11 Adorable Facts About Shiba Inus

istock / istock

While Shiba Inus are relative newcomers to the United States, they have quickly won over our hearts. Here’s the scoop on the Internet’s favorite dog.

1. Their name means “brushwood dog.”

The breed’s Japanese name is a bit of a mystery. The Shiba Inu name probably translates to “brushwood dog.” It's believed that the name is from their tendency to run through brush or thick grass while hunting; others think it is because the dog and plant share the same fiery red color. Another theory is that Shiba actually means “small” instead of “brushwood.”

2. They were bred to be versatile hunters.

These tenacious hunters were bred to go after boars, birds, and bears. They also have dense undercoats, which allow them to withstand cold temperatures—a particularly helpful trait for a hunting dog.

3. The Shiba has been around for a while.

The Shiba is the smallest of the six original Japanese dogs (Akita Inu, Shikoku Inu, Kishu Inu, Hokkaido, and Kai Ken), and they go way back: According to National Geographic, Shibas are the breed that’s most genetically similar to wolves, suggesting that it's among the oldest domesticated dog breeds. All of the ancient Japanese breeds were bred before the 19th century and are part of the spitz family; they exhibit pointy ears and a thick coat.

4. Japan loves them.

Shiba Inus have more than just historical roots in Japan. According to the American Kennel Club, Shibas are the number one companion dog in the country. Their long lifespan and high energy make them a lovable and ideal addition to the family.

5. They nearly went extinct.

During World War II, Japan’s focus wasn't on dog breeding, and as a result, the Shiba breed suffered. After nearly going extinct, Shibas were brought back using the only three remaining bloodlines: the San In Shiba, the Mino Shiba, and the Shiba Shu Shiba.

6. They came to America pretty recently.

The first Shiba arrived in the United States in 1954, but the first litter born in the country didn’t make its adorable debut until 1979. The American Kennel Club finally officially recognized the breed in 1992. Today, it is the 46th most popular dog in America.

7. Don’t scare a Shiba.

Shibas unleash an almost human-like wail if they’re upset. Sources of stress include getting baths or having their nails cut. With cries like these, it’s easy to see why they are sometimes considered the drama-queens of the dog world.

8. They’re loyal.

Shiba Inus can be a little standoffish around strangers, but they are fiercely loyal to their families. There's no better example than Mari, a Shiba Inu who, after the 2004 Chūetsu earthquake, alternated between caring for her elderly owner, who was trapped in his home, and her newborn puppies. The man was eventually rescued by an airlift, but had to leave the dogs behind. Miraculously, they survived; when the man returned, he found the mother was gaunt, but her puppies were plump and healthy. The amazing story of canine selflessness was so touching that it was adapted into a movie called A Tale of Mari and Three Puppies.

9. They don’t need frequent baths.

Shibas are known for being very clean dogs; they can often be found grooming themselves and licking their paws like cats. They also avoid puddles while walking. The dogs have self-cleaning coats that repel dirt, so owners don’t need to wash them as often as other breeds.

10. The Shiba personality can be summed up in three words.

The Japanese have three words to describe the essence of a Shiba. Kan-i refers to the breed’s alertness and bravery; this awareness and confidence makes the Shiba a perfect watchdog. Ryosei means being good-natured, loyal, and obedient. Finally, soboku describes their easy, natural good looks.

11. The Internet loves the Shiba Inu.

Even if you haven’t bought into the whole “doge” sensation, Shibas can be found in every corner of the Internet. Mari the Shiba is a YouTube sensation, famous for her cold rebuffs of her owner. Alternatively, there is Bodhi, the fashionable pooch known as Menswear Dog. Unsurprisingly, Shibas are the top trending dog in Japan.