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Friday, January 22, 2016

Japanese Dog: The Shiba Inu

Let's take a look at the Japanese breed the Shiba Inu (柴犬, aka Shiba Dog), which is known as the smallest of the six original and distinct spitz breeds of dog in the country.

The six spitz breeds are: the Akita Inu, Hokkaido Inu, Shikoku, Kai Ken, Kishu Ken, and the Shiba Inu.

There is also a Japanese Spitz bred, but this breed has nothing to do with the Shiba Inu, but it is a mix of the varies spitz and other dogs.

The Shiba Inu, a reddish-hued dog, was originally bred to hunt and flush small game, such as birds and rabbits - so it was a game dog.

Yeah, 'inu' means dog, but it is guesswork as to where 'shiba' comes from.

'Shiba' = brushwood, a Japanese tree or shrub that has its leaves turn red in Autumn. So… since the dog's coat is similar in hue, that makes sense.

But, in an old Nagano-ken dialect, 'shiba' means 'small' (like the more common Japanese tern 'chibi'. It's close, which is why it's a dialect.

So… small dog… small definition.

It's also why the dog is sometimes references as "Little Brushwood Dog". Whatever. It's a Shiba. You don't even need to say Shiba Inu. We know it's a dog.

Want to hear an interesting story? You'll love this one…

The breed was nearly snuffed out during WWII, thanks to it being nearly eaten into extinction… plus there was a post-war distemper epidemic.

During the war, people were starving. See HERE for a story about how a Japanese bird DID go extinct.

Anyhow… at the end of it all, there were just three existent Shiba Inu blood lines left: the Shinshu Shiba from Nagano-ken; the Mino Shiba from Gifu-ken; and the San'in Shiba from Tottori-ken and Shimane-ken.

All three of these bloodlines carry distinct looks to them, but if you are looking for information on breeding, why the hell are you getting your information here?

Black and Tan Shiba Inu with urajiro (see below).

The Shiba Inu is a small, quick dog that looks like an Akita or a Hokkaido dog, but it is different.

The Shiba is smaller, has a better temperament, and is one of the few ancient breed of dog still in existence.

Male: 10-kg (22-lb)
Female: 8-kg (18-lb)

Male: 35 to 43-cm (14 to 17-in)
Female: 33 to 41-cm (13 to 16-in)


Red, sesame, black and tan, or white

Litter size
3 puppies on average

Life span
12–15 years

There are two coats of hair on the Shiba: the outer is stiff and straight; the undercoat soft and thick.

Fur is short and even on the fox-like face, ears, and legs. Guard hairs stand off the body are about 4 to 5-cm (1-1/2 to 2-in) long at the withers. Tail hair is slightly longer and stands open in a brush.

White Shiba Inu... doesn't look like a bad color to me, at all.
Coloring… well, as you saw above, it can be red (see topmost photo), black and tan, or sesame (red with black-tipped hairs), with a cream, buff, or a grey undercoat. They may also be white (cream), though this color is considered a "major fault" by the American Kennel Club and should never be intentionally bred in a show dog, as the required markings known as "urajiro" (裏白?) are not visible; "Urajiro" literally translates to "underside white".

Sesame Shiba Inu
But… if you are showing your Shiba Inu as part of the British Kennel Club, having a dog with urajiro is perfectly acceptable.

According to the BKC, the urajiro is required in the following areas on all coat colors: on the sides of the muzzle, on the cheeks, inside the ears, on the underjaw and upper throat inside of legs, on the abdomen, around the vent and the ventral side of the tail. On reds: commonly on the throat, forechest, and chest. On blacks and sesames: commonly as a triangular mark on both sides of the forechest.

Whatever… the real point is that this dog, with its vast array of colors just short of a 12-pack of Crayola wax crayons, doesn't always resemble a red shiba brushwood plant… so maybe it is simply named after its small stature.

The important stuff… is it a good dog?

I think any dog temperament is greatly influenced by its owner. Certainly some dogs are a$$holes, even within their own breed. Blame in-breeding or doggie chemical imbalances…

In the case of the Shiba Inu, it's said that the dog is independent in nature… which doesn't mean he'll pick up his own poop and carry it in a baggy in his mouth for you, but rather that he doesn't need to hang around with you all the time.

It is not the best dog (I don't believe any of these spitz type dogs are) when small children or other small dogs are about.

But, like any critter, early socialization and training can make things easier when kids and other small dogs are about. It doesn't mind cats, either.

This dog is a licker… no not of you, but of itself. It likes to be clean. Since it doesn't want to be caught in its own pee-pee, the breed is easy to house-break… but then you'll have to hear its incessant slurping at all hours of the day.

There is something called a 'shiba scream'.

Yup… when you tick it off, or provoke it.. the dog lets go a shiba scream.

No biggie, you promise to always treat it well, but sometimes, even during periods of great joy, out comes the Shiba scream.

Holy crap! That was the real reason the breed nearly went extinct! Oh well, at least his Master is well trained.

The oldest known Shiba Inu was a dog named Pusuke, who died at the age of 26 in December 2011, and was, until then, the oldest dog in the world.

And... now you know about the Shiba Inu dog.

Andrew Joseph
Tomorrow... something for Pat G.


  1. And knowing is half the battle. GIJOOOOOIOOOE!!!!!

  2. Your post is very helpful, thank you. In 1936, the Shiba Inu dog breed was declared a monument of Japan thanks to its consummate role in the culture of this nation. Shiba Inu is the smallest dog out of Japan’s 6 national dog breeds, namely Akita, which is a large dog, Kishu, Hokkaido, Shikoku and Kai, which are medium-sized dogs. It is the oldest Japanese dog type characterized by primitive nature and imposing physique despite its size. See more