Thursday, April 14, 2011

SHIBA INUS

It's been a whole month since the big, horrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan, but things are a long way from being back to normal in that country.  So as long as we are thinking about Japan, I decided I would tell you about the most popular Japanese dog breed, which is the Shiba Inu.

Some basenji people say that shibas are pretty much like basenjis, except with more hair.  But I kind of doubt that shiba people would say this, even though it's true that there are some things the two breeds share.  Like for instance, both breeds are really ancient.  Scientists who have looked at the DNA of shibas say that this breed goes all the way back to the 3rd century B.C.


What happened in the beginning was that dogs were brought to Japan from China, and these dogs were probably chow chows.  Then, during about two thousand years, six different breeds of Japanese dogs were created from these first dogs.  The shiba inu is the smallest of these.  They were bred to hunt and flush birds and small game, and they are really good at climbing on steep hills and rough mountain slopes.

In Japanese, the word inu means "dog."  Shiba means "brushwood," and especially one type of shrub that turns red in the fall.  No one is sure why "brushwood" is part of this dog's name, but maybe it was because the dogs hunted in these types of bushes.  Or maybe it was because the dogs can be a red color, like the leaves.  And also the word shiba means "small" in the Nagano dialect.  So a Shiba Inu is a "Little Brushwood Dog."


Shibas can be any color, but the most common colors are red or black-and-cream.  The male shibas weigh about 23 pounds, and the females weigh about 17.  They have a thick, double coat, and a tail that curls over their backs.  Shibas live to be about 12 or 15 years old.  They sometimes have genetic health issues such as hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, allergies, glaucoma, or progressive retinal atrophy.

If shibas are really unhappy or annoyed, they do something called the "shiba scream."  This scream is very high-pitched and loud.  Basenjis can shriek or scream, too, so this may be the same sort of sound that shibas make.  Mom says this sound is "unnerving," but I like to think of it as "expressive" if you are trying to get your point across.  Personally, I'm a very good shrieker, and this talent comes in handy from time to time.  But getting back to shibas, they sometimes also scream when they are happy, like when their human comes home after being gone for a long time.


Another way that basenjis and shibas are similar is that we both like to keep ourselves clean and tidy by licking ourselves, sort of like cats do.  But unlike basenjis, shibas like to swim and they also play in mud puddles.  This seems like totally bizarre behavior to me, so don't ask me to explain it.

Shiba inus are alert, intelligent and very independent, so it can be harder to teach them all that obedience-type stuff.  Also shibas are sometimes dog-aggressive, especially with a dog of the same sex.  So shiba owners have to be careful when their dogs are around other dogs.  But if shibas are socialized a whole bunch starting from when they are puppies, there won't be so many problems of this type.


During World War II, shibas almost became extinct because a lot of them were killed in bombing raids, and then there was a distemper epidemic after the war.  Over the centuries, shibas got bred to other types of dogs, but the breed stayed mostly pure in rural parts of the country.  So eventually, three surviving bloodlines were used to make one strong breed again.

The first Japanese breed standard for the shiba was published in 1934.  And in 1936, the dog was declared a National Treasure of Japan.  Then in 1954, an Army service family brought the first shiba to the United States.  The AKC recognized the shiba inu in 1992 and added the breed to the Non-Sporting Group in 1993.  Nowadays, the shiba isn't used for hunting.  It's just kept as a pet in Japan and other countries.


We sometimes see shiba inus around here, like right in our own neighborhood.  And yesterday, Mom was surprised to see one in the clinic waiting room at the shelter.  She even went and asked the dog's mom if it was a shiba, just to make sure.

So you never know where a shiba inu will show up, just like you never know where a basenji will show up.  We cute little ancient breeds really get around!

17 comments:

  1. Hmmm...I'm not sure I've heard of this breed before, so I was happy to read about the shiba inus. At first I thought it kind of reminded me of the American Husky...but then I looked up the AH, and realized that wasn't a good comparison. I kind of see where people might think the shiba inus and a Basenji are similar, but a Basenji is MUCH better looking. I enjoyed the photos, especially the puppies. Also - I like the new background colors/leaves...makes me anxious for summer.
    Love, AP

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    1. basenji's are weird and skinny looking. but to each their own.
      love, fu

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  2. Dear Aunt Patty,
    There is a good reason why shiba inus remind you of huskies, and that is because both breeds are ancient breeds and so they are closer to wolves than some other breeds are. In dog shows in Europe, there is a group called "Primitive and Spitz-type Dogs." I'm pretty sure that huskies, shibas, and basenjis are all in this group.

    I'm glad you like my new background. The leaves aren't quite that big here yet, but they will be pretty soon.

    Love, Piper

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    1. Yes they are. along with samoyeds, malamutes and chow chow. All have the thick double layered coat and the tail that curls and lays over the back.

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  3. I am very drawn to this post for obvious reasons. =)

    I was a "shiba person" first before our basenji. Based on my sample size of 2, I think the biggest difference is that basenjis are cuddlier. They are both equally cute and full of personality to me, though.

    Our Shiba likes to dip his feet into ocean waters, will swim if he has to, but he diligently stays out of mud puddles. He has chastised other dogs for playing in mud puddles before... he can't understand it either.

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  4. Dear Shibasenji,
    Thanks for writing to tell me about your experience with both basenjis and shiba inus. I'm glad to know that basenjis are cuddlier than shibas. Also I'm glad that at least some shibas are smart enough to stay out of mud puddles!
    Sincerely, Piper

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  5. There are a couple corrections I feel need to be made as a Shiba Owner. Shibas do not come in any color and there are actually 3 main colors, red, black and tan and the sesame color which is a red undercoat with black guard hairs. Shibas generally do NOT like to swimm or play in water. They can swim, they likely won't sink but usually prefer not to. I got my 1st Shiba puppy this Aug and he is pretty much the best mannered puppy I have ever met. He never had any accidents in the house, he basically housebroke himself! Now if that is not a great dog then I don't know what is :) I can't walk down the street without at least a couple people stopping to dote and ask multiple questions. The Shiba does tend to be aloof towards strangers, but this guy is one friendly little Shiba! I think it is from socializing him a ton right from the very 1st day we got him, that and he came from very very well temperamented parents. I have had some interest in the basenji in the past, but I am hooked on Shibas, probably for life. Seriously if there is a better breed out there it must be REALLY amazing!

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  6. Thank you for telling me this more correct information about shibas. I am actually glad to learn that they do not like swimming, since I think that any dog is crazy who likes to do that! Your shiba sounds like a great dog. Some basenjis are very friendly, too. I guess a lot depends on how well the puppies are socialized.
    Sincerely, Piper

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  7. I have two female shiba inus. They get together really good. They both dislike swimming, but they do like to dig. When we got our puppy, she only made a couple accidents. They are very energetic. Very easy to train. My family enjoys having them for they are loving and sometimes caring. My older shiba is super friendly and is the best dog ever! Shibas are easy to fall in love with and are an outstanding breed. From a previous shiba inu of ours, people asked if she was a Siberian husky puppy. They can have luxating patellas. It's a good breed to own for they are quiet and bark only when playing or when someone unknown comes to the door. I recommend this breed to lots of people.

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  8. I'm also a Shiba owner, a female Black and Tan. She is a great dog - a huge amount of personality, she loves people and other dogs. She hates swimming! She is very very clean. She never barks. But she is VERY selective about following instructions - she does so if there is a treat in it for her, but otherwise, forget it. So she can't really be trusted off the lead. She is super smart, but she is also quite finicky about things at different times - she is an unusual personality. But people love her and she loves them. She is a cool dog.

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  9. i have a shiba who recently ran away i am so sad. if he doesnt come home i dont know what ill do

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    1. I am keeping my paws crossed, hoping that your shiba comes back home!

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  10. I Used to have a black shiba inu he was so cute! :) R.I.P. Duke

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  11. what is more loyal a shiba inu or a german shepherd?

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  12. Hi, Loved all these shares. I have a shiba lab mix. She is amazing, so in love with me and a select few others, but otherwise aloof. She will do anything not to get her paws wet in a mud puddle. She will swim if I am swimming because she is so loyal to me she can't bear to stay on the shoreline and watch me in the distance. She is good off leash, but is same gender dog aggressive. As she nears 10 years old, her aloofness has melowed and she is now more interested in new people. She is such a love, so sweet, affectionate and loyal.

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  13. This site really helped me about making a final decision on this breed...ty!

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