When you think of a Chinese Shar-Pei you may imagine their hippo-like muzzles and wrinkly faces. What you may not know is that inside those padded lips is a unique, breed-specific trait shared only with the Chow Chow: a blue-black tongue and blue-black mouth pigment.
Animal pigmentation has evolved because of several adaptive functions. In the case of pigmentation produced by melanin, which is responsible for the blue-black tongue, the main function is protection against UV radiation. However, pigmentation also affects the ability to absorb solar radiation and gain heat.
Interestingly, there are a few other animals with a blue-black tongue. In giraffes, the coloration is thought to protect their tongues from sunburn when using it to reach leaves high on trees. Polar bears have black skin and black tongues, which help them to stay warm by absorbing heat from the sun. Given the Shar-Pei’s short, harsh coat, the increased level of melanin and blue-black tongue may relate to heat retention and UV protection of the skin.
The stories of why the blue-black tongue was prized in China are varied and we have little hard evidence to back them up. One story is that the dark color was thought to ward off evil spirits, which would help in their role as guardians.
The original Chinese Breed Standard as translated from Mandarin by Joseph Chan in the late 1980s calls for an “iron pellet tongue” that is a bluish-black color like an iron pellet. The Chinese custom was to refer to the most well-known similar shape or form to describe each part of the dog. I also love the imagery from this old Chinese Breed Standard of a Grandma Face; just a little wrinkling like granny’s with a wide “mother frog” smile.
When evaluating mouth and tongue pigment in Chinese Shar-Pei, it is best to allow the handler to show you the mouth and tongue (as well as the bite). This provides the most comfortable situation for this aloof breed and will likely afford you with the best view.
Are you looking for a Chinese Shar-Pei puppy?
The best way to ensure a long and happy relationship with a purebred dog is to purchase one from a responsible breeder. Not sure where to begin finding a breeder? Contact the National Parent Club’s Breeder Referral person, which you can find on the AKC Breeder Referral Contacts page.
Want to help rescue and re-home a Chinese Shar-Pei dog?
Did you know nearly every recognized AKC purebred has a dedicated rescue group? Find your new best friend on the AKC Rescue Network Listing.
Chinese Shar-Pei Dog Breed Magazine
Read and learn more about the intelligent Chinese Shar-Pei dog breed with articles and information in our Chinese Shar-Pei Dog Breed Magazine.
Chinese Shar-Pei Breed Magazine - Showsight