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Shiba Inu

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Shiba Inu
An adult Shiba Inu
Alternative names
Japanese Shiba Inu
Japanese Small Size Dog
Shiba Ken
Country of origin
Common nicknames
Classification and breed standards
FCI: Group 5 Section 5 #257
AKC: Non-sporting
ANKC: Group 6 (Utility)
CKC: Group 6 - Non-Sporting
KC (UK): Utility
NZKC: Utility
UKC: Northern Breeds
Not recognized by any major kennel club
This breed of dog is extinct

The Shiba Inu (柴犬) is the smallest of the six original and distinct Japanese breeds of dog.

A small, agile dog that copes well with mountainous terrain, the Shiba Inu was originally bred for hunting. It is similar in appearance to the Akita, though much smaller in stature. The Shiba Inu nearly became extinct in the latter phase of World War II, with all subsequent dogs bred from only three surviving bloodlines known as the San'in, Mino and Shinshu.

The name shiba inu is most commonly believed to be referring to its size, with shiba meaning "small" and inu simply meaning "dog". The word shiba, however, can also refer to a type of red shrub. This leads some to believe that the shiba was named with this in mind, either because the dogs were used to hunting in wild shrubs, or because the most common colour of the shiba inu is a red colour similar to that of the shrubs. The shiba inu is also sometimes called the shiba ken, as ken also means dog.


Shibas range in height from 14.5 to 16.5 inches (37 to 42 cm) for males, and 13.5 to 15.5 inches (34 to 39 cm) for females, with males weighing approximately 23 lb (10 kg), and females approximately 17 lb (8 kg). They have double coats, with a straight outer coat and a soft, dense undercoat that is shed two or three times a year, producing a surprising amount of fur considering the size of the dog. Shibas may be red, black and tan, or red with black-tipped hairs, with a cream, buff, or grey undercoat. They may also be creamy white or pinto, though this colour is not allowed in the show ring as the urajiro, or "back white", markings are unable to be seen.


Shibas are generally independent and intelligent dogs. They have a reputation for aloofness with strangers, and obedience training is often difficult as they can prove to be rather stubborn.

An eight-week-old Shiba Inu puppy An eight-week-old Shiba Inu puppy

From the Japanese breed standard:

The dog has a spirited boldness with a good nature and a feeling of artlessness. It is alert and able to move quickly with nimble, elastic steps.

The terms "spirited boldness" (勇敢 yuukan), "good nature" (良性 ryōsei) and "artlessness" (素朴 soboku) have subtle interpretations that have been the subject of much commentary.


Recent DNA analysis confirms that this is one of the oldest and most "primitive" dog breeds.[1]


Health conditions known to affect this breed are cataracts, hip dysplasia, and luxating patella. Shibas are also prone to food allergies. Epilepsy is also becoming common in several bloodlines in Australia and the USA. Overall, however, they are of great genetic soundness and few shibas are diagnosed with genetic defects in comparison to other dog breeds.


  • Miriam Clews (Ed.). The Japanese Shiba Inu: A detailed study of the Shiba.


The Shiba Inu can be found in the "Lab and Friends" edition of the Nintendogs pet simulation video game. This edition of the game was originally released as "Nintendogs: Shiba and Friends" in Japan, the Shiba being the more recognisable breed in that country.

External links

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