The Different Types of Shar Peis

Well-known for their wrinkled skin and loyal temperament, shar peis make wonderful pets. Three different types of shar pei exist, categorized according to their coats: horse coat, brush coat and bear coat. Before taking one home, decide which type best suits you.

About Shar Peis

Originating from China, shar pei puppies are covered in wrinkled skin, although they smooth out significantly as they grow older. Although they closely bond with their families, they're generally good with strangers as long as they're properly socialized from a young age. Known to be intelligent, active and playful, they can also be stubborn or dominant, so they need a firm, but gentle human leader and plenty of positive-reinforcement training, so they don't take on the role of top dog.

Horse Coat

Horse coat shar peis have the shortest and roughest hair or all three types. They also change the most significantly in appearance from puppy to adult. While, as puppies, they're little balls of wrinkled skin, as adults they have mostly smooth skin and a lean, athletic build. As they don't develop an undercoat in the winter, they shed less than other types, but may be less adept in cold weather. They tend to be the most active and intense of the three varieties.

Brush Coat

Shar peis of the brush coat variety have slightly longer and softer hair than their horse coat counterparts. They stay somewhat more wrinkled as adults, which makes them the most popular variety. They're heavier and stockier than horse coat shar peis -- and have larger heads and muzzles -- so you need to be sure you can handle one. Despite their heft, they're generally laid-back around the house, and are content to snuggle up on the couch.

Bear Coat

By far the most rare variety of shar pei, bear coat types are the product of a recessive gene, which both parents must carry. It's thought to be a throwback to their chow chow ancestors. This type is much like the brush coat in build and temperament, but has a long, soft coat, exceeding an inch. Although undoubtedly cute, this kind of coat is considered a fault by the American Kennel Club, so avoid a bear coat shar pei if you want to compete in the show ring.