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All Time top Shar-Pei breeder in China has “best description ever” of the breed’s most important features. Akita, Dachshund, Cocker Spaniel, judge or breeder, study this historical document and photos!

Evolution of the Shar-Pei

Paper Presented to Midland Shar-Pei Club

Judge Eric T. Omura - July 15, 2000


I have traveled in China and visited Dali, the original place of Shar-Pei uncountable number of times since 1993 and saw a great number of Shar-Pei there. Then the 25th of May, 1996 is a date to be remembered in the canine history of China as the day of the first Shar-Pei specialty show to be held right at the hometown of Dali. I was extremely fortunate at that time to be in a position to help inaugurate the “Dali Shar Pei Dog Research Club” and subsequently participate in the organization of the show.


To split or not to split, that is the question?

With my understanding at that time about the awkward happening of the Akitas in Japan and the Unites States of America, I am convinced that the best way to sort out the confusion and the differences is to split the breed into 2 (varieties) so that interests of all parties can be properly channeled to constructive manifestation. It was very fortunate that most of the local people were very supportive of this idea and culminated into a decision splitting the breed into "Traditional Shar-Pei" and "Companion Shar Pei" in the show. About 200 Shar-Pei participated and it was a very successful show. Mr. Nelson Lam judged the Traditional type and Mr. Matgo Law judged the Companion type.


Top prizes were given to both types and the two did not compete against each other. This arrangement would mean that both types should be able to compete in their respective groups. However, because of the controversial nature of this splitting at that time and being the first Shar Pei Specialty Dog Show in China, we avoided to let each winner join the all breed competition held on the next day.


When I judged a Shar Pei specialty show in Nanhai City (a city next to Dali, Guangdong, China) on the 23rd of April, 2000, the organizer even further divided into 3 varieties, namely "Traditional Shar-Pei" or commonly known locally as bone mouth, "Medium Shar-Pei" or commonly called meaty-bone mouth, and finally the "Companion Shar Pei" or commonly known locally as meat mouth. In this case, the variety was split according to the muzzle form rather than the coats as commonly done in the Western world.


At the finals, the winners of these 3 varieties were pitched against each other and a BOB picked from them. This BOB went on to compete in the all breed ring in the Chinese Dog Group.


What makes Shar-Pei stands out from all the other breeds; one single feature that made it distinct from all other breeds is, in fact, the coat. Take Dachshunds for example, they can have 3 coat types and 3 sizes making a total of 9 varieties, but what makes Dachshund a "Dachshund" is the very short legs and the very long body. This single feature makes the Dachshund stands out from all the other breeds and there is no tolerance of variation here.


I have seen variation in types of coats in China during the years but they were well within the limit of being "sandy" or short in nature. Coat seldom grew even longer than half an inch. I consider 1-inch coat as already being extremely, extremely long. Tolerating a long hair Shar Pei with coat more than an inch is the same as tolerating a high-legged Dachshund.


Shar Pei literally means "sandy skin" in Chinese and this single feature is what makes Shar Pei a "Shar Pei". So I think it is more logical to split the variation along the shape of muzzle instead of the length of the coat. There should not be a longhaired Shar Pei as much as there should not be a long legged Dachshund. At one time about 10 years ago, breeders in Taiwan attempted to breed a miniature Shar Pei but the market did not take off. Miniature in size is a variety but they were also breeding something with a short “horse coat”.


In China and Hong Kong, consensus is very high among Shar Pei breeders that there should be only one type of coat, viz., the short coat of much less than 1 “ in length. Even if there is a softer coat, it should still be described as needles in cotton to represent the prickness of the coat. This holds true not only for recent times, but from what I have heard from older people, it had been the same all the way back to the old days.


It is regretful that somehow at the very start of Shar Pei revival, that brush coat had been exported from Hong Kong 1 and gave a wrong impression to the western world that coat of such length also exist. There might have been a conflict of interest here in terms of what constitute a “true” Shar Pei and what is the saleable stock in hand. Hong Kong is a very commercial city and always manufactures things according to what the market need. The large American market demands brush coat. Tailor made to fit market need, so to speak.


In regard to splitting of the breed, there is also opinion as follows:

If the split occurs we would still be able to breed the coat types together. We would just have separate classes for each coat type and both coat type and both varieties would compete in the (same?) group. 1We are now dividing our Open classes at shows and soon will be dividing the breed by classes too. The (American) Nationals in 2001, all the Sweepstakes classes will be splitted into horse and brush coat classes. The show will offer a best bred by horse and brush coat. 1


Mankind can breed any animals into homes, making them more people friendly, easier to touch and hug, and to sleep together in bed. But this is not the same as a free pass to altering an original or primitive type into anything you want it to be and still call it by the same name.


Breeding can serve two main purposes: the original idea of preserving original breeds, and at the same time developing human friendly pets. But the two requirements do not always coincide. So it is almost unavoidable that splitting can occur whether people want to control it or not. If not one would end up with a dog with schizophrenic double character. For example, a guard dog and a pet dog at the same time are quite impossible.


When considering splitting an existing breed into more varieties (or breeds), and then grouping it, it is necessary to identify the original purpose of each of the breed, identify their respective distinctive characteristics, and determine how different they are. Are there any objective scientific rules that we can depend on instead of rule by authority or decree? If nationalism and racism get involved into the issue of splitting, the situation can be even more untenable. Thus in the process, we must address to the following many questions:

  1. What is the animal’s place on the phylogenetic tree? 2 How do we classify the related types? Do we treat them as varieties, or distinct breeds? This will provide us with a philosophical and scientific guideline as to how we look, treats, and breed the animals in future.

  2. Do we allow cross breeding between the related types? Either yes or no, what is the biological soundness of this artificial restriction?

  3. Whether the relationship between types belongs to variety or breed should determine how they are placed, grouped and compete in dog show.

To sort out these confusions, one must go back first into history and find our where we started off in the very beginning, and then look into achievements in modern biological sciences and see whether we can seek resolution here. Finally, knowing the past and present, we can discern a line of continuity and be able to see where we are heading for if we project along this line.


Kennel Club and Charles Darwin

Interesting enough, everything started in England. The first organized dog show was held in the Town Hall, Newcastle-on-Tyne (in England) on 28th/29th June 1859. The Show was organized by Messrs. Shorthose and Page at the suggestion of Mr. R. Brailsford and there were sixty entries of Pointers and Setters. Only one class was held for each breed at these early shows and the dogs were unidentified except for the kennel names. 3


About a year ago also in England on July 1, 1858, this date was to be remembered as a major turning point in the history of biological thought. Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace collaborate in a joint presentation of the theory of evolution of species through natural selection to the Linnaean Society. One year later in 1859, Darwin’s magnum opus, On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection was published. 4


Then, came the work done in Austria in the 1860’s by Gregor Johann Mendel who identified the nature of the heredity mechanisms and published his experiments in 1866. He discovered that hereditary factors present in a hybrid are not irreversibly blended together: they can reappear separately in the next generation. His hypothesis is now called the Mendelian theory of inheritance, which can be summarized as follows:5

  1. The traits of an individual are determined by discrete factors (commonly called genes in modern terms).

  2. Each individual has a double dose of hereditary factors (which can be either the same or different)

  3. These factors are inherited one from each parent. They retain their identity throughout the life cycle. One may dominate the other in expression, they segregate at gametogenesis, and they assort independently (the principles of segregation and independent assortment of genes).

In 1870, it was decided that a controlling body was necessary to legislate in canine matters. 4th April 1873 marked the founding of The Kennel Club. The first volume of the Stud Book contained the records of shows from 1859-73. 3 With the concept of heredity and evolution already established within the thoughts of the English people in those days, it was no surprise that the Stud Book was created at that time in history to record and to follow the hereditary lines of dogs.


In 1953 when J.D. Watson and F.H.C.Crick postulated the double-helical model of DNA structure, it was a historical landmark in modern biochemistry 6 and marked the dawn in modern molecular genetics. Today, we can even “clone” animals of our desire with complete control over the DNA materials.


Whether we realize or not, Charles Darwin’s concept of evolutionary biology has immense impact on our contemporary thinking. By introducing historicity into science and constructed a historical narratives that bridged science with the humanities, he not only influenced the philosophy of science but also the modern zeitgeist. 7… His influence so immense that the discovery itself must be counted as an extraordinary philosophical advance of the 20th century. 7


Kennel clubs around the world should not be an exception. Therefore, when we think of dogs, I believe it is very important that we must go back to this biological basic. This philosophy of science is a universally accepted concept regardless to race, nationality, or religion. Only with this thinking can we resolve conflict of interests and arbitrariness. This would help decision making in how we split types, how we breed, and how we run the kennel clubs and dog shows.


Basic concept on population and evolution

Darwin completely rejected typological thinking 8 and introduced instead the entirely different concept now called population thinking. All groupings of living organisms, including humanity (and Shar Pei too) are populations that consist of uniquely different individuals. 7 All living individuals are unique.


The true unit of evolution is the population-not the individual. Only populations evolve. It is at the population level that selection acts and that species change over time. 9 Breeding, a form of artificial selection, can change the characteristics of an animal in a relatively short period of time, but it is only the population that can hold, maintain and preserve the vast volume of hereditary traits. Only in population that heredity can be stabilized.


The hereditary traits in today’s biotech term are called genes. By definition, a gene is the inherited factor that determines a biological characteristic of an organism and a gene pool is the sum of total genes in the reproductive gametes of a population.10  For a healthy population, the gene pool must be large in order to contain abundance of genetic variation and allows for competition of genes under complete randomness condition, and thus maintaining conservation of gene frequencies under the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium principle. Only and only with these conditions in mind that we can breed a healthy and genetically stable population of dogs.


Therefore, a diverse population is a necessity for the proper working of natural selection.7 Because of the importance of genetic variation within the gene pool, natural selection (and breeding) should be considered to be a two-step process: maintaining a population of abundant variation; with a wide spectrum of gene variables, followed by elimination of inferior individuals (entropia, reverse scissor bite, over wrinkles and drooping tails etc. in case of Shar Pei). This latter step is very artificial and directional in canine breeding and therefore it is even more important to consciously maintaining a population as variable (in terms of genes) as possible and keeping a clear scientific thinking along this Darwinian philosophy.



As mentioned before, how do we place a certain type on the phylogenetic tree?2 How do we classify the related types? Do we treat them as varieties, or distinct breeds? To understand this, we must know some basic concept about speciation. By one definition, speciation is the derivation of two distinct species from one common ancestor as a result of reproductive isolation between two previously interbreeding populations.11


In the biological species concept, populations belong to the same species if their members are prevented from interbreeding (exchanging genes) by any of a number of isolating barriers. 12  Between species, we recognize not only that they differ morphologically but also that they do not interbreed. It is the absence of interbreeding that prevents gene migration and that therefore preserves morphological differences.12  With adaptation, speciation is the most fundamental evolutionary process.

Widespread and discontinuously distributed species inevitably become polytypic. Their populations diverge from one another as the evolutionary forces of selection (breeding) act upon their respective gene pools.13  This is what happened to Akita and Shar Pei. Both types separated by the Pacific Ocean. Two populations independently developed in North America and Asia.

I see also similar phenomena, only less controversial in Chow Chow because there is not yet a traditional Chow Chow Club that I am aware of developed in some part of the world advocating their interest. Controversies already exist in China on the Pekingese. Tibetan Mastiff, I am almost sure to foresee the same problems as those happening on Shar Pei…on coat, on muzzle etc. All these developments, in consideration of splitting a breed, although not exactly the same as speciation in technical terms because the time scale we are talking about concerning breeding on a human social level, or on the kennel club level is simply too short as compared to that on an evolutionary scale, however, it is similar in mechanism to this cladogenesis process in speciation.

To have a better understanding about speciation, and thus help us defining how to split a breed, it is beneficial to know more about the facts in the history of dogs, and then make a comparison between hominid (human being) and canine phylogenetic structure because they are so similar and yet distinctive, parallel but intertwined in both social and evolutionary development.

History of dogs
In a landmark DNA experiment published recently in the “Science” magazine, mitochondrial DNA control region sequences were analyzed from 162 wolves at 27 localities worldwide and from 140 domestic dogs representing 67 breeds. Sequences from both dogs and wolves showed considerable diversity and results clearly supported the hypothesis that wolves were the ancestors of dogs.14

Dog originated more than 100,000 years before the present. DNA analysis Indicated episodes of admixture between wolves and dogs. Repeated genetic exchange between dog and wolf populations may have been an important source of variation for artificial selection.14  However, because mitochondrial DNA is maternally inherited, interbreeding between female dogs and male coyotes or jackals would not be detected.15

Although estimation may be inflated by unobserved DNA substitutions, phylogenetic analysis indicated that dogs could have originated as much as 135,000 years ago. This clearly implies an origin more ancient than the 14,000 years ago suggested by the archaeological record.16  Nevertheless, bones of wolves have been found in association with those of hominids from as early as 400,000 years ago.17 & 18  The change around 10,000 to 15,000 years ago from nomadic hunter-gatherer societies to more sedentary agricultural population centers may have imposed new selective regimes on dogs that resulted in marked phenotypic divergence from wild wolves.19

While many living organisms are going extinct because they are being pushed out of the biosphere by the Homo sapiens, dogs are the most successful survivors in this competition. They out performed all other animals in evolutionary strategy by infinitely flexible in molding themselves to human desire; from temperament, body shape and size, color, etc. adaptation in anyway as long as the human wants them to be. In a sense, it’s philosophical, but it is not man who is tempering with the evolution of dogs but rather, dogs are only infinitely flexible in adapting to us. Dogs are probably the only mammals that have developed into an almost symbiotic relationship20 with the human beings. Man is inadvertently helping dogs to survive the Darwinian crazy chase for staying alive on earth.

The extreme phenotypic diversity of dogs, even during the early stages of domestication suggested a varied genetic heritage.14 As we see here, and we all know that wolf and dog can interbreed if done artificially but do not happen normally because of geographical, social and behavioral separation. The evolution of wolves into dogs is called anagenesis in genetics. Before we go into more details on variation in species, i.e., defining sub-specific categories, such as breeds and varieties for dogs, we must have an idea first on how living organisms are categorized scientifically.

Biological Classification of Domestic Dog
Swedish naturalist Karl von Linne (Carolus Linnaeus, 1707-1778) first classified plants and animals according to their resemblances and created the system of binominal (double) scientific nomenclature, which is still in use today. The concept of “family”, “genus”, “species” were borne.13

The domestic dog, for instance, is Canis familiaris. The name tells us that the species belongs to the genus Canis, as does the related wolf, Canis lupus. Every species belongs to a genus (plural genera), genera are grouped into families, families into orders and so on.13

The phylogenetic tree for dog would look something as follows:21

Kingdom Animalia multicellular animal; heterotroph; cells with well-developed centrioles and ingesting organelles.

Phylum Chordata animal with a stiff, rodlike notochord; dorsal, tubular nerve cord; gill slits in pharynx.

Subphylum Vertebrata animals with spinal column of segmented vertebrae.

Class Mammalia animals with body hair; mammary glands.

Subclass Eutheria female members carry developing off-spring (nourish by placenta); born in mature condition.

Order Carnivora carnivores; canines long; teeth pointed, clawed toes.22

Suborder Fissipedia toe-footed carnivores; dogs, wolves, jackals, foxes, raccoons, pandas, bears, wolverines, hyenas, lynxes, cats, tigers, lions, leopards, etc.22

Family Canidae which includes, wolves, jackals, foxes etc.22

Genus Species
Canis lupus - wolves
Canis latrans - coyotes14
Canis aureus - golden jackals14
Canis meomelas - black-backed jackals14
Canis simenisis - Simien jackals14
Canis familiaris - domestic dogs

Family Flidae Felis domestucus - domestic cats

Defining sub specific categories, such as breeds, and varieties?
One of the definitions of speciation under natural condition is that no interbreeding happens between species. It is the absence of interbreeding that prevents gene migration and that therefore preserves morphological differences.12  Absence of interbreeding can be due to geographical barrier, behavioral difference and thus mating preference, or even morphological difference that inhibits mating. Therefore, although we could by human intervention, dogs do not usually mate with wolves under natural condition.

But under Canis familiaris, we see a whole different world of dogs as we see in a dog show and we call them breeds. As discussed before under the history of dogs, these animals lived in extreme proximity with human being for more than 100,000 years14 and all during these times, dogs experienced tremendous artificial selective pressure from the human beings. Dog is probably the only mammal that have developed into an almost symbiotic relationship20 with the human beings.

Eating together, sleeping together, and working together for over 100,000 years, and due to vast number of cultural differences exist in human populations, huge differentials of hominoid selective pressures exerted on the dogs. This explains the extreme phenotypic diversity (breeds) of dogs we see today.

Technically and biologically, dogs of different breeds can interbreed. This happens in the city street all the time. But kennel club regulations, a form of artificial selective force, normally forbid interbreeding. Therefore, breed category is clearly a “sub-species” category under Linnaean classification but the artificially defined selective force for pedigree is clearly “species” in nature. Therefore, breed category exhibits species and sub-species characteristics. This is probably the reason why there are so many confusions when discussion on breeds and varieties is involved.

We can tell easily in real life when we look at the breeds, common sense tells us that it is culturally acceptable or “biologically normal”, although not legal under kennel club rules to cross Golden Retriever with Labrador Retriever, or American Cocker Spaniel with English Cocker Spaniel, a Shih Tzu with Pekingese etc. so by morphological similarity we can tell this is “sub-species” in nature.

But if we try to cross a Great Dane with a Pomeranian is a different story. The differences between these two breeds are probably more “species” than “sub-species”. Both breed belongs to Canis familiaris so technically they can interbreed but their morphological difference clearly indicates that it would not probably happen under natural condition.

Going back to the Shar Pei, when variety is added to the breed concept, more confusion arises. Meat mouth vs. bone mouth; horse coat vs. brush coat etc. By reason, variety is even one more step below the breed category so it is clear-cut at this level of classification to say that interbreeding is normal, and in fact, it should be. Back to the Darwinian population, it is at this level of breed population that can become the reservoir of heredity, viz., the gene pool.

Parallel between hominoid and canine variation
Dogs are so closely related and intertwined with the development of human society, and the concept of breeds has so much in common with that of race for human, that we would see a clearer picture if we look into ourselves. (Parallel with Shar Pei written in parenthesis in italic) We look first into population genetics - that branch of genetics that study behavior of genes in living populations13 and human biologists who are concerned with the description and explanation of the variation within and between living human populations.

Foremost, Homo sapiens remained a single species. At the same time it is a polytypic23 species, manifesting many superficial variations of size (maximum height of 18” to 21” at the wither?), shape (conformation), and constitution of the body; skin (wrinkles), hair (coat), and facial conformation (meat mouth or bone mouth).24 Not only are these characters the traditional means of classifying humans into races (Shar Pei as sub-species with different varieties), they are also analogous to features whose evolution we are able to trace through time.13

Many anthropologists do not use the race concept as an organizing principle, and concentrated more upon describing the distribution of individual polymorphisms.13  (Race is equivalent to breed in dogs.) The zoological category of subspecies offers a better solution than race for human classification (and this view is also important for us when looking at the breed of dogs because it can help us resolve some of the controversy over whether we can interbreed between certain related breeds in the kennel clubs). In zoological taxonomy, subspecies comprise groups of populations, usually geographically defined, that share obvious external characteristics.13

The amount of genetic variation between Caucasian, black and Japanese populations is about the same as between local populations of the common house mouse. Consequently there is no valid biological criterion to distinguish sub specific categories; they are inventions that vary widely from one authority to the next.12 (All the various specialty breeds club and kennel clubs have their own definitions of the sub specific categories, some scientific and some not so scientific. AKC, FCI, KC, JKC, AKU, KCUA etc…. each have their own prerogatives and agenda.)

The major geographic sub-species are semi-isolated breeding populations. Given the amount of genetic integration and overlap among human populations, what people perceived as “subspecies” or “races” or as “people of different blood” are largely cultural constructs. (Kennel clubs around the world are definitely cultural constructs). As soon as there is any attempt to draw boundaries based on morphology or even on chemically derived gene frequencies (establishing a breed standard as in the case of various breed clubs), it becomes apparent that precisely bounded “races” (or breeds for dogs) on any scale are cultural artifacts. Such cultural definitions are highly motivated (to the point of even subjective and arbitrary, or even nationalistic in some kennel clubs), they frequently have little relation to biological fact.24

As long as two populations remain part of the same species - as long as there is gene migration between the populations (between various breeds, or between any two dog populations) - neither population will lose the genotype that is being selected against. If it is lost by genetic drift in one generation, it will take very little migration to reintroduce it in the next generation.12

The concept of race (breeds) can always be expressed in terms of populations and gene frequencies.13 The term “race” (or breeds for dogs) is only useful in a sense close to its normal everyday one, that is, to describe groups within a complex society that are basically defined sociologically or culturally, but such definitions may still be based on certain physical traits and may often designate what are still essentially Mendelian populations.

Common kennel club definitions and limitation
It is because kennel clubs are more cultural than scientific, with today’s speed of advancement in biological sciences and methods of improving or even creating a breed; the conventional system is becoming more and more difficult to cope with the ever-expanding horizon of dogs. Breeders armed with Darwinian population concept are identifying more sub-species (breeds) and varieties than ever before. More breeds and varieties are being added to the dog register every year.

As we have seen in the previous discussion, that kennel clubs are cultural constructs and thus have deep roots in their respective local society. Therefore, each club with their views on dogs can be quite cultural and sometimes even to the extend of being nationalistic.

In today’s world of internet, where information travel without border, when people around the world are sharing more information than ever before, it is clear that local cultural thinking in kennel clubs can not cope with issues on an international level. We must still respect and protect totally the respective local cultures, for without this cultural diversity we will loose what is essentially human. We don’t need an Owellian society. However, when different cultures sit together and find consensus on breeds and varieties, we must base our view on biological sciences in which Darwinian view of science is a crucial element in this philosophy. This view is neither British nor American, neither is this a Japanese view. This is a worldview on dogs.

With this understanding, we now look at some of the conventional thinking in the world of the kennel clubs. In thinking about breed structure, it is easy to fall into the trap of regarding breeds as natural units made up of individuals with uniform morphological and behavioral characteristics. Problems with this thinking I have already explained by drawing a parallel with the hominoids in the previous section. Here, it needs only to emphasize that the breed name is no more than a convenient pigeonholing device.

No one can stop a breeder from recovering certain dog from the past (such as Shar Pei and Akita); developing his kind of dogs (such as the case of Doberman) and naming after himself; developing a breed for aesthetic reason (American Cocker Spaniel); or developing a breed for a niche in the market (such is the case of various miniature breeds of Poodles, Schnauzer etc) as this is the on-going process of domestication of dogs anyway. Breeders do not breed dogs according to their Latin scientific binomials.

According to the present pace of adding breeds to the registry, how many breeds can a dog show handle practically and meaningfully? According to Darwinian population concept, all individuals are unique and so we have infinite numbers of varieties. But we cannot accommodate so much breeds in a dog show otherwise we end up with a BOB title almost for each exhibiting dog.

Most commonly, kennel clubs around the world do not allow interbreeding, i.e. crossing between established breeds. This means that kennel clubs treat breeds as “species” although they are actually “sub-species” in nature. How should we culturally limit genetic exchange between breeds without sacrificing the health of a population?

Who can define, and how can we decide what and where to separate and draw the line? Can we make our decision just on aesthetic reasons, or should we consider a wider view of what is best genetically for the breeds. If health condition of an animal is one of the considerations in judging, then genetics is something that must be taken into account.

Since the whole kennel club system is closely related to culture and society, it is my intention here to look into the Shar Pei type problem by bringing out first the fundamental questions. By looking into the controversy present today around other breeds, understanding it, then we can know better where we stand on Shar Pei.

Example of breeds with variations and controversy on classification:

Dachshunds: 4th FCI Group: Dachshund (9 types)

Long-haired Smooth-haired Wire-haired
Miniature Long-haired Miniature smooth-haired Miniature wired-haired
Kaninchen Long-haired Kaninchen smooth-haired Kaninchen wired-haired

AKC Group 2 & KC Group 2 : Hounds (6 types)

Long-haired Smooth-haired Wire-haired
Miniature long-haired Miniature smooth-haired Miniature wired-haired
Akita 5th FCI Group 2nd FCI Group
Spitz & primitive types Pinscher, Schnauzer, Molossian Type & Swiss Cattle dogs
Standard No.255 Standard No.344
Akitas Great Japanese Dog (Formerly American Akita)
KC Group 5 AKC Group 3
Utility Group Working dogs
Shar Pei Companion Shar Pei Traditional Shar Pei
“Meat mouth” “Bone mouth”
AKC Group 6 2nd FCI Group
Non-Sporting Pinscher, Schnauzer, Molossian Type & Swiss Cattle dog
Section 2.1 Molossian Type (Without working trial)
Standard No.309
KC Group 5 Utility Group

Questions on Dachshund

Cross breeding between various types of dachshund seemed unavoidable in real life.

If we limit the breeding by a single trait of coat type, we have hindered free flow of all other genes within 6 or 9 small pools. The total result is more detrimental to the breed.

In terms of Mendelian concept on heredity, it makes no difference whether it is cross bred or not because these genes will always stay within the general gene pool of the dachshunds.

FCI got 9 breeds competing for BIS. But they are most probably interbreeding in actual life.
Say if we add one more morphological parameter of say medium body and long body, it will make a total of 18 types in FCI. Of course, for the interest of the breed, we need this parameter to contain over elongation of the body and probably some Dachshund today are already getting too long stressing the spinal column, chest rubbing floor when walking, and thus rendering the dog difficult to walk. This is good for the specialty club but nightmare for the kennel club.

If dachshund can have 9 types, what about other breeds. We know Belgium sheep dogs have Laekenois, Groenendael, Malinois and Tervuren.

Questions on Akita
Under the name “Akita” two completely different types of dogs exist today. Akita of the Japanese type and the Great Japanese Dogs (formerly American Akita). The recognition of the “Great Japanese Dog” as a special breed within the FCI is a useful measure but this alone will not help to clear up completely the present confusing situation.25

Of course it will not help because FCI tried to resolve an international issue with cultural or even national solution. As mention before in this paper, it would always be the best to resolve by scientific and especially by biological solution because of its universality of principle. With hominoid despotic tyranny, the breed is ripped into two pieces as of January 1, 2000 and the name “American Akita” being erased from the face of this earth! It went further saying “any crossing between these two breeds will be prohibited”. I don’t think the American will take this and they will continue to call their dogs “American Akita”.

A strayed “American Akita” dog met and a strayed “Akita” bitch in the street, I wonder what they think of the hominoid?

American of Chinese origin is on average taller and larger in bone structure than the Chinese in Hong Kong. Can the Chinese government proclaim that all those living in America are not Chinese? (Chinese as a race and not nationality.)26  Chinese in America can only call themselves “Human”? Denying them a proper name is like denying them a heritage. So what’s the problem with American Akita being larger in size or little different in pigmentation?

The difference in genetic construction of Japanese Akita and American Akita is probably no larger no worse than the Japanese living in Hokkaido and Okinawa. So as long as we concentrate on the distinctive features of a breed, very human in thinking but we have to draw a line somewhere, we call it at that. Say, Akita, in this case, curled tail carried toward the head, spitz look, long straight hair, distinctive color, shape of ear, shape of muzzle etc.

Out of specification probably will happen anywhere around the world. The chance to see one in America is higher than in Japan simply because of sheer numbers. There is overwhelmingly more number of registration under AKC than that under JKC in Japan. The question is only how to deal with those, say, a “Tosa” like muzzle, or Mastiff like muzzle Akita, tri-color Akita, etc. but it deserved not to erase the name all together.

We can not simply disregard the contribution of the Akita Club in America to the advancement of Akita. We can not say that all these year their effort had been just for the sake of a “Great Japanese Dog”.

If by definition word for word, why a dog, which FCI claimed to be called the “Great Japanese Dog”, can not be found in Japan? If one look for its closest kin, it would still be Akita. If I have an Anatolian shepherd, we know it’s from Turkey, or former Anatolia. St. Bernard definitely from Switzerland. If the “Great Japanese Dog” is different from Japanese Akita, from where in Japan did the Great Japanese Dog came from? Still Akita.

Can a kennel club in a certain country (JKC for example in this case) proclaim across the Pacific Ocean and say to those who had immigrated to other countries (U.S.A.) not their type? Not Akita?

Both English Cocker Spaniel and American Cocker Spaniel belongs to the 8th Group in FCI. If English had their Cocker Spaniels, then the American version should be called the “Small American Dog” in the same logic as what happened to Akita?

We all know that Akita is no exception to Mendelian law of heredity. There is not guarantee that gene “standard no.255” will not come pop out later from “no. 355” stock in future.

What if a dog registered under FCI standard no.344 (formerly American Akita) were shipped to Japan and again recognized by the Akita Preservation Club (Akita Hozonkai), which then would be under FCI standard no.255, how would you treat its earlier pedigree? If “the new registration of each dog is definite and cannot be modified”, then what the system is saying is that what the Akita Preservation Club sees is a true Akita is genetically not from an Akita but from some breed call the “Great Japanese Dog?”27

How should FCI deals with all the judging records of Akita especially in UK and America before 1st January 2000? Wasn’t the judges judging according to the breed standard? Particularly the judges from Japan; even before the split date, they all must have picked the best representation of the breed in the show.

Questions on Cocker Spaniel

If Akita and Great Japanese Dog with common genetic ancestor (anagenesis) can be classified into two groups; then the much fancier American Cocker Spaniel with its fantasticly long and beautifully groomed coat can not be a dog running around like an English Cocker Spaniel. How can both types of Cocker Spaniel belong to the same 8th FCI Group (Retrievers, flushing dogs and water dogs)

Fortunately the British did not follow FCI’s line of thought on Akita, otherwise they would have forced the American down the throat to make them call their Cocker Spaniel the “Small American Dog”.

In the AKC system, everyone is well aware that the American type is being shown with its grace and groom. Handling and showmanship at its best to show the light and fluffy hair of this breed. This breed is being presented for its aesthetic silhouette much more so than its working agility. May be this could be in the toy group? How wonderful and graceful it could be if American Cocker Spaniel can compete with Maltese, Shih Tzu and the Pomeranian in a group! A maximum entertainment and indulgence of our aesthetic sensuality.

Questions on Shar Pei
All those questions being thrown out into the open on Dachshund, Akita, and Cocker Spaniel etc. are only to help us look into our own issue of Shar Pei from a more comprehensive perspective; to help us see how we can deal with the splitting question better. In summary, some of the similar questions are as follows:

Looking at what is happening in Dachshund, should we divide the type into “horse”, “brush” and even “bear” coat? How do we deal with “bear” coat?

Dividing by shape of the muzzle, we can have 2 or 3 breeds, calling one “bone mouth”, “median mouth” and another one “meat mouth”. If each type can earn a BOB, we have 2 or 3 dogs to enter the final BIS.

To avoid what happened to Dachshund creating so many breeds. Do we let winner “Traditional Shar Pei” and “Companion Shar Pei” compete against each other to earn a BOB, and then only one can enter the final BIS? This would discourage either one of the types unless the judge is very well knowledgeable of the breed. Brush coat has been winning in much more frequency than horse coat in America.1

We should not allow ripping this dog into two again like the Akita, naming the one commonly seen in the West simply as something called the “Great Chinese Dog”.

Consensus is already very high among the world’s kennel clubs that the standard for length of coat is no more than an inch. We should leave it at that but then, how do we deal with those over one inch in coat?

Words on breeding, interbreeding and inbreeding of Shar Pei
At the very beginning, we have already discussed about how we should treat a breed as an evolutionary population, and calls for maintaining a healthy population. The gene pool must be large in order to contain abundance of genetic variation and allows for competition of the genes under complete randomness, and thus maintaining conservation of gene frequencies under the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium principle. Only and only with these conditions in mind that we can breed a healthy population of dogs.

We already see Chow Chow, a nice looking dog, when bred in America with a small gene pool to start is becoming problematic in structure and temperament. We need new flow of genes from the original type at the place of origin. But kennel clubs breeding rule is discouraging people from taking in new genetic materials from the original stock because of their archaic concept of preserving breed “purity” only by isolation of genes and not preserving genes in population.

This hold trues the same for the Shar Pei, Akita, Dachshund or any other primitive breeds. The more original type we preserve the better the chance for continued evolution of a healthy type. As more breeds get registered in the kennel clubs around the world, the task of preserving the original primitive gene stock become even more important.

Traditional type Shar Pei is so much a primitive type that it can maintain equilibrium at the place of origin around Dali, Nanhai, China in its primitive form with a reasonable gene pool. Mendelian genetics explained why the traditional Shar Pei recovered so fast at the hometown Dali region once the ban is lifted in China after the death of their paramount leader Mao Ze-dong.

Allowing crossing viz. free flow of genes of the traditional “bone mouth” with the companion type Shar Pei population commonly seen in the west is definitely beneficial to improvement of health of the Companion Shar Pei population.

There were, at one time or other, breeders talked about preserving the trait by inbreeding. This is by genetic reason not practical and can only lead to a very narrow population genetic profile. Periodic refreshing of the gene pool by original primitive combination is the only way to improve the breed. A Zen philosophy, a pond fed with creeks always remains fresh and clear. A still pond goes dead.

Technique of inbreeding can be used only sporadically and even if it is considered, must be applied with clear understanding of a Mendelian experiment. It is already well know and proven in population genetics that domestic species of plants and animals whose wild progenitors are extinct cannot be enriched through inbreeding. Consequently, the preservation of wild progenitors (if not at best the primitive original type) is a critical issue in the continued evolution of domestic plants and animals.(29)

Words on splitting the breed
As mankind understands more and more about each species, splitting can occur almost in any breed because we are talking about variety within sub-species. But kennel clubs around the world is conservative and with their old world thinking, it is not easy for them to make any decision and take action based on sound universally accepted Darwinian reasoning. Because all clubs are cultural, they can be protective, exclusive and subjective in thinking rather than proactive, open and objective. There seemed always some valid reason for splitting (dachshund), or not splitting (Shar Pei), or even excluding a breed (American Akita) from an established system.

Breed is not only a national heritage but also a common human heritage that should be shared by all mankind. It does not remain a prerogative of a certain limited geography to insist to keep a certain breed in “purity”. Pure Japanese or pure Chinese does not mean anything today other than a general reference to something which culturally falls within some ball-park category. The word “pure” does not add any further precision to the generalization.

I respect the commonly accepted practice in kennel clubs breeding rules that there should be no interbreeding between breeds. With this basic rule of game, then kennel clubs around the world need to build-in a safety mechanism in their breed control system which allows for free flow of genes between closely related breeds under the present breed classification. It is strange to say that Pomeranian vs. Great Dane is as distinct as Smooth-haired vs. Long-haired Dachshund.

I believe one day, the kennel clubs around the world will have to make adjustment in their system by establishing a variety class under the breed category. There is no need to change any breed standard, as they are cultural and human in nature anyway. Kennel clubs can prohibit interbreed between breeds but allow between varieties to interbreed freely. So the breed and variety relationship would look something as follows:

One breed of Dachshund but 9 varieties; long, short and wired-haired etc.
One breed of Akita but 2 varieties, Japanese and American Akita
One breed of Shar Pei but 2 varieties; Traditional and Companion
One breed of Schnauzer but 3 varieties; giant, standard and miniature.
One breed of Cocker Spaniel but 2 varieties; English and American

Dog show elimination rules would have to adapt to this new classification by creating a Variety Class and winner becomes BOV (Best of Variety). Then all BOV will continue to compete for the BOB which will continue on as usual to win the BIS. This method will protect both the canine genetic population as well as the human culture. Canine population needs to be protected by scientific methodology while human culture needed to be respected with clear classification.

As long as breeders keep to this simple rule: breeds can not interbreed but varieties can cross-breed, they can breed and improve their variety infinitely according to the variety standard. With today’s free flow of information and dialogues between people, many differences can be sorted out.

At the end of the day, if breed standard is clearly defined, how many varieties to split into is really not important. The most important is to uphold the distinctive features of a breed without sacrificing the total health of a breed population.

This is ideal, but what about actual life? We can only work with existing rules and established practice. So what should we do for Shar Pei under the present situation? How should we split?

Splitting of Shar Pei
After going through extensive discussions, my conclusion as follows:

Consensus is very high at the place of origin in China that regardless of Traditional “bone mouth” or Companion “meat mouth”, both types should have coat shorter than one inch in length. There is only one type of coat and that is equivalent to what commonly called in the Western world as “horse coat”.

For the Traditional type, “horse coat” stands for a very short, harsh, prickly and standing coat. In China and Hong Kong, the description of coat is nothing more exact than the breed name itself: sandy skin, coarse and rough to the touch.

Consensus is high among the world’s kennel clubs including AKC that the standard for length of coat is no more than an inch. We must respect this world consensus and I understand that in America, many Companion type may have coats of more than an inch in length. So they should be educated and encouraged to breed to improve to the standard.

For the Companion type, “brush coat” can be soft to touch as the type implies but must not go over one inch.

Crossing of long hair with traditional Shar Pei for a few generations through selective breeding will easily get back to a coat of less than 1 inch.

Under the existing classification Shar Pei can be splitted into 2 types of breed: Traditional and Companion much the same as Dachshund by different morphological features. If the kennel clubs’ rule ever change, one day, they would be 2 varieties.

Under the present AKC system, the Companion “meat mouth” Shar Pei is classified under Group VI Non-sporting group. Traditional “bone mouth” Shar Pei then should be grouped to Group III, Working group, in the same grouping as Akita.

Suggested AKC grouping Companion Traditional

Group 6 Group 3 - Non-Sporting Working

The FCI system groups Traditional Shar Pei to Group II, Pincher, Schnauzer, Molossian type & Swiss Cattle dogs by the form of the head but it is also appropriate to group in Group 5, Spitz and Primitive Types. Shar Pei is not a Spitz but clearly a primitive type. If we are to group Companion Shar Pei, it should be in Group IX, Companions and Toys.

FCI Companion Traditional

9th FCI Group 2nd FCI Group - Companions & Toys Pinscher, Schnauzer, Molossian Type & Swiss Cattledog - Section 2.1 Molossian Type (Without working trial) - Standard No.309

In the existing Kennel Club group categorization, Shar Pei is grouped under Utility group. This fits the category of Companion Shar Pei. If we are to split and regroup, Traditional Shar Pei should be grouped to Working group to reflect the original purpose of the breed.

KC Companion Traditional

Group 5 Group 6 - Utility Group Working Group

Cross breeding between breeds allowed.
Breed register after 6 months.

Suggested Specifications of Shar Pei and their Differentiation

In summary, the features of each type listed as follows:

Name Companion Shar Pei Traditional Shar Pei

Nickname “Meat mouth” “Bone mouth”

Coat: No more than 1 inch No more than 1inch (preferably no more than 3/4 inch) 1 inch maximum Short, harsh and standing “brush-coat” “horse-coat”

Tail: High setting well over croup. Well carried to head. Tapering and not bushy, with short hair.

Wrinkle Over head and back Forehead and only at wither. Around neck at most slightly loose skin around throat

Dewlaps undesirable no dewlaps. Not allowed on limbs Not allowed on limbs

Size 18 -20 inches 18 - 21 inches

Muzzle Padded lips Normal to padded lips

Tongue Bluish black preferred. Pink spot acceptable. Spotted permissible. Pink undesirable

Teeth: Tight scissor bite

In regard to the coat, 1 inch is the most popular consensus. As I have said, I have yet to see a traditional Shar Pei with long coat, so I have suggested 3/4” maximum for Traditional type just to make a difference between Companion types. I think all dogs in Hong Kong and China can clear this requirement but in case it’s difficult to meet in the Western world, keeping 1” for Traditional type is also fine and workable.

In regard to tail, tail high set, carried well towards the head, or curled in spiral is a very typical tail not only for Shar Pei but common to most of the Asian breeds. Akita, Shiba, Shikoku, Kai, Kyushu, plus the mongrel you see around the streets of Hong Kong, Taiwan and many places of southeast Asia. Therefore, a drooping tail is definitely undesirable. You want to look for a tail with clear tapering outline, not long like Dalmatian or short like Bulldog.

Another point to remember regarding the tail is that since we have a strict interpretation on coat, we can not tolerate a bushy tail. This goes the same for both companion and traditional. I am not worried about traditional type because there is never a bushy tail. If there is ever a bushy tail among the companion type, there is high probability that some mongrel or Chow Chow genes are involved at the very early stage of development of the breed. Somewhere along the way in Hong Kong, these original stocks were mixed with mongrel or Chow Chow and shipped to the United States and Europe.

A special point on tongue. For both Chow Chow and Shar Pei, we have been looking for perfect marking of blue everything inside the mouth. However, we should leave some flexibility on this feature because in terms of hereditary trait necessary for survival, color of the tongue is definitely not on top of the list. We must look for bite, bone structure, conformation, and even temperament and the color of the tongue should come last. I know some would vehemently disagree with me because it is almost drilled into the brain that tongue of a Shar Pei should be blue-black.

What I am saying is that we still look for a blue-black tongue but if there is a Shar Pei, which has good conformation, nice head, tail, ear, and muzzle; and the only thing stopping you is the spotted color of the tongue. Don’t be deterred from it. Take it! Blue pigmentation is a dominant gene in Mendelian heredity, so it is very easy to get back a blue-black tongue in later generations. But a good conformation, balanced head, strong tail set, and ear in these combination is much more difficult to obtain than a singular pigmentation trait.

Finally, some talk on height. We all know from actual experience that 18” to 20” is reasonable height. In fact I specifically made a measuring stick to measure the Shar Pei I judged this last April at Nanhai to check on the sizes there. As discovered in the statistics, females tend to be smaller in size but the male all stood well just below 20 inches. (Refer to table 1)

However, I also heard from various people here, especially those who have seen some of the dogs in those early days, that the Shar Pei are larger in size than those we commonly see today. Older time to be exact meaning around the time of 1930’s to 50’s. The time before and after the Communist take-over of China in 1949.

Although I have not seen one before because of my age and social background, I do think it’s reasonable to assume that Traditional Shar Pei can be larger in size in older days. The reason is very simple. It is illegal and banned today but Chinese loved the gladiator sport of dog fighting in those pre-liberation days all the way dating back to aeons. Shar Pei is a commonly used breed and of course one of the selective force in breeding gladiator dogs would be the size.

Therefore, although not a major point of interest at the present state of Shar Pei, I do think that it would be wonderful to put the height of Traditional Shar Pei to be around 21” inches. Just a symbolic 1-inch above the Companion type to remind breeders around the world that the Traditional type can go a bit taller. I have heard disagreement on the FCI’s originally proposed standard of 22” because so far, no body in modern times has ever seen a Shar Pei with that “tall” a size. That’s understandable. May be 21” is less controversial and something we can look for in the revival of the traditional breed. A very majestic dog.

1 Wells, Dee Dee, What Future For Horsecoats in the States?, Simply Shar Pei, the Official Journal of the Midland Shar Pei Club, Spring 2000, Issue 27, p12
2 Phylogeny. The study of the evolutionary relationships between different forms of life, including plants and animals. Biologists work continually to devise a scheme of classification that reflects patterns of evolutionary development with common ancestry. An accurate phylogenetic classification can place all living organisms somewhere in a single, highly branched tree of life. Because this graphic representation of phylogenetic pattern resembles a tree, it is commonly referred to as a phylogenetic tree.
3 The Kennel Club, History (<>)
4 Kirk, David, “Biology Today Second Edition”, (Random House, Inc., 1975), p28
5 Ditto, p349-353
6 Watson, J.D. and F.H.C.Crick, Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids, A Structure of Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid, Nature, April 25, 1953, p737
7 Mayer, Ernst, Darwin’s Influence on Modern Thought, Sci.Am., July (2000), p67
8 Typological thinking. A view in old days that all species are stable and immutable. Each species of animal is a fixed unit descending, without significant change ever since from the Garden of Eden. Species in Linnaean’ time were thought to be immutable; they had not changed and never could.
9 Kirk, David, “Biology Today Second Edition”, (Random House, Inc., 1975), p652
10 Strickberger, Monroe W., (1976), “Genetics Second Edition”, (Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.), p.117,736
11 Kirk, David, “Biology Today Second Edition”, (Random House, Inc., 1975), p825
12 Kirk, David, “Biology Today Second Edition”, (Random House, Inc., 1975), p705-707
13 Jolly, Clifford J. and Fred Plog, (1976), “Physical Anthropology and Archeology”, (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.), p40, 44, 277,294
14 Vila, C., J.E. Maldonado, I.R. Amorim, R.K. Wayne et al., Multiple and Ancient Origins of the Domestic Dog, Science, 276, 13 June 1997, p1687
15 Kirk, David, “Biology Today Second Edition”, (Random House, Inc., 1975), p1688
16 G.Nobis, Umshau 19, 610 (1979); S.J.Olsen, “Origins of the Domestic Dog” (University of Arizona Press, Tucson, AZ 1985)
17 J.Clutton-Brock, “The Domestic Dog, Its Evolution, Behaviour and Interactions with People”, J.Serpell, Ed. (Cambridge Univ.Press, Cambridge, 1995) p7-20.
18 M.E.Thurston, “The Lost History of the Canine Race. Our 15,000-Year Love Affair with Dogs”,(Andrew & McMeel, Kansas City, KS, 1996)
19 D.F.Morey, Am.Sci., 82, 336 (1994)
20 Symbiotic relationship. The close association or living together of two living organisms of different species for their mutual or one sided benefit.
21 Kirk, David, “Biology Today Second Edition”, (Random House, Inc., 1975), p34
22 Weisz, Paul B., 1921, “The Science of Zoology”, (McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1973) p651-653
23 Polytypic. More than one morphology or appearance.
24 Kirk, David, “Biology Today Second Edition”, (Random House, Inc., 1975), p730
25 Final Solution of the “Akita Problem”, FCI Magazine, 32/99, p.14
26 Chinese as a race is different from Chinese as a nationality. Chinese as a race commonly refer to those features with a “Chinese look” but as a nationality can go all the way to Tibetans, Mongolians, Manchurians, some Arabs, Indians, Pakistanis, Thai, and a whole bunch of Asia minor races. People including the Chinese themselves often got confused in this mosaic of concepts. Human vs. dog. One step down, Chinese as a race is equivalent to Akita as a breed.
27 Conversation with Hisayoshi Kadowaki, JKC all breed judge on 7th June, 2000 during his visit to Hong Kong. As a fan of Akita himself, he was expressing his concern and worry on the existing system of FCI pedigree classification. He said he saw good Akita in America also with tremendously good hip score. An element infinitely crucial as a working breed.
28 Because people in the Western world were so used to seeing the “brush coat” winning in the show, the other side of the coin is that subconsciously they can not accept a “horse coat” simply because of the track records. That’s was the reason why people from the west were all so dumb bounded and astonished when a Traditional type won the BOB at the Helsinki FCI show. Fashion and trend first encountered tradition. When the West first met the East. Spirit of Marco Polo revived at Helsinki.
29 Kirk, David, “Biology Today Second Edition”, (Random House, Inc., 1975), p1989 #1011156



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