Saturday, July 3, 2010

Coming to America

The United States is often called a "nation of immigrants" and it's one of the things it's most known for, too. While there have been those who came here out of a sense of adventure and because they believed they'd find limitless opportunity and some didn't come of their own free will, a whole lot of our forebears have come here to escape something. They came to escape religious persecution, famine, poverty, class stratification and political oppression. We Shar Pei are no different and we belong in the last group. Of course, all Chinese Shar Pei know our breed history and our brush with extinction but perhaps not everyone does. In any case, it seems fitting on the weekend when the USA celebrates its national birthday that I post about being a grateful Shar Pei-American.

This video make an excellent musical soundtrack for my post. You don't have to turn it on. Just saying that if you want to, it adds dramatic value.

 Give me  your tired, your paws
Your wrinkled masses yearning to breath free

While I was born here, my American roots only go back as far as the 1970's at the earliest. What happened was that up until the middle of the last century Shar Pei were not known outside of China.  We were, depending on who you believe, farm dogs, guard dogs, hunting dogs or fighting dogs. Probably we were all of those things over time and depending on our humans. We are one of the most ancient breeds and had plenty of time to get to everything on that list. Then in the 1960's the Cultural Revolution happened in China. That turned out badly for a lot of Chinese humans and all Chinese dogs. I guess at some point, someone wanting to score some points with Mao came up with the idea that they should wipe out all the dogs. Because things just weren't dismal enough. So they did. And because Shar Pei were only IN China, after being around since at least around 200 B.C.E. we were about to be no more. And we'd have just been history by not if not for our hero, Matgo Law.

 Matgo Law was a young, Hong Kong businessman and dog breeder. The long term future of Hong Kong itself was very much up in the air at the time, as it was leased to Great Britain and the lease would be up in 1997. Mr. Law didn't want to see the end of the Shar Pei, so sent out an appeal to dog breeders in the US and Canada, too, I believe, to help him save the Shar Pei. And some did. The breeding stock was small and not always the best, but we were for a time the rarest dog in the world and people were paying a fortune for one of us. In fact, the pool of surviving Shar Pei was so small that it's very likely that Hero, Bolo, Lois Lane, and the few other blogging Shar Pei we've found, and I are all fairly close relatives, even though we may live in different countries. Actually, Hero's in Maylasia, but his grandpawrents came from Calfornia, if memory serves.

Of course there've been problems along the way. The limited breeding stock produced terribly short life spans and some dogs with unfortunate temperaments, Familial Shar Pei Fever and allergies among other problems. Some breeders had the bright idea that if some wrinkles were cute tons of them would be even better so they bred us to have too many for our own good for a while. I've heard that there have been times when Mr. Law has regretted that he did what he did because of all the problems associated with our breed. I hope that's not how he really feels now, though. We're still improving. We're living longer and healthier and while there are no doubt Shar Pei out there with temperament issues there are many more as friendly and calm and lovely as we blogging  Pei are. And what immigrant group hasn't encountered huge challenges, I ask you? Most have. You just have to keep on going and overcome. I, for one, am grateful every day that I'm here to take care of my human family and I know that my family is at least as happy about it as I am.

Things have loosened up in China too, of course, and people can have dogs there again and even paint them if they so choose. It's still considered OK to eat dog in China, and although I read somewhere that there's an effort underway to make that illegal I think I'll wait to visit my ancestral home until that's settled law. Just in case.

I'll be finishing my July 4th celebration by playing Frankie's Name Game, wherin we tell the story of our names. I better get working on that one pretty soon, huh?


  1. What a great post Lola! Thanks for sharing the history of Shar Pei with us. You guys are one of my favorite dog breeds. A Pei mix, named River, owned me when I was in high school and she was a fantastic dog.

  2. Wow, Lola, I didn't know any of this and either did my mom! Thanks for the history lesson. It makes me want to explore my own heritage - something tells me it won't be quite so dramatic!

    Your (more informed) pal, Pip

  3. What a nice post Lola...Have a happee day
    Benny & Lily

  4. Lola,

    This was a very nice post, thank you for sharing it with us. Happy July 4th! I luvs you in your patriotic necklace!

    Woofs and Licks,
    Maggie Mae

  5. Lola,

    This was a fantastical post. My beloved Ginger was a Shar Pei, as you know, and I love to soak up anything about the breed! There were some new tidbits here we never knew! THANK YOU!

    Happy 4th!


  6. Lola what a wonderful informative post....
    we love learning things. You look very beautiful in your patriotic bandana too.

    Happy 4th to all the humans in your house, you and of course the kitties.

  7. Wow! That is really interesting about how your sharpie dogs came to the good old U.S. Yuh, it is so hard when there are not many of a type of doggie around to make sure that the puppies are healthy. But now I see sharpie dogs now and then right here in Master Chew Sits.


  8. HEy did ya'll be any chance invent them Sharpie markers?
    Dat was da most wonderful infomational post evers. I seriously had no idea that they were being killed off and they be so new to da States...WOW! I just hopes da breeding has been changed and stuffs.
    I am an immigrant myself...yep, I bes from Germany. No, not really. My ancestors were but then everbuddy knows dat...hehehe.

  9. We have kind of similar backgrounds except for the eating dogs part. We almost went extinct and because of it our breed had to overcome some health problems. We're celebrating this weekend because we are safe in our adopted country with a family that loves us.
    The Porties

  10. Yay!

    This is the best 4th of July ever!!!!

  11. What a cool and interesting history lesson! I didn't know that about Shar Peis. I am glad that Mr. Law was successful with his mission and that you're here with us today!


  12. Shar Pei's are certainly an American success story! English Bulldogs can agree that coming to the US did a lot of good for both breeds. Thanks for the American "Tail" on this 4th of July!

  13. wowsers, miss lola! i didn't know any of that stuff about shar peis, so thanks bunches 'n tons for your informational. i'm so so glad your breed didn't go extinct. thank you, mr. law!
    the booker man

  14. Thanks for creating the awareness for our breed, Lola... you definitely our ambassador to the world. We also share some genetic link to Chow Chow (the distinguish blue black tongue) and Tibetan mastiff (currently the most expensive dog in the world). Not many people are aware of a Shar Pei's interesting history. Apparently we have this worried/forlorn look becoz our ancestors were constantly worried they would be eaten... well there's some logic to the myth, I guess.

    Licks, hero

  15. Your are definitely the ambassador of Shar Pei breed !! thanks for sharing such amazing insights to Shar Pei history and we look forward to more stories from you..


  16. Unlike what most people think, I may be from china myself!!! We may be cousins! OMD imagine that...


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