Where Do They Come from? - Origin of the Shar Pei Breed
TIMES OF HAN DYNASTY According to the first and the most popular version Shar Pei breed has already been spread in the Southern regions of China at the times of Han Dynasty government (the end of the third century BC). Ancient burial statues of dogs with square shaped body, brow wrinkles and curled tail – so called "tomb dogs" – are used as evidence to support this theory. However, Chinese art of that time is characterized by a great degree of typification which means dogs portrayed might be representatives of other Chinese breeds such as Chows or Pugs. Marco Polo (famous Venetian merchant traveler of 13th-14th centuries) who several years lived in China and presented detailed description of the latter dog breeds never wrote anything about Shar Pei which seems strange in the case the bread was known and spread at that time.
The second version states Shar Pei should descend from Chinese fighting dogs of the village of Dah Let (Tai Leh) (the territory on the South China Sea coast). This village became known for the sport of dog fighting after 1751 – the year when a maritime trade in China was permitted. British sailors introduced dogfights that became extremely popular in that area. Perhaps Chinese crossed Chow Chow with imported Molosser breeds trying to get their own fighting dogs. The supporters of Chow Chow origin claim there are similar features not only in the appearance of two breeds (blue/black tongue), but also in their character. Both the Shar Pei and the Chow Chow are known to be talented companions, hunters and shepherd dogs at the same time. It worth mentioning that Shar Pei shares dew claws with the Pyrenean Mountain Dog and some other features - with Tibetan Mastiff.
Shar Pei’s loose wrinkled skin is usually explained as the result of breeding down in size. Excessive skin helped to safe vital areas in fights and allowed Shar Pei to bite his opponent when his own skin was in his rival’s jaws. A great equipment for a fighter. The only problem remained though that contributed to the ousting of Shar Pei from the fighting ring – they were not that aggressive by nature.
Still there is one uncertainty – dogfights could be introduced in that region much earlier so that even Romans bringing Molossers to this part of the world could cause ousting Shar Pei from the role of fighting dogs. Moreover, according to the data of a recent DNA research, the Shar Pei is considered to be one of the four most ancient canine breeds on Earth.