Revival in Wrinkles : Shar-Peis, a Breed of Chinese Dogs Once Nearly Extinct, Are Making a Strong Comeback in U.S.

Times Staff Writer

The beauty of Chinese Shar-Pei dogs runs more than skin deep, although their wrinkled coats are among their main attractions, lovers of the rare breed say.

The puppies look like their coats need pressing. But people who think the dogs are as mournful or awkward as their skin might suggest are barking up the wrong tree, says Shar-Pei breeder Scott White of North Hollywood.

Agile and Alert

“They look clumsy and they’re a bundle of wrinkles, but they’re very agile and very alert,” says White, who, with his wife, Rosalee, has been breeding the dogs for more than four years. “They have a laid-back, wrinkly personality . . . a good attitude.”


Once, Shar-Peis had reason to look worried. In 1973, they were near extinction in China.

The Chinese, who bred Shar-Peis thousands of years ago to serve as palace watchdogs and farm helpers, were using them for food, White says.

Although only eight were alive in the United States in 1973, their ranks have grown, and about 13,000 are now registered with the Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America, says White, who is president of the Golden State Chinese Shar-Pei Club.

By comparison, he says, more popular breeds have populations in the millions.

The main attraction of the Shar-Pei is eye appeal, White says.

But the dogs draw mixed reactions. “You hear comments like, ‘That’s the ugliest dog I’ve ever seen’ or ‘That’s the cutest dog I’ve ever seen,’ ” White says. “There’s no happy medium.”

Most Lose Wrinkles

Shar-Peis are most wrinkled when they are puppies. Although some retain their wrinkles, most usually lose them by the time they are 6 to 8 months old, White says.

“It’s the opposite of humans,” who grow into wrinkles rather than out of them, White says.

The dogs cost from $500 for a Shar-Pei that is now show quality to $3,000 or more for a faultless dog with a breeding or show career ahead, he says.