If you are told “Name a breed of Japanese dog!” », You will certainly name the Shiba-Inu first!
And you will be absolutely right because the Shiba is a very old and typically Japanese breed of dog. It has even been designated “Natural Monument of Japan »In 1937!
What are the origins and characteristics of the Shiba inu?
The Shiba Inu is a very old dog breed that like all other dog species, derives from the wolf, the gray wolf in this specific case. As you can see from the family tree below, they’re still relatively close.
The Shiba Inu lineage then diverged from other closely related dog breeds like the Akita Inu and Shar Pei to become a full-fledged breed with unique characteristics and behavior.
The Shiba Inu is considered to be a descendant of the Jomon dogs, these first breeds of Japanese dogs which were mainly used for hunting small game (rabbit, birds, etc.) on the archipelago.
Good to know: “Inu” means dog in Japanese. So it’s technically unnecessary to spell out Shiba Inu when you talk about it.
Shiba Inu is simply the literal translation of the kanjis 柴犬 used to talk about the species.
Shiba, there are also several breeds and colors (mainly with light or dark beige coats, white and black), but the profile remains generally the same: it is generally a dog with short hair color bush, quite small. (less than 10 kg in general) and measuring around 38-41 cm high for males and 35-38 cm for females.
Their ears are shaped like erect triangles and their tail is sometimes curled, sometimes straight. They generally live between 12 and 15 years.
On the character level, they are very docile and non-aggressive dogs for the most part and who bark little.
However, they remain wary and alert towards strangers and in places they do not know.
It should be noted that they are dogs with a very independent character and who like to be petted and handled.
Most of all, they are very loyal and kind and it is these characteristics that Japanese people like the most.
Why are the Shiba inu so popular?
If you are lucky enough to come and visit Japan, you will quickly realize the popularity of this breed: the Shibas are almost everywhere!
On a leash in the street of course, but also headlining in some commercials and even on TV (who does not know the crazy commercials of the Softbank brand with a white Shiba father! The famous dog actor is however dead in 2018 at the age of 16.)
Also on the Internet, thanks to their adorable faces, the Shibas have even become true cultural phenomena and many memes now use these dogs with the friendly faces.
Type “Doge” on the Internet and you will surely be surprised that there are so many!
Recently in 2013, a new cryptocurrency similar to Bitcoin, Dogecoin, was even launched with an image of the Shiba Inu taken from a “Doge” meme as its logo.
Seen as a joke when it was launched, the virtual currency rapidly gained in value and in 2021 its market capitalization exceeded the $ 9 billion mark.
In Japan, this breed of dog has appeared in many movies, TV shows, and even in manga and anime, which has greatly increased their popularity over the years.
Today the Shiba breed is the highest breed of dog and reproduced on the archipelago.
According to the “Japan Dog Preservation Society”, Shiba Inu currently represent around 80% of the total dog breeds bred in the country (out of 6 breeds in total)!
A figure that allows us to really realize how much the Japanese are fond of this breed of dog.
A race that almost died out
This unfortunate episode, however, contributed to reviving this breed of dog which was beginning to disappear at that time. Because it should be known that the race even almost died out at the beginning of the 20th century.
Its rating with the Japanese was declining against hunting dogs imported from abroad at this time.
Many were thus mixed with other breeds and the number of purebred Shibas declined sharply.
Above all, many were the Shiba to perish under the American bombs, to die of starvation, or to die in great numbers because of the distemper, a contagious viral disease which spreads easily between canines.
As early as 1928, however, measures began to be taken to protect these dogs and protection organizations were created such as the “Japan Dog Preservation Society” (Nihon Ken Hozonkai – 日本 犬 保存 会).
The breed was therefore saved by a few breeders and Japanese intellectuals who wanted to keep the animal’s atypical characteristics in order to transform it into a pet.
In 1936, it was even declared a “National Monument of Japan”. Today, around 60,000 to 70,000 Shiba are born in Japan each year, and these dogs are exported and bred to many other countries.
There are now 3 main types of Shiba:
- The Shinshu Shiba is from Nagano Prefecture
- The Mino Shiba is originally from Gifu, near the Nagano Mountains
- The San’in Shiba is native to southwestern Japan
There is actually one race per region and they usually bear the name: Ishishu Shiba in the Sanin region, Mino Shiba in Gifu, Toshishiba in Gunma, Shinshu Shiba in Nagano, etc.
Some Shiba have a so-called “fox” head (called joumonshiba – 縄 文 柴) while others are considered to have more of a raccoon or raccoon dog (shinshibainu – 新 柴犬) profile even if the difference is not very marked.
How much does a Shiba inu cost?
Of course, the growing popularity of these doggies has naturally made them expensive. So if you are looking to acquire a purebred Shiba in France or in Japan, know that it will cost you!
As the breed has experienced a resurgence of interest in recent years, prices have soared and you will have to pay several hundred euros on average to acquire one.
It all depends on whether you buy your animal from a pet store or from a specialist breeder.
On the archipelago, getting a Shiba puppy from a shop or from a breeder costs on average between € 1,000-1,500 and € 6,000 (over ¥ 750,000).
A tidy sum but which allows to legally obtain a purebred and healthy animal, the pet market being very well regulated in Japan. So, still tempted?
Note that if you plan to acquire a Shiba breed dog in France, make sure with the breeder that it is registered in the LOF (The French Book of Origins is the large book listing all the origins of dogs of French breed and it constitutes a guarantee of purity of the parents.)
How much to take care of a Shiba inu?
Shibas do not require special care compared to other breeds of dogs.
See as well
The ideal is to create a stress-free environment for them so that their guard and hunting dog instincts do not kick in.
Shibas inu are not particularly fond of change and they will need to be gradually accustomed to it each time.
They are also exercise-loving dogs and will need to be walked almost daily.
However, being medium-sized dogs, their maintenance will not be negligible in terms of cost.
These costs are estimated to be around ¥ 300,000 per year (over € 2,000) in Japan.
In France or in other countries it will rather be necessary to count between 1000 € and 1500 € which is not nothing.
You should know that although they are stronger and resistant than they seem, they are quite sensitive to certain skin diseases, including dermatitis and allergies as well as ear infections and glaucoma.
Finally, be careful! Do not confuse the Akita-Inu and the Shiba-Inu even though the two races look very similar at first glance.
Note that the Akita is a much larger dog (between 30 and 40 kgs) and higher at the withers than the Shiba (60-40 centimeters against 40 on average).
The Akita-Inu is another very popular dog breed in Japan since the history of the now famous Hachikō dog.
For those who do not know its history, it takes place in the years 20-30 in Tokyo.
Every morning before going to work, the master of Hachiko (which means the 8th emperor, the puppy being the 8th of a litter), the teacher Ueno Hidesaburō left his dog in Shibuya’s care and returned to pick him up in the evening. And every day, Hachiko patiently waited for his master at the station.
Unfortunately, his master once died at his place of work and was never able to make the return journey to find his animal.
Despite numerous attempts to relocate Hachikō in other homes for years, the dog has systematically stubbornly run away to try to find his master while waiting for him at home or at the train station for nearly a decade!
This extraordinary dedication gradually transformed him into a local and then national celebrity and after his death, it was decided to erect a statue in honor of his unwavering loyalty, which has become a strong symbol in the land of the rising sun. It now sits in the middle of the Shibuya district.
This short video, produced by the Brut channel, tells this beautiful story very well.
And even though both breeds are native to Japan, they were not domesticated for the same use.
One was used to hunt big game (deer, bear, wild boar), the other rather for small game. Guess which one!
Today, the two breeds have become pets to the delight of their owners and worshipers of these canines.
My crazy Japan
Manu, blogger Japan, residing in Osaka since 2014 you have been able to discover unusual and unsuspected facets of Japan through various articles on the customs and traditions of the archipelago.