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.