Bred for Loyalty: The Amazing History of the Shiba Inu

Vicki WongThe Hachi Life (Inspiration)Leave a Comment

For Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, we used Shiba Inu puppies, instead of the larger Akitas to play the younger Hachi in the film. They grew so fast that we needed to use many during the shoot. My own Hachi was a Shiba Inu.

The most popular breed of dog in Japan, the Shiba Inu, was bred thousands of years to go running into bushes, flushing birds and small game for hunters. Although it wasn’t very common, these beautiful dogs were sometimes used to hunt boar in the forests of Japan.

Today, this breed is a common pet. And an incredibly loyal one at that.

Shiba Inu dog Hachi: A Dog's Tale

       Hachi, the Shiba Inu

The History of the Shiba Inu Breed

Historical documents and archaeological excavations suggest that around 7000 BC an ancient version of the Shiba Inu was introduced to Japan by immigrants. These first immigrants kept small dogs with them, which were later bred around the 3000 BC with a new dog, also brought into Japan by immigrants.

The result of this mix produced dogs that were noted for their pointed ears that stood up tall on their heads and their curly tails; features that are characteristic of the beloved Shiba Inu today.

The Protection of the Shiba Inu

Loyal companions of these ancient immigrants, in 7th century AD, the official court in Japan, created an office that protected the native dog breeds of Japan. Known as the “dog keeper’s” office, the protection of these unique dog breeds was considered an important step in preserving Japanese culture.

As more dogs began to enter the country in later centuries, they bred with the native Japanese dogs, creating six distinct breeds, some of which are still heard of today – Akita, Kishu, Hokkaido, Shikoku, Kai, and the Shiba Inu. Of these six breeds, the Shiba Inu is the smallest. And, according to many people who have owned or come into contact with them, the most loyal.

But what is it about this breed that makes them so fiercely loyal to humans?

Many people guess that it’s because they have been in contact with people for so long. As companions for people for centuries, this breed perhaps understands humans better than other dogs.

Maybe this is why humans worked so tirelessly to save their brave companions after they nearly lost the breed after World War II bombing raids and an outbreak of distemper.

Today, this breed is a mixture of ancient bloodlines that were found in the rural countryside of Japan. And they are still as loyal as ever.

Shiba Inu in the United States

In 1954 the first of this breed made its way to the United States and, since then, has quickly become one of the most popular companion breeds, officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in the early 1990’s.


Loyal and kind, there’s no wonder that the little Shiba Inu continues to make its way into the homes and hearts of people around the world. If you’re looking for a loyal dog who will never leave your side, consider a Shiba Inu for the job — you’ll love it!


Embark on a transformational journey that will expand your capacity to enjoy life and all its little gifts. Plus, get our free "Be Hachi. Be Happy" guide:  ​7 Ways You Can (And Should) Be More Like Your Dog.

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