Although it is equally a product of the West as it is of the East, the Shar Pei's highly romanticized history and supposed ancient origin have been promoted and accepted for many years by its fanciers, but in reality the breed was developed from either the early Chow Chow or their common progenitor and other Asian Molossers as a fighting dog, a much different breed than it is today, both in appearance and personality. Originally a highly athletic and tenacious dog, with only a small amount of wrinkles, the Shar Pei was very similar to the Irish, English and American bull-n-terrier breeds in appearance, but the breed as we know it today has been established in the United Kingdom from dogs mainly imported from Hong Kong and further developed through matings with early Pugs, Bulldogs and a number of undisclosed European breeds until the desired appearance was achieved, followed by many generations of inbreeding in order to exaggerate its physical features and maintain the preferred type. The breed's popularity in the United States has also played a part in the recognition of the so-called "meat-mouth" type as the breed ideal, but it should be noted that in modern China, as well as in Taiwan, Vietnam and other Asian countries still exists a population of Shar Peis that have remained much closer to their ancestral stock than their western/recognized counterpart, with some regional varieties looking like quite a bit like American Pit Bull Terriers, while others show stronger Chow roots, including types having thicker coats, minimal skin wrinkling, erect ears, healthier eyes and a greater variety of coat colourings. Even today, some Chinese enthusiasts separate the breed into the Traditional and the American types, with a small number of fans of the original Shar Pei even promoting a separate recognition for their type, but no such event has happened as of yet.
As a companion, the Shar Pei is, like the Chow, usually a one person dog, but it will tolerate other family members. Although an independent breed, it seems to be more willing to please its owner than the Chow. Well-muscled, aloof with strangers, somewhat dog-aggressive and extremely territorial, it makes an imposing guard dog. This handsome breed of an unusual appearance is a large-headed, short-backed animal of compact build, possessing reasonable agility, but is in many ways different from its original incarnation. The Shar Pei's trademark loose skin needs regular attention and cleaning to avoid developing of bacterial skin diseases. Apart from being instantly recognizable for its wrinkled face and its blue tongue, the Shar Pei is also known for suffering from eyelid and lip problems.
This breed comes in a few solid colours, most common being red, black, cream and fawn, but there are also some brindle and blue merle ones. The average height is 20 inches.