Shiba Inu Dog: History Behind Ancient Japanese Breed

Posted by TF Oren

The Shiba Inu is the most popular dog in Japan.

Originally bred as a sight hunting dog designed to navigate and flush small game out of the dense underbrush of Japanese forests, the Shiba is the oldest and smallest of all the Japanese dog breeds, and has a centuries-long history in its native land.

During World War II, the Shiba was pushed to the brink of extinction as a result of food shortages and a distemper epidemic. Shibas from only three bloodlines survived: the San In Shiba, the Mino Shiba, and Shin Shu Shiba are the main types. Those three remaining lines continued on are responsible for the Shiba we know and love today.

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There is some debate as to how the Shiba Inu came by its name. "Inu" is the Japanese word for dog. However, the origins of "Shiba" are a source of controversy. Some contend that because "shiba" means "brushwood" in Japanese, that the small dog was named for the environment it was bred to work in and its impressive prey drive. Others argue that the name came from the word's alternate definition: "shiba" it means "small" in one Nagano dialect. The debate has generated the occasional nickname "Little Brushwood Dog."

Although the why behind the name is still murky, the when and how are clearer. The Shiba came by its name in the 1920s. In December of 1936, the Cultural Properties Act designated the Shiba a precious natural product of Japan. That distinction earned the breed official recognition.

The Shiba Inu is a relatively recent arrival to the U.S. The first official documentation of a Shiba in America was in 1954 (brought to the States by a military family). By the late 70s, however, the breed began to rise in popularity and Americans began importing breeding stock. The first litter of Shiba puppies in the U.S. was born in 1979.

The breed gained official American Kennel Club (AKC) recognition in 1992, and is currently the 44th most popular dog breed in America. This Shiba life span is 12-15 years and common health problems include patellar luxation and hip dysplasia, but they are generally a healthy dog.

With their prick ears and curled tail, Shibas are super recognizable for all dog owners!

The National Shiba Club of America is the official national breed club, and a great resource for all things Shiba Inu.

Is there a special Shiba Inu in your life? Show and tell us in the comments section!

This article was originally published August 21, 2017.

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Shiba Inu Dog: History Behind Ancient Japanese Breed