The Shiba Inu is the smallest of the six original and distinct breeds of dog from Japan.
(Alternative names: Japanese Shiba Inu, Japanese Small Size Dog, Shiba Ken)
A small, agile dog that copes well with mountainous terrain, the Shiba Inu was originally bred for hunting. It is similar in appearance to the Akita, though much smaller in stature. The Shiba Inu nearly became extinct in the latter phase of World War II, with all subsequent dogs bred from only three surviving bloodlines known as the San’in, Mino, and Shinshu.
The name Shiba Inu is most commonly believed to be referring to its size, with shiba meaning “small” and inu simply meaning “dog”. The word shiba, however, can also refer to a type of red shrub. This leads some to believe that the Shiba was named with this in mind, either because the dogs were used to hunt in wild shrubs, or because the most common colour of the Shiba Inu is a red colour similar to that of the shrubs. Because of this Shiba Inu is sometimes translated as “Little Brushwood Dog”
Shiba Inu Appearance
Shibas range in height from 14.5 to 16.5 inches (37 to 42 cm) at the withers for males, and 13.5 to 15.5 inches (34 to 39 cm) for females, with males weighing approximately 23 lb (10 kg), and females approximately 17 lb (8 kg). They have double coats, with a straight outer coat and a soft, dense undercoat that is shed two or three times a year, producing a surprising amount of fur considering the size of the dog. Shedding normally occurs at the beginning or end of each season. Shibas may be red, black and tan, or red with black-tipped hairs, with a cream, buff, or grey undercoat. They may also be creamy white or pinto, though this color is not allowed in the show ring as the markings known as “urajiro” (literally “back white”) are unable to be seen.
Shiba Inu Temperament
Shibas are generally independent and intelligent dogs. They have a reputation for aloofness with strangers, and obedience training is often difficult as they can prove to be rather stubborn. Some Shibas have difficulty socializing with other dogs, displaying aggressive tendencies towards dogs of both sexes.
From the Japanese breed standard:
The dog has a spirited boldness and are fiercely proud with a good nature and a feeling of artlessness. The Shiba is able to move quickly with nimble, elastic steps.
The terms “spirited boldness”, “good nature”, and “artlessness” have subtle interpretations that have been the subject of much commentary.
The Shiba is a fastidious breed and feels the need to maintain themselves in a clean state. They can often be seen to lick their paws and legs much like a cat. They generally go out of their way to keep their coats clean and whilst walking will avoid stepping in puddles, mud and dirt. Because of their fastidious nature, the Shiba puppy is surprisingly easy to housebreak and in most cases will housebreak themselves. Having their owner simply place them outside after meal times and naps is generally enough to teach the Shiba the appropriate method of toiletting.
Shiba Inu History
Recent DNA analysis confirms that this is one of the oldest and most “primitive” dog breeds.
Shiba Inu Health
Health conditions known to affect this breed are cataracts, hip dysplasia, and luxating patella. Shibas are also prone to food allergies. Epilepsy is also becoming common in several bloodlines in Australia and the USA. Overall, however, they are of great genetic soundness and few shibas are diagnosed with genetic defects in comparison to other dog breeds.
Famous Shiba Inu
The Shiba Inu can be found in the “Labrador and Friends” edition of the Nintendogs pet simulation video game. This edition of the game was originally released as “Nintendogs: Shiba and Friends” in Japan, the Shiba being the more recognisable breed in that country. A Shiba Inu also appears in the video game Silent Hill 2 in one of the game’s multiple endings. In this “joke” ending, it is revealed that a Shiba Inu was manipulating events from behind the scenes, much to the surprise and anguish of the game’s protagonist.
The title character of the anime Inuyasha is suspected to be a shiba inu hanyo.
Black Hayate of the anime Fullmetal Alchemist is suspected to be a shiba inu.