From ancient Japanese hunters to modern internet sensations, the Shiba Inu’s popularity continues to grow the world over. With their distinct, foxlike faces and quirky personality, is it any wonder why?
According to the AKC, the breed is now 44th in popularity (it was 67th just 13 years ago). But just what makes them so interesting? Here are nine unique facts about Shiba Inu.
Most experts estimate Shiba Inu date back to about 300 B.C., but some report their history goes back much further. National Geographic even wrote of all modern breeds; the Shiba Inu is closest to wolves.
Shibas were bred to hunt small game like rabbits, birds, and even boar in brushwood areas. The name “Shiba Inu” even translates to “brushwood dog.” They are the smallest and the oldest of the six Japanese Inu breeds.
Pride of Japan
While the breed may prefer the couch or long walks to hunting these days, Shiba Inu is still beloved in Japan as companions. It has been a national treasure in the land of the rising sun since 1936. They are easily one of the most popular breeds in the country to date.
They usually rank somewhere between the 1st and 4th most popular. Considering they’re goofy, cartoonish demeanor and behavior, it was only a matter of time before their popularity would spread.
Even if you’ve never heard of a Shiba Inu, you’ve probably been on the internet sometime in the past decade. If you have, you’ll surely recognize the silly face of the breed from the viral meme, Doge.
In 2013, an image began making waves across the internet of a dog with a particular facial expression. Her name was Kabosu, the Shiba Inu of Japanese kindergarten teacher Atsuko Sato.
The image was an upload from Sato’s blog, a post from years prior. After many shares and edits, the meme was everywhere and was a worldwide sensation. Website Know Your Meme said it was the “top meme” of 2013.
It went on to become the face of NASCAR driver Josh Wise’s car. It even has its cryptocurrency known as “dogecoin.” It remains an emblem of meme and internet culture. Wow! Such yay!
Shiba Inu are known for their cat-like behavior. They have a penchant for cleanliness; they tend to avoid getting dirty and have been known to avoid puddles occasionally. Shibas also clean themselves by licking their fur, much like a house cat.
They are also one of the quietest breeds and are popular choices for people who live in apartments. Add it all up, and you may have a dog who thinks it’s a cat.
The Shiba scream
Although they MOSTLY have a reputation for quietness, almost every Shiba Inu owner will encounter the “Shiba scream” eventually. It’s not a bark, and it’s not a whine. It’s more like the sound of someone dropping an iron on a fourteen-year-old girl’s foot.
The scream doesn’t always mean the dog is in pain. It can often just be a sign of stress or discomfort. Avoiding situations where it would make the sound altogether is probably your best bet.
Shiba Inu can be aloof by nature to strangers but are fiercely protective and loyal to their family members. One famous occasion was a Shiba saving her owner and her litter of puppies.
In the wake of a 2004 Japanese earthquake, the village of Yamakoshi was hit hard. An older man’s pet Shiba Inu, Mari, had just given birth to a litter. When the earthquake struck the home, Mari miraculously was able to move her puppies to a safe place out of danger.
She then went back for her master at making sure he was safe. Thanks to the arrival of a rescue team, and Mari of course, the possibly fatal event became a triumphant survival story. It was even made into a movie in Japan, A Tale of Mari and Three Puppies.
The Shiba Inu coat can take work to manage. They do shed and require frequent brushing and grooming. They’re also far from hypoallergenic, so if you suffer from a dog allergy, you may need to look elsewhere.
One benefit to the Shiba Inu’s coat, however, is their unique, dirt-repellent fur. Unlike most dogs who collect dirt in their fur, the Shiba’s coat self-cleans. The downside, of course, is heavy shedding, but the upside is a dog who rarely needs a bath.
The Shiba Inu can be loving and affectionate. Unfortunately, they also have a bad reputation for doing as they please, when they please. They are notorious for being hard to train, much to the contempt of unprepared owners.
A novice dog owner can mistakenly fall for a Shiba’s cute face, not realizing what a handful they can be. It doesn’t mean it’s impossible, of course. Proper education and dedication can go a long way, and the outcome of a well-mannered Shiba can prove very rewarding.
There is one easier aspect of training a Shiba Inu than with other dogs, potty training. Because the Shiba Inu often prefers to stay clean, it’s naturally partial to relieving itself outside, away from its home.
As a puppy, it will still need frequent outings for the chance to go to the bathroom. As it grows, the Shiba Inu will instinctively choose to go outside to separate its bathroom spot from its home.
Shiba Inu and the U.S.
Consequently, due to natural and human-made causes, the once healthy and abundant breed was nearly wiped out during WW2.
The three separate strains of Shiba Inu (Sanin, Mino, and Shinshu) were interbred to repopulate the breed. The modern Shiba Inu is a combination of the three, though it is most closely related to the Shinshu.
The first modern breed of Shiba Inu was brought to the U.S. by an armed forces family in 1954. It wasn’t until 25 years later when the first litter on record was born in America. The popularity of the Shiba Inu grew from there and has risen vastly in the past few years.