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Shiba Inu

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Shiba Inu
A three year old Red Shiba Inu
Other names
  • Japanese Shiba Inu
  • Japanese Small Size Dog
  • Japanese Brushwood Dog
  • Shiba Ken
  • Shibe
Height Males 35 to 43 cm (14 to 17 in)
Females 33 to 41 cm (13 to 16 in)
Weight Males 10 kg (22 lb)
Females 8 kg (18 lb)
Coat double
Color Red, black and tan, cream, sesame, black sesame, red sesame.
Litter size 3 puppies on average
Life span 15 years
Kennel club standards
Japan Kennel Club standard
American Kennel Club standard
Dog (domestic dog)
Shiba Inu
"Shiba Inu" in kanji
Japanese name
Hiraganaしば いぬ

The Shiba Inu (柴犬, Shiba Inu, Japanese: [ɕiba inɯ]) is a breed of hunting dog from Japan. A small-to-medium breed, it is the smallest of the six original dog breeds native to Japan.[1] Its name literally translates to "brushwood dog", as it is used to flush game.

A small, alert, and agile dog that copes very well with mountainous terrain and hiking trails, the Shiba Inu was originally bred for hunting.[1][2] It looks similar to other Japanese dog breeds such as the Akita Inu or Hokkaido, but the Shiba Inu is a different breed with a distinct bloodline, temperament, and smaller size than other Japanese dog breeds.[3][4]


The Shiba's body frame is compact with well-developed muscles.[5]

The Shiba Inu is double coated, with the outer coat being stiff and straight and the undercoat soft and thick. Fur is short and even on the foxlike face, ears, and legs. Guard hairs stand off the body and are about 4 to 5 cm (1+12 to 2 in) long at the withers. The purpose of the guard hairs is to protect their underlying skin and to repel rain or snow. The tail hair is slightly longer and stands open in a brush.[6] Their tails are a defining characteristic and make them stand apart from other dog breeds.

The cream color is considered a "major fault" by both the Japan Kennel Club and American Kennel Club.[6] It 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".[2] Conversely, a white (cream) coat is perfectly acceptable according to the British Kennel Club breed standard.[7]

The urajiro (cream to white ventral color) 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, fore chest, and chest. On blacks and sesames: commonly as a triangular mark on both sides of the fore chest.[8]


A Shiba Inu puppy

The Shiba Inu is considered an alert, affectionate, and independent breed with high intelligence but also somewhat stubborn and strong-willed.[9]

The terms "spirited boldness" (悍威, kan'i), "good nature" (良性, ryōsei), and "artlessness" (素朴, soboku) have subtle interpretations that have been the subject of much commentary.[10]

A survey of experts classified the Shiba Inu as having 'high aggression, high reactivity and medium trainability'.[11] A possible explanation for this and other observed behaviour is that the Shiba Inu is more closely related to the wolf than domesticated dogs from other countries.[12] Due to the high intelligence of the breed it requires a lot of exercise and stimulation. Insufficient exercise can lead to anxiety which leads to undesirable behaviours, notably the 'shiba scream'.[9][13]

A survey in Japan found the Shiba Inu to be more likely to engage in destructive behaviour, refusal to walk whilst on a lead, engage in mounting behaviour, and tail chasing. The Shiba Inu was also found to be less likely to bark at noises whilst inside the house.[14]


A fragment of a Jōmon period dogū with pointed ears, unearthed in Aomori Prefecture.

The Shiba Inu has been identified as a basal breed that predates the emergence of the modern breeds in the 19th century.[15] Dogs with a similar appearance to the Shiba Inu were represented in dogū made during the prehistoric Jōmon period of Japanese history.[16]

The Shiba Inu was bred to hunt and flush small game, such as birds and rabbits. Shiba lived in the mountainous areas of the Chūbu region. During the Meiji Restoration, western dog breeds were imported and crosses between these and native Japanese breeds became popular. From 1912 to 1926, almost no pure Shiba remained. From around 1928, hunters and intellectuals began to show interest in the protection of the remaining pure Shiba.[17]

Despite efforts to preserve the breed, the Shiba nearly became extinct during World War II[5] due to a combination of food shortage and a post-war distemper epidemic.[1] All subsequent dogs were bred from the only three surviving bloodlines.[18] These bloodlines were the Shinshu Shiba from Nagano Prefecture, the Mino Shiba from the former Mino Province in the south of present-day Gifu Prefecture, and the San'in Shiba from Tottori and Shimane Prefectures.[19]

The Shinshu Shibas possessed a solid undercoat, with a dense layer of guard-hairs, and were small and red in color. The Mino Shibas tended to have thick, prick ears, and possessed a sickle tail, rather than the common curled tail found on most modern Shibas. The San'in Shibas were larger than most modern shibas, and tended to be black, without the common tan and white accents found on modern black-and-tan shibas.[19]

When the study of Japanese dogs was formalized in the early and mid-20th century, these three strains were combined into one overall breed, the Shiba Inu.[19] The first Japanese breed standard for the Shiba, the Nippo Standard, was published in 1934. In December 1936, the Shiba Inu was recognized as a Natural Monument of Japan through the Cultural Properties Act, largely due to the efforts of Nippo (Nihon Ken Hozonkai), the Association for the Preservation of the Japanese Dog.[19][20]

In 1954, an armed service family brought the first Shiba Inu to the United States.[18] In 1979, the first recorded litter was born in the United States.[18] The Shiba was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1992 and added to the AKC Non-Sporting Group in 1993.[1][21] It is now primarily kept as a pet both in Japan and abroad.[22] According to the American Kennel Club, the Shiba Inu is the number one companion dog in Japan. In the United States the breed ranked 44th place in registrations for 2016 with the American Kennel Club.[23]


A Shiba Inu photographed in Italy in 2008.

A study in Japan on patella luxation in small breeds found the Shiba Inu to have the second highest rate of the condition, with 35% of the Shiba Inus surveyed being affected.[24] Three genes belonging to the breed were associated with glaucoma were found in an analysis of DNA sequencing.[25] Another study from Japan reviewing cases of dogs presented for ophthalmologic examination found the Shiba Inu to make up 33% of all glaucoma cases whilst only making up 2.7% of the total population used in the study.[26] Pyometra, a uterine infection of intact bitches, is slightly more common in the Shiba Inu.[27][28] The Shiba Inu is predisposed to canine atopic dermatitis.[29][30][31] An auto-immune disease common in Akitas Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada-like syndrome is known to occur in the Shiba Inu.[32]

Life span[edit]

A review of cemetery data in Japan found that the Shiba Inu had a life expectancy of 15 and a half years, greater than any other breed.[33] A 2024 UK study found a life expectancy of 14.6 years for the breed compared to an average of 12.7 for purebreeds and 12 for crossbreeds.[34]

Sanin Shiba Inu[edit]

The Sanin Shiba Inu is a variety of Shiba Inu.[35]

The Sanin Shiba Inu comes from the Inaba Inu of Tottori Prefecture and the Sekishu Inu of Shimane Prefecture, both endangered due to the increase of western dogs. In the early Showa period, Masumi Ozaki, a former landowner in Tottori prefecture, started preservation breeding to prevent the loss of local breeds.[36]

However, as WW2 grew more intense, the breeding projects became difficult to maintain. Due to the use of dogs for fur by the military, the number of dogs decreased from 50 to 20. In 1947, the two breeds were bred together to create the foundation stock of the Sanin Shiba Inu. The numbers were still low but the dogs were protected by the Ozaki family, who carried on the preservation activities.[37]

Despite the end of the war, more threats to the breeds emerged in the 1950s and 60s, two outbreaks of distemper occurred in Tottori prefecture, killing many dogs. In addition the ‘Great Tottori Fire’ discouraged preservation efforts even more.[38]

In popular culture[edit]

Peanut Butter, a 3-year old Shiba Inu, showcases his custom video game controller in 2023. He is the world's first speedrunning dog.

Despite not being a popular dog breed outside of Japan, the Shiba Inu has become popular on the Internet. Doge is an Internet meme from 2013 including Kabosu, a Shiba Inu and broken English. A popular cryptocurrency, Dogecoin, is named after this meme and its logo bears an image of Kabosu. Another cryptocurrency is also named Shiba Inu after the breed. Another Shiba Inu dog that went viral was a dog known as 'Cheems'. He went viral during the COVID-19 pandemic and gained worldwide attention. Cheems died during cancer surgery on August 18, 2023 at the age of 12½ years.[39]

The breed is often referred to as Shibe in memes. According to Jamie Cohen, an assistant professor of media studies at Queens College of the City University of New York, the Shiba Inu breed has had a significant presence in online culture since at least 2010.[40]

See also[edit]


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