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Chinese Shar-Pei Colors: All 21 Coat Colors Explained With Pictures

Three Shar Pei puppies with different coat colors

Shar-Peis are one of those breeds whose appearance is a bit odd. They are abundant in wrinkles or folds, and they have a broad hippopotamus muzzle which creates a serene but powerful appearance. Apart from these unique traits, they also come in an interesting array of colors.

As per the American Kennel Club, Shar-Peis have 18 standard colors which include apricot dilute, black, black sable, blue, blue dilute, brown, chocolate, cream, cream dilute, cream sable, fawn, fawn sable, five-point red dilute, isabella dilute, lilac dilute, red, red fawn, and red sable. On the other hand, their non-standard shades are blue sable, brown sable, and white.

I know you are interested to learn more about these colors; that’s why you landed on this page. Don’t worry. I got you covered. Just keep on reading this guide to discover more about this unique breed.

Does Canine Color Really Matter?

While most breeders would tell you that canine color doesn’t matter, there is already much scientific evidence that would disapprove of such.

For instance, according to the University of Sydney study, recessive color genes cause health problems in certain dog varieties. This is mostly observed in chocolate-colored dogs who have a lower life expectancy than their other colored cousins.

The prevalence of otitis externa or ear inflammation and pyo-traumatic dermatitis or hot-spot among this certain color are two to four times higher than other shades. This is almost similar to the case of white and merle dogs who are predisposed to deafness and underdeveloped olfaction ability.

I am mentioning all of these not to discourage you from buying these colors, but simply to remind you to proceed with caution. Dog owning isn’t an easy responsibility, more so if you aren’t wise enough to purchase a puppy without any health issues.

You have to be informed about how colors relate to your dog’s overall health and apply this knowledge once you are choosing your pet companion.

What Are the Standard Colors of Shar-Peis According to Different Kennel Clubs?

The best reference to identify if your Shar-Pei is of the standard color is by consulting the breed standards published by various kennel clubs such as AKC, CKC, UKC, and FCI. Usually, they dedicate a section describing the type of coat and the breed’s different colors in full detail.

Here are some extraction from the updated Shar-Pei standards:

Kennel ClubAcceptable Coat Colors
American Kennel Club (AKC)Recognized colors are apricot dilute, black, black sable, blue, blue dilute, brown, chocolate, cream, cream dilute, cream sable, fawn, fawn sable, five-point red dilute, isabella dilute, lilac dilute, red, red fawn, and red sable. Meanwhile, blue sable, brown sable, and white are considered non-standard.
Canadian Kennel Club (CKC)Solid and sable are acceptable.
United Kennel Club (UKC)Any solid color or sable. Solid-colored pups may have darker shading on their ears and down their back.
Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI)All solid colors except white. Darker shading on the ears and back is permissible. Tail and rear tights are usually lighter.

Watch this breed judging video to see how they look like in action:

Chinese SharPei | Breed Judging 2020

Chinese Shar-Pei Standard Coat Color Description and Pictures

Shar-Pei colors that are tagged as standard are the ones that are allowed to join dog shows because they conform to the exact description of the breed.

So far, there are 18 standard coat colors that are known to exist. They are the following:

Apricot Dilute Shar-Pei

An apricot dilute Shar-Pei has a light orange or yellow coat similar to how the ripe apricot’s inside looks. However, this variety is also described as dilute because instead of having some black (dark) pigmentation on their nose, nails, and fur, they are self-colored or have pinkish points.

Black Shar-Pei

Black Shar-Peis have a solid dark coat. They rarely have white patches on their skin which is typical for other breeds. Their hippo-like traits are highlighted because of this coloration, making them appear like a weird cross between a dog and an aquatic mammal.

Black Sable Shar-Pei

Black Sable Shar-Pei
Photo from @sharpeibowie (IG)

A black sable Shar-Pei has a lighter color base and a black-tipped coat. As seen in the photo above, they appear darker than other sable variations because of the number of tippings their coat possesses.

Blue Shar-Pei

Blue Shar-Pei
Photo from @griffin.blu (IG)

Blue Shar-Peis aren’t actually blue but charcoal gray in color. They have dark pigmentations on their nose, nails, and some parts of the body which distinguishes them from the blue dilute variety.

Blue Dilute Shar-Pei

A blue dilute Shar-Pei also boasts a stunning charcoal gray coat. However, instead of having black or dark pigmentations on their body, they are self-colored. Their nose and nails noticeably exhibit a similar shade as their coat, or they may have a pinkish tint due to a dilution gene.

Brown Shar-Pei

Brown Shar-Peis got their color from a recessive gene that changes the default black color of the eumelanin. They aren’t as dark as the chocolate or liver Shar-Pei, but they look equally regal. Their nose, nails, and some other body parts have some black pigmentation.

Chocolate Dilute Shar-Pei

A chocolate dilute Shar-Pei very much resembles a teddy bear. Because of specific genes that control pigment production on their coat, they are darker and richer in color compared to brown Shar-Peis. They are also self-colored, so you won’t notice any dark marks or spots on their body.

RELATED: The Bear Coat Shar-Pei: What Makes This Breed Extra-Special?

Cream Shar-Pei

Cream Shar-Pei
Photo from @rofeepei (IG)

Cream Shar-Peis have a medium yellow coat that is lowly saturated. They only have a bit of color more than white Shar-Peis that’s why they are often mistaken as the same. A true cream Shar-Pei exhibits black pigments on their body, so they aren’t fully cream.

Cream Dilute Shar-Pei

A cream dilute Shar-Pei also has a light, medium yellow coat, but they do not have any dark pigments on their body. Their nose and nails are often pinkish in color.

Fawn Shar-Pei

Fawn Shar-Peis are quite the stunner with their red-yellow hue, which is of medium brilliance. Their nose and nails are heavily tinted with a black tone as well as their eye rims.

Five Point Red Dilute Shar-Pei

Five-point red Shar-Peis are believed to be lucky pets by the Chinese because they are thought to bring prosperity and growth.

They are called five-point red because their nose, tongue, paws, anus, and the area around their eyes are reddish in color. Meanwhile, their base coat is a deep red fawn.

Isabella Dilute Shar-Pei

Isabella Dilute Shar-Pei
Photo from @nyx_n_jersey (IG)

Although the AKC uses the term isabella to describe the color of this dog, this is nothing but a dilute fawn Shar-Pei. They don’t have any dark points in their body, and their nose and nails are often pinkish or self-colored.

Lilac Dilute Shar-Pei

A lilac dilute Shar-Pei has a dusted coat which causes a tint of purple in its appearance. This coloration is actually twice diluted. First, by the chocolate gene, and then by the blue gene. Since they are dilute, expect that their nose, nails, and the area around their eyes are self-colored or pinkish.

Red Shar-Pei

Solid red is one of the most common colors of Shar-Peis. The concentration of the red coloration in a dog’s coat varies depending on their genes, but usually, they exhibit the same color as the picture above.

They have noticeable dark marks all over their face; that’s why they appear even more stoic. This is not only limited to their face, but to their nails and footpads as well.

Red Fawn Shar-Pei

Red Fawn Shar-Pei
Photo from @sharpeiyuki_ (IG)

Red fawn Shar-Peis are precisely what their name implies. They aren’t exactly red, but they aren’t solid fawn either. Their color is somehow in between the two; that’s why they are called as such. As shown in the picture, they may have dark pigmentations on their body.

Cream Sable Shar-Pei

Cream sable Shar-Peis have a medium yellow base coat with black tippings. They aren’t as common as the solid cream or cream dilute varieties, but they are still worth considering if you want to own this dog.

Fawn Sable Shar-Pei

Fawn sable Shar-Peis have a red-yellow base coat and black tippings, making them look darker than the usual fawn pups. They also display some black pigmentations on their body which are most noticeable on their nose and nails.

Red Sable Shar-Pei

Red sable Shar-Peis are what you expect them to be. Their base is red, but they are black-tipped. They also have some black areas on their body; that’s why if the number of their black tips isn’t that many, they look pretty similar to solid red Shar-Peis.

What Are the Non-Standard Shar-Pei Colors?

The Shar-Pei colors listed below are labeled as non-standard and are not allowed to join conformation shows because their coat isn’t exactly expected from the breed. Nevertheless, they can still enter other contests that involve skills.

White Shar-Pei

White Shar-Peis do exist, and they aren’t similar to albinos who lack pigmentation. They aren’t pure white but somehow cream in color.

Blue Sable Shar-Pei

Blue sable Shar-Peis have charcoal gray hairs, but their tips are black. You can quickly identify them from other blues because they are relatively darker due to their tipping.

Brown Sable Shar-Pei

Brown sable Shar-Peis are generally brown in color, but their hair tips are black. Note that their coat color is different from liver or chocolate because theirs are much lighter even if they are black-tipped.

What Is a Dilute Shar-Pei?

You have heard the word dilute countless times in this guide, so I know you pretty much have an idea about what it means. However, I’m still going to explain it one more time just in case you’re a bit confused.

Dilute Shar-Peis don’t have any black tones on their coat, contrary to what is typical for the breed. Instead, the pigmentations found on their skin, nose, and nails are pinkish or self-colored.

By self-colored, I mean that these body parts conform to their base coat. For example, if their coat is blue/gray, their nose, nails, and all areas of their skin are gray as well.

The reason for this dilution is mainly some genes that alter the concentration of eumelanin and pheomelanin. I’ll dig more into this in the section on coat genetics.

What Are the Rarest and Most Common Colors of Shar-Peis?

Now you may be wondering about the rarest and most common colors for this dog because you are trying to gauge which best fits your budget. I completely understand; that’s why I made this list for you.

Most Common Shar-Pei Colors:

  • Fawn (light to dark)
  • Red Fawn
  • Fawn Sable
  • Red
  • Cream
  • Black

Rarest Shar-Pei Colors:

  • Blue Sable
  • Brown Sable
  • White
  • Five Point Red Dilute

READ NEXT: How Much Does a Shar-Pei Cost? (2023 Price Guide)

Shar-Pei Coat Genetics: Why Do They Have Many Different Colors?

Shar-Peis possess two essential pigments called eumelanin and pheomelanin. Certain genes modify the production of these pigments, which results in a variety of coat colors.

Eumelanin is black by default. But aside from its dark shade, other colors are created which are also considered standard for many breeds.

For instance, the Tyrosinase-Related Protein 1 or Brown Gene modifies eumelanin and turns it into brown or chocolate. Meanwhile, the Beta Defensin is found to produce solid black dogs.

Apart from eumelanin, the other pigment called pheomelanin also affects a dog’s coat color. This is red in default, but it also produces yellow, orange, gold, and other similar tones when altered by the dilution gene or MLPH.

This very same gene affects eumelanin production; that’s why we see Shar Peis with light-colored eyes, noses, and nails.

If you want to know the genetics behind your dog’s coat color, there are many canine genetics companies that you can ask to assist you. That is if you are willing to spend a good chunk of your money.

The Effect of Coat Color on Shar-Pei’s Health and Behavior

Shar Pei with cream color coat in winter

Similar to the other articles I have written before, I cannot provide you with any evidence that the shade of a dog’s coat is directly related to its behavior. Why? There is simply no concrete study to prove such.

What I can prove to you is that the color of your Shar-Pei is connected to its health. Many investigations were already conducted about this, and you’ll see that I’m not bluffing by doing a quick internet search.

Here are some of the health issues related to specific Shar-Pei colors:

  • Ear Inflammation (Otitis Externa): Ear inflammation is more prevalent among chocolate Shar-Peis. Some common signs of this condition are headshaking, swelling, scratching, odor, and skin redness.
  • Hot-Spot (Pyotraumatic Dermatitis): This is also observed to be afflicting most chocolate dogs. Usually, the hot spots are composed of inflamed lesions on the skin.
  • Color Dilution Alopecia: This condition is common among dilutes, especially blue colored. Symptoms of this health issue include flaky or itchy skin and hair thinning.
  • Black Hair Follicular Dysplasia: This is another hair issue that is seen in most dilutes. The typical targets are dogs with black hair, and the areas with black pigmentation often experience hair loss.

Do Shar-Pei Puppies Change Color When They Grow?

The skin and coat of your Shar-Pei will go through color transitions as they age. But this does not mean that they would magically turn red if they are solid black.

The changes in your Shar-Pei’s coat are subtle and mostly due to the pigment progression. Do not worry if your light brown pup turned into chocolate because that’s pretty normal as they mature.

Also, they may manifest some color change when exposed to too much sun. This is also not something you should worry about despite many claims that this has something to do with thyroid problems.

If you are really unsure if the changes that are happening to your dog’s coat are natural and not a symptom of any disease, have a trusted veterinarian check them. This will also ease your anxiety, and you won’t have to guess their condition.

RELATED: How Big Do Shar-Peis Get? Puppy Growth Chart and FAQ

Shar-Pei Eyes, Nose, and Tongue Colors

Aside from their coat, the eyes, nose, and tongue colors of Shar-Peis are also affected by some genetic variants. Here are the colors deemed acceptable by the four major kennel clubs.

Shar-Pei Eye Colors

Kennel ClubAcceptable Eye Colors
American Kennel Club (AKC)Dark colored is preferred, but dilute dogs may have lighter eyes.
Canadian Kennel Club (CKC)Dark brown is ideal, but dilute dogs can have lighter eyes.
United Kennel Club (UKC)Dark brown is ideal, but dilute dogs can have lighter eyes.
Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI)Dark colored is preferred, but dilute dogs may have lighter eyes.

Shar-Pei Nose Colors

Kennel ClubAcceptable Nose Colors
American Kennel Club (AKC)Black is preferred, but any color as long as it conforms to the dog’s general coat color is permissible. For dilutes, self-colored is ideal, while for creams, a light pigment in the center of the nose or the whole nose is expected.
Canadian Kennel Club (CKC)Black is preferred, but any color as long as it conforms to the dog’s general coat color is permissible. For dilutes, self-colored is ideal, while for creams, a light pigment in the center of the nose or the whole nose is expected.
United Kennel Club (UKC)Black for blacks, reds, and fawns; self-colored for dilute dogs, and lighter nose for cream.
Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI)Black is preferred, but any color as long as it conforms to the dog’s general coat color is permissible.

Shar-Pei Tongue Colors

Kennel ClubAcceptable Tongue Colors
American Kennel Club (AKC)Solid bluish-black is ideal but dilutes are expected to be solid lavender. Pink tongues are faulty.
Canadian Kennel Club (CKC)Solid bluish-black is standard, but dilute colors may have solid lavender. During hot weather, these colors may lighten, and this is typical of the breed.
United Kennel Club (UKC)Solid bluish-black is standard, but dilute colors may have solid lavender. During hot weather, these colors may lighten, and this is typical of the breed.
Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI)Solid bluish-black is ideal but dilutes are expected to be solid lavender. Pink tongues are faulty.

You have already seen the Shar-Pei eyes and nose colors through the pictures I included in the former sections. What I would like to share additionally are their tongue colors which are quite unique. Here they are:

Solid Bluish-Black Tongue

Shar-Pei with a solid bluish-black tongue

Solid Lavender Tongue

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Three Types of Shar-Pei Coat?

Shar-Peis have three coat varieties which are called horse, brush, and bear. The horse coat is the shortest among the three and is also the coarsest. The second is the brush coat which is slightly longer. And lastly, the rare bear coat which is long and soft.

RELATED: The Bear Coat Shar-Pei: What Makes This Breed Extra-Special?

Do Shar-Peis Shed a Lot?

Shar-Peis are moderate shedders. They don’t shed that much on a day-to-day basis but expect that they will blow their coat during spring or fall. If you own a horse-coated Shar-Pei, you are fortunate because they shed the most minimal among all the three varieties.

Are Shar-Peis Hypoallergenic?

Shar-Peis are not hypoallergenic since they somehow produce specific allergens just like other breeds. Nevertheless, they can still serve as companions for those who have less severe allergies since they do not shed that much.

Final Thoughts

Shar-Peis are really interesting to look at with their prominent wrinkles and a wide variety of colors. If you decide that this hippo-looking dog is for you, re-read this article before making any purchases.

Remember that a dog’s color is often associated with its health, and it’s best to adopt ones that are not prone to certain diseases.

If you are after joining conformation shows, opt for the 18 standard Shar-Pei colors that I reviewed above since they are the only ones allowed to enter. This way, you won’t have any problem registering them.

william lyle perlman

Tuesday 28th of February 2023

thanks for the information!


Wednesday 11th of January 2023

How do you like this color black and white spotted has been dna proven has ukc and ckc paperwork wish I could send a picture

Paul Nuttall

Tuesday 21st of June 2022

A great article on the Shar Pei breed. We lost our beloved Pei Bella last Thursday.

There is no dog like a Shar Pei! But if it is your first dog, please do loads and loads of research since they are prone to serious health issues that can be very expensive to treat. Insurance is expensive and everytime I tried to make a claim, there was always some sort of issue meaning that the insurance would not pay the full amount for vet treatment. Peis are a fantastic loyal loving dog but they probably aren't as good as a 1st-time dog. The health issues and costs can very quickly get out of control. I'm not saying don't get a Shar Pei but do research and more research before taking the plunge. If you do choose a Pei, you will have a great future together. ❤️

Julie Sergeant

Thursday 21st of April 2022

Thanks for the great article. Very informative.