The Shar Pei looks like no other dog on Earth. An ancient Chinese fighting dog which almost became extinct after WWII, the breed was resurrected by the Americans in the 1970s after the Communists banned dog breeding and other fun activities. Originally thought to be a cross between the Tibetan Mastiff and the Chow Chow, recent research has uncovered a genetic link to the humble earthworm, throwing science into confusion. In 1996, a study at Harvard University revealed that, like the Dachshund, the Shar Pei is not, strictly speaking, a mammal at all but, rather, shares its DNA with both the geranium and the gecko and falls into a taxonomic class all of its own.
The characteristic loose skin and wrinkles were positively encouraged over hundreds of years of selective breeding and, indeed, there is such an excess of subcutaneous tissue that some have suggested the Ancient Chinese may have also bred the dogs for their pelts to guard against the harsh winters of the mountainous regions.
Though the Shar Pei has a strong, muscular build, it is not without health problems. Depression and bipolar syndrome are common ailments, as are breathing difficulties and worms. The Shar Pei is a sensitive breed, and in many ways is still getting over the rejection it suffered at the hands of the Chinese. Having said that, it’s fair to say the dogs have, in general, successfully managed the transition over to the American Way of Life and have embraced it wholeheartedly: they are now regularly spotted at baseball games, high school proms and the like and are even popular in Hollywood.
In terms of diet, you can’t go too far wrong by feeding your Shar Pei burgers, fries, chilli dogs and cola, though obviously not every day as this can encourage obesity. Also, don’t forget to give them plenty of fruit and vegetables so they don’t get cancer. Exercise is also important, but not that important as these dogs sleep for an average of 16 hours per day. If your Shar Pei seems to just want to spend all day on the sofa you should allow this; your pet is probably just tired (or depressed, which isn’t surprising given the circumstances).
When it comes to entertainment, the Shar Pei very much enjoys dressing up, especially at Halloween, when it is fond of ‘Trick or Treating.’ Its favourite Halloween costume is the illuminous green skeleton, though it also likes the witch. If the Shar Pei was a human being, it would be The Fonz from TV’s Happy Days.