Similar to how the dachshund's wiener-like shape once allowed them to track and hunt tough burrowing animals like badgers and even wolverines, the sharpei's unusual appearance is rooted in historical utility. Today, the dog looks quite goofy with its loose, saggy folds of skin, as though it stole its epidermis from a larger animal. However, these long flaps of bristly flesh once made it quite formidable.
A descendant of the Chow Chow breed, Sharpeis originated in China, and there is documentation of their existence dating back to 230 BC. They were excellent working dogs, used as shepherds, guards, and hunters. But they were especially prized by nobility as fighting dogs. The Sharpei's loose, bristly skin was an effective armor in dog fights, difficult for other dogs to grasp. The upper classes used the dogs in this sport up until the Communist Revolution, which displaced and diminished the population. Fortunately, a Hong Kong businessman named Matgo Law brought international attention to the breed, and they persist to this day.
In addition to their ridiculous appearance, Sharpeis also have a bad reputation as fighting dogs. However, this is not an inherent problem with the breed, but the result of mankind's abuse. Sharpei have rarely been used as fighting dogs since their numbers dwindled during the Communist Revolution, and their price makes them prohibitive for dog fighters. Without this traumatic upbringing, Sharpeis are as sweet, loyal, and exuberant as any other dog-- even if they look as though they've melted.
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A freelance writer/cartoonist living in LA, with my fiance' and our wonderful cat. You can see my work at www.rubysworldcomic.com and rubynation.smackjeeves.com