennel Association (HKKKA). This group immediately began to register the Shar-Pei (both types) and was sufficiently organized by 1972 to host its first show. I believe the formation of the HKKKA had several purposes:

  1. To provide registry services for the Shar-Pei now that the Hong Kong Kennel Club was no longer providing them.
  2. To allow registration of dogs with inadequate pedigree information. Bear in mind, due to crossbreeding and poor records, many of the Shar-Pei had no family history. This is evident in the pedigrees of many Shar-Pei today whose Chinese ancestors have no sire and/or dam listed.
  3. To allow Shar-Pei to participate in organized dog shows, matches, etc.
  4. To provide credibility for the Shar-Pei being shipped to the United States by providing pedigrees, registration papers, etc. The U.S. dog breeders demanded paperwork.

Founding members of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Kennel Association included many well-known Hong Kong dog fanciers and they were also actively involved in the shipping of the Shar-Pei to the United States. It is important to remember that the HKKKA is not recognized by the Hong Kong Kennel Club and the pedigrees issued by the HKKKA are not recognized world-wide by other reputable kennel clubs. It was by this group of breeders that the American Shar-Pei was developed and then exported to the many American dog breeders who eagerly awaited them and paid large sums of money for them. Meanwhile, some Hong Kong breeders continued to breed the pure bred Chinese Fighting Dogs and were battling for their reinstatement by the Hong Kong Kennel Club. This fight was to last 22 years before it would be finally won.

As early as 1966, Chinese Fighting Dogs registered by the Hong Kong Kennel Club had been shipped to the United States. These first dogs came from a well-known kennel whose foundation stock trace back to the 1950’s. Evidence exists, that these dogs were not pure bred Chinese Fighting Dogs and that cross breeding was being done as early as 1966. A fair number of these early dogs had brush coats, stub tails and flowered tongues indicating questionable backgrounds. These were possibly culls from the breeding program shipped to American dog breeders. These dogs probably had the distinction of being some of the last Hong Kong Chinese Fighting Dogs to be registered by the Hong Kong Kennel Club. These exports to the United States occurred a full seven years prior to Matgo Law’s famous plea to save the breed given in 1973. Perhaps these early dogs served to test the market in the United States for Shar-Pei. A number of questions arise at this point:

  1. Why, with pure bred Chinese Fighting Dogs available and registered by the Hong Kong Kennel Club, was the Chinese Fighting Dog bred with other dog breeds to produce the Shar-Pei?
  2. Why did some breeders participate in these crossbreedings while others did not?
  3. What were the real motives behind the formation of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Kennel Association?
  4. Was the Shar-Pei an accident or a result of intentional crossbreedings?

Attempts to answer these questions have, thus far, been futile. These aspects of the breed’s history may never be revealed.

In the May 1971 issue of Dogs magazine an article appeared by Lynn Ryedale entitled “Who’ll Save Our Endangered Breeds?” It featured rare dog breeds and included the Chinese Fighting Dog. Two years later, in April 1973, Matgo Law, owner of Down-Homes Kennel in Hong Kong, published his now famous appeal in Dogs magazine to save the Chinese Fighting Dog. Mr. Law actually found his first Chinese Fighting Dog in 1965 while walking among the street traders in Hong Kong. He saw a litter of Chinese Fighting Dogs in a basket and bought one. He later received his second Chinese Fighting Dog, Down-Homes Sweet Pea as a gift from a dog fighter. Mr. Law and Mr. Chung Ching Ming, another Hong Kong dog fancier, conceived and set into motion a plan to save the breed from extinction. They were concerned that if and when Hong Kong fell into the hands of the Chinese Communists, the dog population would be decimated, as had happened in China during the 1940’s and the Chinese Revolution. Hong Kong has since been restored to China in 1997. They collected and began breeding Chinese Fighting Dog-type dogs found in the regions of Macau, Taiwan and Hong Kong. In response to his letter of 1973, Matgo Law received over 200 inquiries and a few months later, the first specimens of the American Shar-Pei arrived in the United States. The efforts of the Hong Kong fanciers had been worthwhile and the future of the breed was assured.

The Hong Kong story does not end in America however. During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, as large numbers of the “meat mouth”, abundantly wrinkled American Shar-Pei were being exported, breeders of the pure-bred Chinese Shar-Pei became concerned that this newer dog had drifted too far away from the traditional standard. Beginning in 1982, the Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America, Inc. (CSPCA) severely restricted the registration of foreign-born Shar-Pei and this limited the numbers of American Shar-Pei leaving Hong Kong. A publicity campaign waged by the Chinese Shar-Pei Association of Hong Kong had taken steps to publicize the differences between the two breed types with the hope of limiting cross-breeding and allowing them to develop along separate lines. In fact, in Hong Kong today, these two types of Shar-Pei are shown and judged separately. Currently there are about 50 purebred Chinese Shar-Pei in Hong Kong owned by 10 or so local breeders. After a 22-year battle, in May 1988, the Hong Kong Kennel Club formally recognized the Chinese Shar-Pei again. Nelson Lam was one of the men instrumental in drafting the Hong Kong Kennel Club standard and for the FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale). They are accepting registrations on a “true-To-Type Certificate”. On completion of three generations and a “true-To-Type Certificate”, full registration will be given. The local Hong Kong breeders are now able to register and put their dogs in shows with proper pedigree certificates. The Hong Kong breed standard has been submitted to the Fédération Cynologique Internationale, the world governing body of purebred dogs, on July 7, 1989 and was approved. Hong Kong continues to be a world center for the Shar-Pei breed and dogs are exported throughout the world. How appropriate that in the country of its origin, the Shar-Pei breed, which has developed along divergent lines, has now returned to the traditional standard.

In conclusion, what does the Hong Kong history of the Shar-Pei tell us? It appears that breeders in Hong Kong served as a filter selecting from the large population of dogs in the region only those dogs whose type resembled the Chinese Fighting Dog standard. These dogs were then crossbred, for whatever reason, to further refine their characteristics. A problem arose, when the dogs thus created, deviated significantly from the Chinese Fighting Dog standard as defined by the Hong Kong Kennel Club. In order to register dogs being shipped to the United States and to add credibility to the breed, certain Shar-Pei breeders in Hong Kong formed a new kennel – the Hong Kong and Kowloon Kennel Association. As a registering body the HKKKA could formulate pedigrees, hold shows, have its own breed standard and register dogs to further increase the demand abroad for Shar-Pei. At the same time, other Shar-Pei breeders in Hong Kong initiated the long process of restoring the Chinese Shar-Pei to its original standard and to re-join the Hong Kong Kennel Club. This goal has finally been achieved. Breeders in America meanwhile, have standardized the American Shar-Pei and gained recognition by the American Kennel Club. That’s the next part of the story.


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 Herman and Darwin of Fresno, California and a sister Gwenola Pitts of Kearny, Arizona. So this first phase of American Shar-Pei history was truly a family affair. These dogs were eventually registered by the American Dog Breeders Association (now 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 were 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 through some of the first dogs imported – China Souel, China Hope, 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 were 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 Kung 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 breeder 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 received 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 organize and publicize the breed. This was necessary for the following reasons:

  1. It became necessary 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.
  4. This was a necessary step in the process to achieve recognition by the AKC.
  5. The exchange of information between the members enhanced knowledge concerning the breed’s health problems, breeding problems, etc.

The following is a brief synopsis of the first 7 meetings of the Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America, Inc. These are included for several reasons:

  1. It gives the content of the meetings and what the members considered important activities, etc.
  2. It gives some personal insight into the “founding fathers” of the breed in the United States.
  3. It gives us a glimpse into the early activities of the club.
  4. Here we can see the roots of our standard, registry, etc.
  5. We get an idea of the early conflicts, struggles i.e. “growing pains” of our breed.

The first organizational meeting of the CSPCA was held April 26, 1974 at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Carl Sanders of Ashland, Oregon. By this time there were 13 known owners of Shar-Pei with a total of 27 dogs. At this meeting the decision was reached to change the name of the breed from the Chinese Fighting Dog to the Chinese Shar-Pei, which was necessary due to the negative publicity concerning dog fighting in this country. The name of the club was decided upon as well. One of the main topics of discussion concerned the differences in type seen in the various Shar-Pei. These differences were especially prevalent in the dogs being imported from Matgo Law and probably were the result of crossbreeding as previously discussed. It was decided to obtain the original Hong Kong Kennel Club standard and any additional information about the breed from China. A suggestion was also made about drafting a new standard attempting to include features of all the present types. Officers were elected with Carl Sanders as President, Lois Alexander as Secretary, John Purcell as Treasurer, Ernest Albright as Historian and Dee-Jon Seas as the Registrar. Mrs. Seas was delegated to set up and maintain the Stud Book for registration of all known purebred Chinese Shar-Pei in the United States. The second meeting of the club was held July 27, 1974 in Talent, Oregon at the home of Lois and Norm Alexander. Rene Lew was appointed official club representative to the AKC. She was to present an annual report to the AKC in April 1975 which was to include all membership and treasury reports, photos, material from the club publication The Barker, a copy of the Standard and other pertinent information. Correspondence from the Hong Kong Kennel Club indicated that in the past, registration of the Shar-Pei had been denied for several reasons. Both Ernest Albright and Rene Lew reported on dog shows and obedience matches they had participated in. Sue Weaver was elected to publish a breed brochure containing basic information about the breed. Lois Alexander had already started a membership file. Dee-Seas was asked to start the CSPCA Official Dog Registry. Jean Fein was asked to author the official Code of Ethics. Nadine Purcell volunteered to keep litter records and the suggestion was made that the CSPCA join the National Association of Rare Breed Dog Owners. The known Shar-Pei population in the U.S. as of August 1974 was 28 dogs.

The third organizational meeting of the CSPCA was held at the home of Ernest and Madeline Albright in Pleasant Hill, California on November 3, 1974. The members present voted to join the National Rare Breed Club. Showing Shar-Pei in conformation was discussed and it was decided the breed should be considered for the Non-Sporting Group. Lois Alexander recommended adoption of Conformation Championship rules and a schedule of points similar to those used by the Pharoh Hound Club of America. It was suggested by the members present “an entry of four or more Chinese Shar-Pei owned by three or more owners and judged by a Miscellaneous Group judge would constitute a Shar-Pei Specialty Match”. The first Barker was published in April 1975.

The fourth organizational meeting of the national club was again held at the Albright’s home in Pleasantville. Walter DeLear moved that the breed become officially known as the “Chinese Shar-Pei”. This proposal was seconded and passed. The breed standard was discussed. A 32 statement “Official Standard of the Chinese Shar-Pei in America” was composed to be sent to all known owners of Shar-Pei – about 30 at this time. Charter membership was also discussed. As of April 1976 there were 19 CSPCA members. Current and future prices for Shar-Pei puppies were discussed with most members favoring $500 as a minimum price for good puppies. Cost of stud service was placed at $200 with a puppy back. Dugan Skinner announced the results of a survey he had conducted on Shar-Pei in America. As of January 1976 there were 27 Shar-Pei owners with a total of 56 dogs – 25 males and 31 females. The first pedigree certificate (CSPCA – 1) was issued November 9, 1976 to Down-Homes China Souel owned by Ernest Albright. The fifth organizational meeting was held April 23, 1977 at the Albright home. Members agreed to send in pedigrees of their dogs with their membership applications for 1977. Everyone who does this will be sent a copy of the other members’ pedigrees. Also included will be a questionnaire concerning specifics about each dog such as tail length, tongue color, coat type, etc. Members also decided they would like to see a quarterly newsletter come out. New officers were elected. The sixth meeting of the CSPCA took place in Hinckley, IL June 17, 1978. This meeting was held in conjunction with the first annual Chinese Shar-Pei National Specialty show at Pioneer Park, which was sponsored by the CSPCA. Unfortunately, both the show and the meeting were later declared “unofficial” due to an oversight, which resulted in official announcements of the meeting not being sent to all club members. The show was still a major success in the American history of the breed with 46 Shar-Pei entered which represented 1/3 of the dogs in the United States at that time. The judge, Mr. Harvey Berman, chose Walnut Lane’s China Foo owned by Dee and Victor Seas as the Best of Breed. At this “non-meeting” the method of electing new officers was discussed as well as the election of a Board of Directors. Mr. Albright was selected as a lifetime Board member. An official Constitution and By-Laws in accordance with AKC guidelines was to be developed by Mrs. V. Fahse.

Shortly following the ill-fated sixth annual meeting and first annual specialty. A division occurred among the members of the club. It appears that bad feelings concerning the lack of notification about the meeting in Hinckley as well as disputes about the stud book and financial aspects of the club fueled a split with factions headed by Ernest Albright on one side and Ted Linn on the other. Two new clubs were the result. The Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America, Inc. continued under the leadership of Ernest Albright. At this time the club became known as the Original Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America, Inc. (West Coast). The new club registrar at this time became William W. Morrison. The Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America, Inc. (East Coast) under the leadership of Ted Linn was incorporated in the state of Delaware December 6, 1978. The first meeting of the CSPCA, Inc. was held February 10 and 11, 1979 at the Airport Ramada Inn, in Atlanta, Georgia. At this time there were 83 charter members. This club formulated a new constitution and by-laws, a new breed standard and a new breed registry. At this time there existed three groups of club members: members of the Original CSPCA (West Coast), members of the CSPCA (East Coast) and members holding dual membership in both clubs. Finally in July 1981 the differences between the two clubs were resolved and the registries were combined under the CSPCA, Inc. Due to the two years that two clubs existed, many dogs had registration in both club’s registries. In the first Stud Book published in June 1982 many registry files were closed and some files were cancelled in an effort to eliminate the duplicate registration of a dog.

The seventh meeting of the Original CSPCA took place in San Juan Capistrano, California on June 30, 1979 and was hosted by the Southern California Chinese Shar-Pei Club. This club was the first local club to become affiliated with the national club and was formed in February 1979. At the June meeting plans were formulated to host the National Shar-Pei Specialty Show to be held July 1, 1979 at San Juan Capistrano. It was decided to invite Matgo Law to judge the show. This show was actually the Second Annual National Shar-Pei Specialty. The Best of Breed at this show was Eshaf’s Hoi-Ti owned by Emil and Vern Fahse.

Since 1981 the CSPCA continued to grow and develop at a phenomenal rate. By 1991 there were well over 10,000 members with over 50,000 registered Shar-Pei. In July 1985 the Chinese Shar-Pei breed was recognized by the United Kennel Club. This was followed in May 1988 by AKC recognition and placement into the Miscellaneous Class.


Additional Information:

1/31/03 — Lisa Clayton, Athens, TN
Mr. Lee Fuk Wah is apparently THE authority on the Shar-Pei in China and argues that the Down Homes dogs of Matgo Law were not Shar-Pei but a new mixed breed consisting of Bull Terrier, Boxer and Bulldog crossed with the old Shar-Pei from Dah Let (Chinese Fighting Dog?). She feels the Dah Let Shar-Pei seem to have NO Shar-Pei Fever, swollen hocks or amyloidosis. The Shar-Pei throughout the world are of American stock mostly. She feels the meatmouth is favored because it is more attractive to the public, more docile and “laid back”. The standard which accompanied Matgo’s dogs to this country was written by Matgo Law himself and did not depict the correct type for the true Shar-Pei. This is why the HKKC stopped registering the breed. There was no such thing as a “meatmouth” in China until the late 1960’s. Nelson Lam (HKKC) goes so far as to say that the first “meatmouth” was a cross between a Shar-Pei and a smooth coated Chow. Chung Ching Ming (who sent over the Jones’ dogs in the 60’s) admitted to using a chow in his breeding program. A man called Paper De in China admitted he gave a bulldog/Shar-Pei mix to Matgo Law who she believes was Down Homes Sweet Pea. She feels profit was the motive for Matgo Law. The Shar-Pei is a breed that developed in Dah Let and has existed in that area for thousands of years. It is a hardy breed that can survive by scavenging and thrive on its own if necessary. This type of Shar-Pei is hardy and vigorous.

What Is The Shar-Pei For? Nelson Lam
There is little written down in Chinese about this breed because:

  • The average Chinese peasant or farmer had very little education and couldn’t write.
  • The Chinese are not an animal loving nation.

One of the old and fundamental criteria for a good Shar-Pei was said to be “Shun Dur” or “double hit”. This means a good Shar-Pei could and should hit its prey (hunt) and secondly hit an aggressor (fight). The Shar-Pei is and never has been a breed involved in fighting alone. It is primarily a game dog. In producing the American Shar-Pei, Matgo Law looked to diminish the fighting characteristics of the breed. The modern meat mouth type of Shar-Pei was designed, bred and manufactured with and by human intervention. The goal should have been and still should be to preserve the natural characteristics and conformation as a game dog while improving the temperament as a semi-fighting dog.

The Shar-Pei is a good ratter. The body odor of the Shar-Pei is a warning to the rat of the dog’s presence. You often see an oily mark where a Shar-Pei leans on a wall or lays on the floor which is the body scent that could drive the house rodents away.


  • Mr. Chan Hoi Kong of Hong Kong Shousonhill Kennel (Mr. Chan)
  • Yuen Chit Chee (C.C. Yuen)
  • Mr. Jones – used smooth-coated Chows bred to Shar-Pei in his breeding program.

Pug was bred into the Shar-Pei to minimize the gross appearance of the muzzle size.

The Head

The Chinese Symbol for Longevity


  • The wrinkle over the Shar-Pei face was once called “grandma’s face”.
  • The wrinkle itself is called “guarding line”. The tighter it is the better the ability of the dog to guard.
  • The guarding line in the middle of the head that goes inward is called a “rat line”. This indicates the dog is a good ratter.
  • The wrinkles or guarding lines in the dog’s forehead look very much like a Chinese classical symbol of longevity. The description of the head is called “Sau ge tau” meaning longevity head.
  • The longevity symbol also bears resemblance to the Chinese character of “king”. Hence this is also called “Wong’s feature” meaning sovereign’s look.

Chinese Symbol for King


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.

You can see here the shape of a single Calabash used to carry water or Chinese medicine in Guanzhau market. The wrinkles on the forehead form a marking which resembles the Chinese Symbol for Longevity. This is essential to the breed.


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”. A Typical Chinese roof and the Rooftile.


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.

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