What were Shiba Inus Bred For? Here’s the Answer

The Shiba Inu is the smallest native breed of dogs in Japan used as a hunting dog. They have a compact frame with developed muscles, a curled tail, and a thick coat. Evidence shows that they have been around since 300 BC, where they lived with ancient Japanese families. People from other places migrated into Japan with their dogs, which led to the creation of the modern Japanese dog breeds.

Original Purpose

Initially, the Shiba Inu dog was bred to hunt small games like rabbits, foxes, hares, and birds. It was initially employed for hunting by scent and sight in the rugged Japanese mountainous areas. It is also believed that hunters bred this dog breed to hunt the deer and wild boar sporadically.

During the time of Kamakura Shogunate, which took place from 1190 to 1603, the samurais used these dogs for hunting as well as companions. The use of these dogs for hunting was prevalent because they are incredibly swift, alert, quick, and keen. They also thrived well in cold temperatures because of their dense undercoats- a handy trait for tenacious dog hunters.

Shiba Inu would courageously and persistently move in bushes to locate the game. However, different in appearance, both male and female Shiba Inus are alert and have very keen senses. I have also noted that my Shiba Inu is sharp with a scent trail, which made them very successful hunters.

Modern Shiba Inu

Currently, the Shiba Inu dog breed is mostly used as companion animals both in the United States and Japan. In Japan, the dog is considered the first companion animal and has become the way of life for most people.

For the past 50 years, the Shiba Inu has become quite popular in the United States, with the first breed introduced in 1954. However, the first litter made its debut in 1979, and the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1992. Today, the Shiba Inu is the 46th most popular dog in the United States.

The Shiba Inus are known for their loyalty and calm and considerate nature, which makes them excellent companions. The Japanese people love them because of their charming nature and gentle spirit, which makes them an exceptional addition to any family. As a Shiba Inu owner, I can also attest that they are highly affectionate, trustworthy, reliable, and kind to their masters. The Shiba Inu also makes an excellent watchdog.

Can Shiba Inus Still Be Used to Hunt?

Although these four-legged friends make excellent companions, they still maintain their enthusiasm for chasing and catching wild prey. Since they are known for their prey drive, it’s imperative to get the Shiba Inu out for some action.

From time to time, I take my Shiba Inu out for hunting, where I use the game scent to train him to follow scent trails. I also take him for a walk in the neighborhood for his daily workout.

Being natural hunters, I would not recommend putting them off the leash since they can be quite aggressive and show their fiery side. My Shiba Inu loves to chase prey around my home, including cats and squirrels.

What were Shiba Inus Bred For 2

Dark Period in Shiba Inu History

It was a dark time for the Shiba Inu breed during World War II, as the bombing claimed their lives and that of other Japanese dogs. The main factors contributing to the near-extinction of Shiba Inus were post-war depression, food shortages, and an epidemic of distemper.

In a bid to conserve these breeds, Japan executed a breeding program to breed all the three types of Shiba Inu dogs. To prevent inbreeding, the last three surviving bloodlines, including the Mino Shiba Inus, San-In Shiba Inus, and the Shinso Shiba Inus were carefully bred. As a result, nearly all the pureblood Shiba Inu became extinct.

Hunters and scholars also put in the effort to preserve the original breed by properly breeding them again. The interbred if the remaining is these Japanese dogs produced what is now known as Shiba Inu.

What is the Breed Named After?

There are several explanations as to how this dog breed acquired its name. The first theory shows that the dog got its name from its hunting history in Japan’s mountains. According to this theory, Shiba Inu refers to “brushwood,” since the dog used to hunt in the brushwood bushes in the rugged mountains.

The other theory states that the dog got its name from its fiery red color that resembles brushwood leaves. This is because the leaves have an autumn color.

The last theory is derived from Shiba Inu’s archaic meaning, which translates to the dog’s small size. This could represent the smallest dog breed in Japan.


Shiba Inus were prevalent for hunting because of their small frame and energetic personality. Today, this popular ancient Japanese breed has grown in popularity as a companion dog in Japan because of its good nature and spirit.

Although this dog is used for companions today, they still have strong hunting instincts. As a result, most Shiba Inu owners like myself even take out to practice hunting game.

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Why do I love Shiba Inus? Shiba Inu are bear-like dogs that are extremely adorable—with human-like mimics, amazing charisma and overflowing cuteness.