Shar-Peis and Rare Colors

by Jo Chester
    Figurines similar to the distinctive Chinese shar-pei dog date back to the Han dynasty, around 200 B.C.

    Figurines similar to the distinctive Chinese shar-pei dog date back to the Han dynasty, around 200 B.C.

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    As with any other breed of dog, Chinese shar-peis have many coat colors. Some of these colors are more common than others. Some of these colors may even be considered rare. While rare colors might not be seen very often they do not increase the value of the dogs that wear them. In fact, many responsible breeders do not try to produce those colors at all.

    Chinese Shar-Pei Coats and Colors

    Two major United States canine registries exist for purebred dogs: the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the United Kennel Club (UKC). These registries have standards of perfection that accept limited coats and colors for the Chinese shar-pei. Currently both registries accept the “horse coat” and the “brush coat” lengths in all solid colors and sable. A horse coat is a shar-pei coat of very short hair, well under one inch in length. A brush coat is a shar-pei coat of up to one inch in length at the shoulders. The AKC website lists sable and dilute variations of black, cream, fawn, red, blue and brown as eligible colors for registration, as well as apricot dilute and white. While dogs with some white or colored markings can be registered, these dogs are disqualified from competing in the show ring.

    Breeding for Color

    Ethical breeders only allow their dogs to reproduce for the betterment of the breed. According to the UKC's code of ethics, betterment of the breed includes using breeding stock that does not include serious or disqualifying defects. Breeders are also expected to be honest in their advertising, representing their dog in an accurate manner. Because breeding solely for color does not improve the breed in any meaningful way, such breeding is not considered ethical behavior.

    Uncommon Chinese Shar-Pei Colors and Coats

    The standard shar-pei colors, such as solid red, fawn, cream and black, are also the more common colors seen in the shar-pei. Uncommon colors include dogs with patches of color on a white field, called “flowered” dogs, and dogs with lighter or darker markings on their feet, legs and faces, called “pointed” dogs. Dogs with dark markings on their faces, called “masked” dogs and with a dark patch of a second color over their backs, called “saddle-patterned dogs” are also uncommon compared to solid-colored dogs. Dogs with coats similar to Chow Chows, over one inch in length, are also uncommon and undesirable. Dogs with these “bear coats” may be seen in conjunction with any of these colors or markings.

    The Myth of the Rare Color

    Although these colors are uncommon, they do not increase a dog's value over other Chinese shar-pei dogs. People who promote “rare” shar-peis do so to make more money for themselves, when in fact such dogs have no more value than other shar-peis. To many breed aficionados, the rare colors so valued by these breeders and by the general public are actually of less value than their solid-colored stock, as they cannot be shown and are likely to reproduce their disqualifying markings. Ethical shar-pei breeders will sell such puppies with a spay/neuter agreement for no more than what they would charge for any other pet quality puppy.

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    About the Author

    Jo Chester holds a certificate in pet dog training from Triple Crown Academy for Dog Trainers. She has trained dogs for competition in conformation, Rally and traditional obedience and agility. Chester has two goats, chickens, rabbits, a collie and a pet rat, in addition to several much-loved Toy Fox Terriers.

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