The Shiba Inu, also called the “little brushwood dog” is a compact, friendly dog that received worldwide recognition after becoming a meme and the doge dog breed. Originally from Japan, the Shiba Inu is the closest domesticated, living ancestor to wolves.
Unlike other dogs, there’s no real origin story for the Shiba Inu. Researchers do, however, know that they’re from Japan and were used as hunting dogs by 300 B.C.E., with some believing the breed can be traced back as far as 7,000 B.C.E. The smallest of the six Japanese spitz breeds, the Shiba Inu breed has a long history that showcases the breed’s hardiness.
In the late 1860s, during the Meiji Restoration, the Japanese people saw an influx of imported dogs from the west. These dogs were quickly crossbred with local breeds, with many of the most popular mixes containing some sort of Shiba Inu. These designer dogs quickly became viewed as a status symbol in Japanese culture, and the traditional purebreds were old hat.
By the 1910s, purebred Shiba Inus were hard to come by, and the 1920s saw the breed go nearly extinct. In 1928, a campaign was started to preserve the few remaining Shiba Inu in the country however these efforts were put on hold when WWII started. After the war, the breed once again faced the possibility of extinction due to food shortages and a distemper epidemic.
To prevent the breed from going extinct completely, three separate bloodlines were interbred: the Shinshu Shiba, Mino Shiba and Sanin Shiba. This program created the Shiba Inu breed as we know it today. By the 1950s, the breed was in the United States and quickly began to spread around the world.
Today, Shiba Inus are the most popular breed of companion dog in Japan and quickly rising in popularity across the world. Interest has continued to grow, and the breed was the second most-searched-for dog breed in the U.K. in 2021. This feisty and friendly breed has a bright future in many U.K. households.
Shiba Inus may not be the best choice for first-time pet owners. While there’s nothing cuter than a Shiba Inu puppy, the breed’s rarity as a pet and cunning intellect can be difficult for those with no exposure to the breed. Once deciding the breed is right for you, make sure you obtain a dog or puppy from a reputable rescue centre or breeder.