Did you know that the Shiba Inu is considered the oldest and smallest of Japan’s dogs?. Brought to America from Japan as recently as 60 years ago, the Shiba Inu is growing in popularity in the West and is already the most popular breed in his homeland. This Japanese native, with his alert expression and a smooth stride, looks almost fox-like.
But for a small dog, he’s a sturdy, muscular pooch with a bold, confident personality to match. Let’s get to know him.
10. The Shiba Inu is the smallest of the six original and distinct Japanese dogs. The others are the Akita Inu, Shikoku Inu, Kishu Inu, Hokkaido, and Kai Ken. The Shiba goes way back.
According to National Geographic, the Shiba Inu is the breed that’s most genetically similar to wolves, suggesting that he’s among the oldest domesticated dog breeds. All of the ancient Japanese breeds were bred before the 19th century and are part of the Spitz family of dogs, exhibiting pointy ears and a thick coat.
9. He is perhaps one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. The Shiba’s ancestors probably accompanied the earliest immigrants to Japan way back in 7000 B.C.
Archaeologists have found remains of dogs about the size of Shibas in sites inhabited by the Jomon-jin people, who lived in Japan from 14,500 B.C. to 300 A.D. The Shiba Inu is likely the result of breeding between the Jomon-jin people’s dogs and dogs that came to Japan with a new group of immigrants in 300 B.C.
Shiba Inu is a Basal Breed
8. A basal breed, the Shiba Inu predates the emergence of the modern breeds in the 19th Century. Basal breed is a term given to breeds that have far less mixed DNA than more “modern” breeds whose true origins are difficult to ascertain for that reason.
Originally, the Shiba Inu hunted and flushed small game, such as birds and rabbits. Despite efforts to preserve the breed, the Shiba nearly became extinct during World War II due to a combination of food shortages and a post-war distemper epidemic. During World War II, Japan’s focus wasn’t exactly on dog breeding.
All subsequent dogs descended from the only three surviving bloodlines. These bloodlines were the Shinshu Shiba from Nagano Prefecture, the Mino Shiba from Gifu Prefecture, and the San’in Shiba from Tottori and Shimane Prefectures.
Today’s Shiba Inu is most similar to the Shinshu, but all three contributed to the modern breed.
7. In 1954, an armed service family brought the first Shiba Inu to the United States. However, little is known about the US’s breed until the late ’70s. In 1979, the first recorded litter was born in the United States. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1992 in the Miscellaneous group and later added it to the AKC Non-Sporting Group in 1993.
He primarily lives as a pet both in Japan and abroad. Today, he is the 46th most popular dog in America.
Because of his friendly nature and relatively long lifespan of 12 to 16 years, the Shiba is currently one of the most popular and most numerous companion dogs in the Land of the Rising Sun. He has even been declared a national treasure of the country in 1936. Many Shibas have become Instagram and YouTube sensations in Japan.
At just five years of age, Bodhi, the Shiba Inu, has achieved something that many aspiring models never will – he’s become a successful male fashion model. Bodhi lives in New York City with his owners Yena Kim (a former designer at Ralph Lauren) and David Fung. Now living the life of a high-flier, he has gained over 322,000 followers on Instagram. Bodhi reportedly makes around $15,000 a month.
A Mysterious Name
6. Shiba’s name is somewhat mysterious. We know the word “inu” means dog in Japanese, but we don’t know for certain where the name “Shiba” came from.
Shiba means brushwood in Japanese, so it’s possible that the Shiba Inu was named for the terrain where he once hunted.
It’s also possible that the name came from the Shiba’s coat, which is the same color as the autumn brushwood.
A third explanation is that the name came from the breed’s size. An obsolete meaning of the word Shiba, in an old Nagano dialect, is little. So his name could literally mean “little dog.” Makes sense. We sometimes refer to it as the “Little Brushwood Dog. “
5. His name might mean “little dog,” but most would say conveniently sized. He’s certainly neither a large dog nor a small dog at 13 inches to 17 inches tall at the shoulder. And he’s certainly not heavy at between 17 and 23 pounds. His size makes him too large for the AKC’s toy group, but he places nicely in the Non-Sporting group. The Shiba Inu is a medium-sized dog with a compact, muscular frame.
The Shiba Inu boasts a bold, fiery personality
4. The Japanese have three words to describe the breed’s mental traits: kaani-i (spirited boldness), ryosei (good nature), and soboku (alertness). Combined, these traits make up the interesting, intelligent, and strong-willed temperament of this breed.
Like a ninja warrior, the Shiba Inu moves quickly, nimbly, and effortlessly.
3. You must stay one step ahead of the Shiba Inu, for he is both dominant and clever. The Shiba is very challenging to raise and train. A bold, high-spirited “big dog in a small body,” he must remain on-leash, for he possesses a high prey drive and quick reflexes and pursues anything that moves. He’s a true runner. He can outrun, and out-dodge any human….and frequently does.
The Doge is an Escape Artist
2. The little Shiba Inu is also an escape artist! If bored or left alone, this dog will literally pull off some Houdini tricks to escape. He is incredibly agile and flexible, and can easily climb over fences and squeeze through narrow holes.
He is also an excellent digger and can swiftly burrow under fences.
Now combine this with his brilliant mind, and the Shiba can’t be easily confined outdoors.
You must always supervise your Shiba and spend as much time as possible with him.
This also applies if you keep your dog indoors.
Sure, he won’t escape as easily from an apartment, but he’ll discover other ways to deal with boredom, such as destroying your furniture, chewing things into pieces, or even ripping up your carpet.
1. In 2004, an earthquake struck the village of Yamakoshi in Japan. When her family’s home collapsed, a Shiba Inu named Mari sprang into action to save her puppies and her elderly owner. She moved her puppies to a safe place and then found and woke her owner, who had been trapped underneath a fallen cabinet.
He managed to free himself and was eventually evacuated from the area by helicopter. He left Mari and her pups behind, but he found them alive when he returned two weeks later.
Mari’s story became a Japanese movie called “A Tale of Mari and Her Three Puppies.”
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