Those are actually good looking shar pei puppies – no entropion, and not so much skin that they are wading in their own wrinkles just to move. They will probably grow up to be moderate dogs and not depressive sacks of grease and rolls. Unfortunately, they’ll still carry all the awful genes associated with being a pure-bred shar pei.
I’ve browsed the shar pei pet forums, and when the topic of traditional shar peis comes up almost everyone agrees that they wish their dogs were bred to a better standard – they see their dogs own mouths preventing them from eating and chewing and drinking the way a dog should, their swollen hocks, irritated greasy skin, allergies, their heavyset builds… And then they see the lithe Hong Kong dogs with their clean eyes and mouths and hocks and spring-loaded energy and wonder how things went so wrong.
Sadly, most people want shar-pei because they think they are a cute animated soft toy rather than a proper dog. It’s only after they have bought a dog that’s had health problems – and that’s by no means a certainty in this breed – that they start asking questions.
I remember my good friend having two litters of puppies close in age. The sire of one was a very nice moderate dog that was her own breeding and she had on site. The other was a horsecoat import from the USA with a heavier head and not as long in the leg. One litter was all brushcoat but less wrinkly like their sire, the other had mostly horsecoat puppies who are almost always considerably wrinklier as pups than brushcoat pups even in the same litter. I’ll make no secret of liking that more moderate brushcoat (who was all modern USA breeding from a kennel of show winners) and his puppies more. Someone came to look at the puppies and she offered the first litter and let him see the sire. “Oh no, I want a PREMIUM shar-pei!” the bloke said “You know, the wrinkly ones…” He accused her of holding out on him when he saw the younger wrinklier litter! No amount of insisting the health/longevity was a better known quantity in the older litter would do and the irony was all those puppies grew up to be moderate in type without excess wrinkling anyway. That attitude of wrinkly pups equalling better dogs is not uncommon in puppy buyers. My friend used to do her best to breed for good health, longevity, good temperaments and good conformation without extremes. I lost my little horsecoat that she bred last year and I lament her not breeding dogs at all any more.
I do think there’s a lot of the grass is always greener about the Hong Kong and Chinese bred dogs vs the Western to be honest. They have also been selectively bred to make money and win rosettes even with a larger gene pool to draw on. But that’s another can of worms for another day/post.
Yes, I admit that the commentary is likely biased simply because the dog forums in general are geared toward support for medical issues, conformation, breeding, and breed antics rather than mere appreciation. They’re both lovely breeds, it’s just sad that there are such extremes at all.
It’s interesting you say “both breeds”. It wouldn’t surprise me if at some point in the future there is a scenario like with the Akita where it is split into two breeds in much of the world. I’m totally with you on the extremes as I’ve never been fond of overwrinkled shar-pei – the only genetic “extreme” I’ve got a soft spot for in the breed are bearcoats and I don’t think the gene for long coats is causing shar-pei to get sick and die.
I don’t agree with narrowly-defined breeds – it was more an accident to call them such on my part. But they are bred to different standards, from different populations. People have made breeds from smaller differences than this before – white GSDs, coloured terriers, coated retrievers, and such. A dog of either type would be completely snubbed by KCs on the other continent and called a mongrel. So in practice, perhaps they already are diverged breeds.
I suppose the question is what do you outcross them to? And I suppose the answer is anything you like that people will buy. The shar-pei staffie cross seems to be a particular favourite in London, though I’ve seen everything from the horrific bassett to munsterlander, chinese crested, staffie x akita x shar-pei litters, bulldog to chow chow crossed with shar-pei for sale here in the UK. Someone locally used to breed rottie x shar-pei puppies, but that turned into a bit of an unmitigated disaster, particularly for the dogs. Combination of idiot breeder selling to idiot owners – ho hum.
We have had the odd Chinese import in the UK, but they have been few and far between as it’s an expensive and time consuming thing to find a good dog to bring in from that side of the world. Not to say that there aren’t many people interested in them as some of the MSPC members in particular have forged friendships and visited breeders of traditional shar-pei in China.