All About the Bear Coat Shar-Pei

If you’ve ever seen a Chinese Shar-Pei, then you know exactly how unique these dogs look. With their wrinkly skin, stout legs, and tails curling over their backs, there’s no breed quite like this one.

This is one of the oldest breeds in existence, dating back more than 2,000 years.

If you find yourself with a Chinese Shar-Pei, then you’ll be the proud owner of an extremely loyal, calm, and regal dog. Many other traits make the Shar-Pei so unique.

This breed becomes very attached to its owners, but might be rather wary of strangers. Their dark-colored tongues make them stand out, as do their small, piercing eyes.

If you’re thinking about adopting a Chinese Shar-Pei, then one of the important things is learning more about their coat type as well as how to care for it.

The Shar-Pei has a few different coat types available, including the rare bear coat, a type not recognized by the AKC. This coat is often referred to as the teddy bear coat.

The Shar-Pei’s History in Brief

Teddy Bear Shar-Pei

The Chinese Shar-Pei’s history dates all the way back to the Han Dynasty, which was the second imperial dynasty in China. This dynasty lasted between the years 202 BC to 220 AD.

Peasants during this time required a dog that was super versatile and able to perform a variety of tasks. As a result, the Shar-Pei was developed to be able to herd just as effectively as it was bred to be able to hunt and guard livestock.

There were several points in history where the breed appeared to be lost completely. After 1949, when the Communist regime in China began, it was frowned upon to own dogs. As a result, Shar-Peis began to be slaughtered, and the breed almost died out.

However, after Matgo Law, a Shar-Pei breeder in Hong Kong appealed to the USA in 1973, the breed’s place in the United States was solidified.

Coat Types

The Shar-Pei has three coat variations. The first is the horse coat. This type is short and coarse and may feel slightly rough to the touch.

The second coat type is the brush coat. Dogs with this coat type have slightly longer and softer fur. This longer fur can make the dog appear even more wrinkled than those with the horse coat.

Both of these coat types are recognized by the AKC. However, there is a third rare coat type available for the Shar-Pei. This is the bear coat, and it is not recognized by the AKC.

Shar-Pei dogs with the bear coat have longer and even softer fur than dogs with the brush coat type. This coat gives them a fuzzy, bear-like appearance, thus earning dogs with this coat the name Teddy Bear Shar-Peis.

The Bear Coat Type

Teddy Bear Shar-Pei's Bear Coat Type

The reason why some Shar-Peis have this rare coat type is because of genetics. The bear coat type appears in certain Shar-Peis because of recessive genes.

When both dog parents have the recessive gene that results in the bear coat, then the puppies have a 1 in 4 chance of being born with this rare coat type.

However, both parents must have the recessive gene for there to be a chance for the puppies to be born with the bear coat type.

The Science Behind the Genes

Bear Coat Shar-Pei The Science Behind the Genes

There are genes that determine things like eye and coat color as well as coat length and texture. Dogs, as well as all mammals, carry two versions of every gene, called alleles, one from the mother and the other from the father. They can be dominant or recessive.

Dominant alleles will show their effects even if there’s only one copy of it in the pair. Recessive alleles, however, only show their effects if both alleles of the gene are recessive.

Because the allele that causes Shar-Peis to have the bear coat is recessive, both parents need to have at least one copy of it to produce a bear coat puppy.

Where Does the Gene Come From?

The gene that results in the bear coat doesn’t just come from nowhere.

During the mid-20th century, when the Communist regime in China was trying to eliminate these dogs, Shar-Pei lovers worked to keep the breed alive to the best of their abilities.

To do this, they bred the remaining Shar-Peis with other breeds. This included the Chow Chow, which is another breed that dates back to around the same time as the Chinese Shar-Pei.

These dogs are unique in their own ways. They have stocky, muscular bodies, much like the Shar-Pei. Unlike AKC-recognized versions of the Shar-Pei, however, Chow Chows have long, fluffy fur.

This interbreeding resulted in the recessive bear coat gene being carried on through the generations. While dogs with this coat type are not able to compete in shows, many owners and Shar-Pei enthusiasts appreciate the appearance of this coat type.


Because the Bear Coat Shar-Pei has a longer, thicker coat type, they require more maintenance than horse coated or brush coated Shar-Peis.

You may need to brush your Bear Coat Shar-Pei more frequently to keep the coat healthy and in good shape. Two to three times a week should be enough. During shedding season, you might need to brush more frequently.

Otherwise, grooming is essentially the same as Shar-Peis with the brush coat or the horse coat. Be mindful to clean your dog’s wrinkles to prevent skin issues and infections. Bathing your dog monthly with a gentle shampoo will also help keep your dog’s skin and fur healthy.

How to Find a Bear Coat Shar-Pei

This is a very rare dog, and it may be difficult to find Shar-Peis with this coat type. However, as this type gains more recognition and traction, it may become easier to find breeders dedicated to this coat type.

If you’re searching for a Teddy Bear Shar-Pei, the important thing is to go through a reputable breeder. This will ensure you’re getting a healthy puppy.