History of the Shiba Inu

It amazes me that a people reknowned for their discipline and fine etiquette produced a breed with the temperament of a prima donna. Yes, the Shiba inu is from Japan, where it is the most popular of all the Japanese indigenous breeds of dog. This is likely due to its small size, as the other Japanese breeds range from medium sized (the Kishu, Hokkaido, Shikoku and Kai) to large (Akita).

Shiba inus are one of the oldest breeds of dog. For millenia, they have been bred to hunt. Usually their prey was small game such as birds and rabbits, but could be as large as wild boar. I have not been able to find any information on exactly how the Japanese hunted with these dogs – if our present Shibas are any indication, they probably just let the dog go streaking into the forest and hoped they could happen upon it before it ate what it killed.

From our study of history, we can see that a Shiba’s earnest desire to hurtle into a blackberry thicket after a field mouse is a time-honoured tradition. The tradition of the Shiba’s owner thrashing about in said thicket after said Shiba has been given less publicity. Your counterpart in antiquity probably wanted to eat what the dog killed. You probably don’t want to have to worm the dog – again – or step in a half-digested field mouse an hour after you return home. No one ever told you that living history could be this much fun, did they?

We also have the people of Japan to thank for their efforts to preserve these breeds. In 1937, the Japanese government designated these seven breeds as “national monuments”. Post World War II, the breed declined due to famine, disease and interbreeding with European breeds. Dedicated fanciers brought the Shiba back from its near-extinction. Otherwise, the outraged screams of a Shiba who has been offended by the indignity of a vet taking its temperature may have been forever lost to us.

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  1. I have a shiba which is one of the best dogs I ever had I had two but some jerk ran it over and didn’t care at all and my Shiva is so nice and cute

  2. I have owned many dogs of various breeds, including mongrels. I am now owned by a Shiba Inu bitch called Momo ( peach, in Japanese ), she I without doubt the most remarkable dog I have ever owned. Before I decided to take her on, I made extensive research into the breed and therefore with my previous experience of many kinds of canine behaviour together with what I had learned about Shiba Inus, I decided to go ahead and get one. Make no mistake, she exhibits all the characteristics of the typical Shiba, which I will obviously refrain from listing here, but I must emphasise here almost intuitive ability to understand what’s going on and what her doggy responsibilities are! She is a never ending source of entertainment and pleasure; the best dog I have ever owned. (Although she believes that she owns me!)

  3. I am currently working on a poem and a book called the Shiba Project but I need to know more details about the Shiba- especially during World War II and more about the dog being introduced to the United States. I know the Shibas came here through an American soldier and his family in I believe the ’70s. But I was hoping you could tell me more about this. Thanks.

  4. i have a nice shiba and i leave outside all day on a run he like it even in the cold and snow he plays i bring him in at night and he goes right into his cage and i feed him and in the morning he out all day again i think he’s fine outside my daughter said no it’s too cold i told her it’s an outside dog and he likes being out am i right or wrong of course if it’s really cold i bring him in but i feel for the most part he rather be outside let me know what you think thaks ray.

    • Hi, ray,

      This really depends on where you are in the world and how cold it is. Most dogs like Shibas can withstand a variety of temperatures, provided that they have adequate shelter and enough food and water. I have had dogs who preferred the outdoors because of their thick coats and, to me, there’s nothing wrong with giving a dog a place outside to sleep if this is the case. I do have issues with leaving a dog on a rope or chain, as I have heard of dogs getting stuck and choking to death or being attacked by other animals.

      What concerns me is that you say that “i leave outside all day on a run he like it even in the cold and snow he plays i bring him in at night and he goes right into his cage and i feed him and in the morning he out all day again”. Now, you haven’t given us a lot of information here to work with, but it does sound like he divides his time between the crate and the run. Does he get walks? Training? Socialization? That is actually what I am most concerned about, given your information.

      I believe (some may disagree) that many dogs can do perfectly well as outside dogs – as long as they have regular walks, socialization and training. A dog without these interactions is at high risk (especially a Shiba) for becoming shy, fearful or aggressive. If you are providing your Shiba with these things, then I don’t think being outside is a bad thing.

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