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13 Fascinating Dog Breeds of Japan – The Complete Guide to Japanese Dogs

Japan has 12 amazing dog breeds. Here is every Japanese dog breed in existence.
Written by Richard Jeng

Japan is a country known for the world’s finest sushi, incredible anime stories and sneaky ninjas. But did you know Japan is also home to many unique and internationally popular dog breeds as well?

In the country of Japan, a “pet boom” can be traced back to the year 2003. At least in the eyes of the Japanese, raising dogs have become a viable and realistic alternative to raising a child. The data backs this statement.

Since 2003, the combined number of cats and dogs have outnumbered the number of kids in Japan. This gap is only widening with increasingly more dogs being introduced into the economy each and every year.

The rise of the popularity of Japanese dogs is real – the numbers don’t lie. And with such gorgeous and charming native dog breeds, we understand why. So without further a due, here are all 13 amazing Japanese dog breeds in order of popularity.

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Japanese Dog Breeds by Popularity

Note: Many names of Japanese dog breeds have the word “Inu” in them (e.g. Shiba Inu, Akita Inu, etc.). This doesn’t necessarily mean that the breeds are closely related.

Rather, the word “inu” means dog in Japanese. Likewise, the word “ken” also means dog in Japanese. So, the Kai Ken and Kishu Ken are two different breeds with distinct bloodlines.

13. Sakhalin Husky

Highlights: Loyal, Diligent, Confident.

Jiro, the Sakhalin, is currently on display at the Hokkaido University museum.

The Sakhalin Husky is by far the rarest Japanese dog breed in the world today. These dogs are nearly extinct. By 2011, there were only two known purebred Sakhalin Huskies recorded in Japan. However, there is an unknown number of this dog breed still living on the Sakhalin Island.

Sergey Lyubykh, the only Sakhalin Husky breeder in the world, died in 2012. And not long before his death, Lyubykh mentioned there weren’t enough Sakhalin Huskies in this world to continue breeding, as there needs to be enough genetic diversity.

These dogs first became internationally known due to the infamous Japanese research expedition to Antartica in 1958. An emergency evacuation was made, which left 15 dogs behind with the intention of coming back. Weather conditions only worsened and the rescue never happened.

After a full year, a new expedition arrived and found two of the dogs still aliveTaro and Jiro. Today, the two dogs are national heroes in the country of Japan. As a matter of fact, these dogs are featured on monuments and statues all over Japan.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Taro and Jiro (Sakhalin Huskies) survived being stuck in Antartica for a year.
  • There are several sculptures / statues of Taro and Jiro placed all around Japan.
  • The only breeder of pure Sakhalin Huskies passed away in 2012.

Sakhalin Husky Temperament

These unique huskies are extremely devoted to their owners. Like many other Japanese dog breeds, Sakhalin Huskies are loyal to a fault.

They’ve been known to be very affectionate dogs that do great with obedience training (largely thanks to their work ethic). However, they are not overly anxious to please.

The Sakhalin Huskies are working dogs, meaning they don’t like to spend time alone or do absolutely nothing for long periods of time. They can exhibit destructive tendencies and behavior if neglected.

Some people describe these dogs as highly intelligent, independent, alert and confident. Plus, they tend to play well with children and other dogs. They’re great “pack dogs.”

READ MORE: Sakhalin Husky – Japan’s Sled Dogs

12. Ryukyu Inu

Highlights: Courageous, Intelligent, Alert.

Though the Ryukyu Inu looks like the Kai Ken, they are very different Japanese dog breeds.

The Ryukyu Inu is a Japanese dog breed that very few have heard of – even in Japan! In 2015, there’s estimated to be as few as 400 of them, making them one of the rarest breeds from Japan.

They originated from the southern islands of Japan, called Okinawa (otherwise known as the “Hawaii of Japan”) and have been called the National Treasure of the island. Even so, history and origins of the Ryukyu are somewhat unclear.

Given some physical qualities, many researchers believed they were originally bred to hunt and track wild boars on the Japanese island. What’s special about the Ryukyu Inu is the dewclaw on the back of their foot.

Through many years of evolution while living in a rainforest, the Ryukyu Inu had developed this unique physical characteristic. As such, they’re able to effortlessly climb trees. The ability to track from high vantage points is what makes them formidible hunting dogs.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Though the Ryukyu Inu looks very similar to the Kai Ken, they have different bloodlines. In actuality, they’re much more closely related to the Hokkaido Inu.
  • Many believed purebred Ryukyu Inus became extinct after WWII because of food shortages and the increase in crossbreeding with western breeds. However, purebreds were eventually found in Yanbaru National Park.
  • Scientists believe that the Ryukyu were able to survive so long on the tsunami-heavy island because of their ability to quickly climb trees to avoid floods.

Ryukyu Inu Temperament

For the most part, the Ryukyu Inu is a docile dog. And despite their gentle nature, there are few things that will actually scare off a Ryukyu Inu. Their courageous attitude is why they thrive as great hunters for wild boars.

Not only do they hunt with single owners, but also work great in packs. Though the Ryukyu doesn’t bark much, they’re always vigilant of their surrounding environment. Plus, they’re dogs with high prey drive, as expected from such skilled hunting dogs.

For this reason, the Ryukyu Inus are not recommended to cohabit with smaller animals, such as cats or rodents. In addition, early and frequent socialization training is necessary with these dogs.

And despite popular belief, Ryukyus are intelligent dogs with high instinctive and adaptive intelligence. Just understand that they require a ton of physical and mental stimulation to live a happy and healthy life.

11. Japanese Terrier

Highlights: Cheerful, Vigilant, Affectionate.

The Japanese terrier one of the most popular dogs from the country of Japan.

The Japanese Terrier, often referred to as the Nippon Terrier, is classified as a small dog originating from the country of Japan. While they’re amazing dogs, they’re an extremely rare breedeven in Japan.

Many locals believe that this breed was developed through the breeding of a variety of fox terriers, pointers and other indigenous Japanese dogs. However, not every researcher agrees with this theory.

Rather, historians believe that the ancestors of the Japanese Terrier were brought to the country by the Dutch merchant ships (at the Nagasaki port) sometime in the 17th century. Again, there is no concrete evidence to confirm this theory.

Currently, the Japanese Terriers aren’t recognized by the American Kennel Club. In fact, the Ryukyu is only recognized by the Japanese Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club. Still, it’s more recognition than most native Japanese dogs.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Early ancestors were used to control vermin population on merchant ships and villages.
  • Japanese Terriers in cold climate often need dog-sweaters to manage the conditions.
  • The Japanese Terrier likely have some Pointers, Smooth Fox Terriers or German Pinschers in them.

Japanese Terrier Temperament

This terrier breed was developed for the sole purpose of companionship. In other words, they’re excellent lap dogs and playmates. These terriers are perfect as family pets since that’s what they were intended for.

If you’re looking for a skilled hunting dog or an alert watchdog, the Japanese Terrier may not be for you. Instead, try looking at one of the six native dog breeds of Japan (Shiba, Akita, Shokiku, Kai Ken, Hokkaido, Kishu Ken).

However, if you want a reliable and fun-loving dog that will get along with your children, the Japanese Terrier is a dog you should highly consider. Japanese Terriers are described as lovely dogs with a cheerful personality and lively temperament.

A huge plus is that the Japanese Terriers are a hypoallergenic dog breed. They’re perfect Japanese dogs for allergy-sensitive dogs owners that can’t stand shed fur and the allergies than come with it.

READ MORE: The Joyful Japanese Terrier

10. Tosa Inu

Highlights: Alert, Fearless, Sensitive.

The Tosa Inu is another rare dog breed from the indigenous region of Tosa, Japan (now referred to as the Kōchi prefecture). And because of their massive size, the Tosa is often referred to as the Japanese Mastiff.

Like other mastiff-type dogs, the Tosa Inus were originally bred to be fighting dogs, but are generally raised to be excellent guard dogs today.

Starting from the 19th century, Tosa Inus were bred in Japan using the indigenous Shikoku Inu, along with many other European dog breeds. Foreign dog breeds included the Saint Bernard, English Mastiff, English Bulldog, Great Dane, German Pointer and the Bull Terrier.

Today, Tosa Inus are bred all around the world. Yet surprisingly, Tosa Inus bred in Japan are much smaller than those bred outside. In fact, they’re roughly half the size in Japan. As a result, Tosa Inus come in all different shapes and sizes.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Many major countries have banned the Tosa Inu or require a permit to keep one.
  • Tosa Inus in Japan are almost half the size of their American counterparts.
  • Some prefectures and regions of Japan have banned the breeding of Tosa Inus.

Tosa Inu Temperament

It should be no surprise that the Tosa Inu is an aggressive and potentially dangerous dog breed. After all, they were bred to be “vicious” fighting dogs. So, it makes sense that they don’t play well with other dogs. Plus, they can become lethal predators for cats.

Although Tosa Inus aren’t typically aggressive towards familiar humans, aggression can certainly happen. I would suggest never letting them play with children unsupervised no matter how much you trust the dog.

With strong personalities and many dominant traits, these dogs are definitely not for first time dog owners nor for the casual dog owner. Without a firm and consistent leader of the pack, Tosa Inus will quickly establish their dominance.

To limit the chances of them harming other people and animals, Tosa Inus require extra attention early on. This means they must be socialized and go through proper obedience training. And the earlier they do, the better.

READ MORE: Tosa Inu – Japan’s Fighting Dog

9. Kai Ken

Highlights: Devoted, Courageous, Reserved.

The Kai Ken is highly loyal, but can take a while to build trust with a human.

The Kai Ken is an uncommon Japanese dog breed despite its national recognition. As one of the six indigenous dog breeds of Japan, the Kai Ken is considered a national treasure to its home and protected by the Nihon Ken Hozonkai (Nippo).

They are excellent hunting dogs and were bred to hunt deer, boar and bears in the steep mountainous regions of Yamanashi. Not only are they agile in water, but they’re also great at climbing trees, making them some of the most versatile hunters in the world.

The Kai Ken has had several cameos in Japanese pop culture, appearing in numerous manga and anime shows. These references undeniably helped in popularizing the Kai Ken during recent years.  

For example, the Kai Ken has been featured in the Ginga manga series (along with both of the sequels) and Kacchū no Senshi Gamu. Both of which, were highly regarded in Japan during the height of their popularity.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • After years of isolation in the mountains, the Kai Kens are considered to be the “purest” of all Japanese breeds.
  • They’re often called the “Tora Inu,” meaning tiger dog, due to their striped coats.
  • There are two variations of the Kai Ken, one with a face resembling a bear and another resembling a fox.

Kai Ken Temperament

Like the other native Japanese dogs, the Kai Ken is highly intelligent with natural hunting instincts. They make excellent watchdogs thanks to their braveness, vigilance and often aloof demeanor towards strangers.

They’re especially good with young children and tend to get along well with other dogs of the same pack. And although they’re very independent dogs, they tend to develop a loving and strong bond with the family members.

Kai Kens love the outdoors and live to be around nature. So, taking them away from their “preferred habitat” and sticking them in a metropolitan city is not the best idea for them in the long term. Otherwise, make sure you frequently visit the mountains.

Because Kai Kens are physically gifted with agility and quickness, they love to run. These dogs are known to chase prey by swimming across rivers and streams. So, if you live by a lake or have a pool, swimming is another great exercise idea.

READ MORE: Kai Ken – The Japanese Tiger Dog

8. Kishu Ken

Highlights: Docile, Proud, Loyal.

The Kishu Inu is a highly devoted dog with intense loyalty.

The Kishu Ken (sometimes referred to as the Kishu Inu) is one of the most ancient dog breeds to come out of Japan. And according to Wag Walking, they’ve likely been bred in the country for several thousands of years.

The name of this Japanese breed originates from where they were bred: the old Kishu region (now called Wakayama prefecture). And unlike the other six native dogs, the Kishu was bred for hunting deer and boar using their “trademark method.”

Instead of barking to intimidate prey, they carefully and cautiously stalk them in their hunt. For this method to work effectively, they needed to be light on their feet and vigilant at all times. As such, they’re called the “silent hunters” of Japan.

Upon first glance, the Kishu Ken physically resembles the Hokkaido Inu. In fact, they’re roughly the same size! However, temperament is often described to be more like the Shiba Inu. Still, it’ll depend on the individual dog.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • The Kishu Ken is one of the few quiet dog breeds that rarely bark.
  • These amazing hunting dogs will often go as far as climbing trees in order to stalk their prey.
  • Some historians claim that these dogs have been bred for over 3,000 years.

Kishu Temperament

The Kishu Kens are courageous and brave, making them some of the best hunting dogs in Japan. Given their hunting technique, it’s no surprise they’re quiet dogs, both on the field and in the home.

Even though they have high prey instincts, Kishu Kens usually get along with cats and other dogs (if properly socialized). Being able to distinguish between animals to hunt and befriend requires high adaptive intelligence, which these dogs have.

Kishus are touted for their unwavering loyalty to the pack. As such, they’re excellent with young children of the family. Furthermore, they’re very observant watchdogs that like to watch their territory from high grounds.

The only potential downside is their dominant and strong-willed personalities. It makes it absolutely necessary for proper obedience and socialization training as a puppy. Kishus will require a firm leader to control the pack.

READ MORE: Kishu Ken – Silent Japanese Hunter

7. Hokkaido Inu

Highlights: Brave, Dignified, Faithful.

Hokkaido dog is a japanese breed from the northern region of japan.

The Hokkaido Inu is native to the most northern island and prefecture of Japan, also called, Hokkaido. They’re also referred to as the Ainu KenSeta and Ainu dog. Hokkaidos look eerily similar to the Shiba and Akita Inu, but they’re medium-sized dogs.

They’re known for having long, thick fur – primarily for combating the harsh cold winters of the Hokkaido region. This means that the double coats of the Hokkaido make them higher maintenance than other Japanese dogs. Grooming is a must!

Hokkaidos were originally bred to be hunting companions by the indigenous Ainu people of Northeast Japan. In other words, these dogs were built with endurance in mind, while maintaining their agility in cold, snowy terrain.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • The Hokkaido Inu is the only Japanese breed to have a double fur coat, likely bred for harsh cold climates.
  • This breed can be traced back to 1140 AD, where the Ainu tribe used these dogs for various jobs.
  • One of the Hokkaido Inu’s greatest strengths is problem solving.

Hokkaido Temperament

Perhaps the most well-known trait of Hokkaido Inus is the loyalty they dedicate to their owners. Combined with their remarkable confidence, they’ll take any opportunity to prove themselves to their humans.

Because they were originally hunting dogs, they have an excellent sense of smell and direction. A lost Hokkaido Inu won’t usually stay lost for long. They will always find their way home, despite long distances.

Hokkaido Inus are intelligent dogs. But best of all, they’re easy to train with treats! And according to hunters, a Hokkaido raised in a typical family environment may not exhibit the same temperament as those raised in hunting kennels.

READ MORE: Hokkaido Inu – Ancient Ainu Dog

6. Sanshu Inu

Highlights: Affectionate, Loyal, Sweet-natured.

The Sanshu Inu is a rare Japanese dog breed developed from a Chow Chow and Aichi dog.

The Sanshu Inu is a Japanese dog breed developed in the early 1900’s (estimated around 1912). They’re a cross between the Chow Chow, Aichi (ancient Japanese dog) and other various Japanese Inus.

Although they’re relatively popular in Japan, the Sanshu is extremely rare outside the country. It’s unfortunate, because Sanshus were bred to be excellent guard dogs and affectionate companions for Japanese families.

The Sanshu Inu may look similar to the Akita or Shiba Inu. However, the biggest difference is in the tail. Sanshus have a much straighter tail than the other, more popular Inus. In fact, Shibas and most other “Inus” have their trademark fluffy curly tails.

Not even the Japanese Kennel Club recognizes the Sanshu. As such, these dogs come in a variety of coat colors: tan, red, fawn, gray and pied. Because there is no official breed standard, the coats can vary quite a bit.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • The Sanshu Inu was developed primarily with a Chow Chow and an ancient Aichi dog.
  • There are two varieties of the Sanshu dog. One can grow up to 22 inches, whereas the other can only grow up to 18 inches tall.
  • Despite their popularity in Japan, the Sanshu is not recognized by any breed organizations – including the Japan Kennel Club.

Sanshu Inu Temperament

Although Sanshu Inus are excellent guard dogs, they’re most known for companionship. And like all companion dogs, they’re affectionate and loyal dogs. Owners describe them as sensitive dogs with an eager to please their masters.

The Sanshus will often form very close and personal bonds with their family members. It’s not unusual for them to protect family at all cost. I mean, there’s a reason why they’re popular among families in Japan.

In addition, the Sanshu Inu is a low maintenance dog that’s relatively easy dog to care for. Like a cat, these dogs will clean up themselves. They’re clean dogs, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore grooming.

5. Shikoku Inu

Highlights: Cautious, Devoted, Lively.

The Shikoku Inu is ranked one of the most common dog breeds from Japan.

The Shikoku Inu comes from the namesake Shikoku Island of southern Japan. Like all the other native dogs, the Shikokus were originally bred for hunting in the mountainous regions of Japan. As such, they’re versatile dogs known for endurance, agility and speed.

At one point, they were the prized possessions of the Matagi (traditional winter hunters). They weren’t just hunting companions, but also excellent tracking dogs with a gifted nose and strong intuition on the hunting field.

They’re compact dogs with a lean frame, giving them extra agility and speed during the hunts. Plus, the dense double coat was bred to protect them from rough terrain elements, such as bushes and shrubs.

Just recently, this dog breed had been recognized as an AKC FSS standard. In addition, the Shikoku Inu has been officially recognized by both the Japanese Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club – rightfully so.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • After World War I, the poor economic conditions of Japan almost caused the Shikoku to become extinct.
  • One of their greatest strengths is their sense of smell. If they get loose, their nose can lead them miles away.
  • The Shikoku Inus were bred with the intention of survival, especially during long hunting trips.

Shikoku Temperament

The Shikoku Inu has a lot of the same great qualities that we see in other Japanese hunting dogs, including bravery and cautiousness. They have a “tough personality” and are highly confident in chasing down wild game through rugged terrain.

But they’re not always like this. In the home, they tend to be extremely loyal, sweet, and good-natured. The temperament probably fits the mold of the ideal family dog more so than most Japanese breeds. Hunters by day, affectionate companions by night.

A key difference between the Shiba and Shikoku is the contrast in personality. For example, the Shikoku dog is not as stubborn nor independent as the Shiba Inu. Shikokus are more easy-going when they’re with loved ones at home.

READ MORE: Shikoku Inu – Kochi Hunting Dog

4. Japanese Chin

Highlights: Independent, Loyal, Alert.

The Japanese Chin is a small working dog breed that may have originated from China.

The Japanese Chin is sometimes referred to as the Japanese Spaniel. This toy dog has had a long history with Japanese nobility. They were popular among the aristocrats and elite of Japan, and it’s easy to see why.

But even with the Chin’s history in Japan, there’s a lot of confusion on the origins. Though they’re called the “Japanese Chin,” they may not be native to Japan. Historians have a hard time agreeing on where they originally came from and when they arrived.

Some believe the Chins were given as gifts to Japan from the rulers of Korea in AD 732. On the other hand, researchers think they may have came from China in the 6th century. There is no concrete evidence supporting either side.

The Chins are unique because of their naturally crossed eyes, also called strabismus. In addition, the Japanese Chin has an under coat that can take nearly 2 years to fully grow out. When it does, the coat is either black & white or red & white, but always stunning.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • The word “chin” in Japanese means “to perform a lot of tricks,” which these dogs enjoy doing.
  • The Chins are also popular in China, as seen in Chinese temples, pottery and decorations.
  • The Japanese Chins have a white spot on their foreheads, often referred to as “Buddha’s thumbprint.”

Japanese Chin Temperament

A huge part of this breed’s popularity is due to their “cat-like” personalities. For instance, they use their paws to clean their face and they have an exceptionally good sense of balance, just like cats.

Other than that, the Japanese Chins are alert, intelligent and independent dogs. Like most Japanese dog breeds, the Chins are loyal and friendly to their owners and family. And given the proper training, they make the best therapy dogs.

The Chins were originally bred to entertain the noblemen of Japan for hundreds of years. So it makes sense they’re superb at learning commands and tricks. In fact, they specialize in a trick, called the “chin spin,” in which they spin in circles rapidly on two legs.

You can check the trick out the chin spin here. They certainly have their quirks, but that’s all part of their charm. They love nothing more than to entertain. So, you’ll never have a dull moment with a Japanese Chin at home.

READ MORE: The Playful Japanese Chin

3. Japanese Spitz

Highlights: Affectionate, Playful, Obedient.

The Japanese Spitz is a companion dog originating from Japan.

The Japanese Spitz is a small dog breed originating from the spitz family of dogs. Bred as companion dogs, they’re closely related to the Pomeranian, Samoyed and the American Eskimo dog (among others).

Japanese Spitz dogs were born out of Japan in the 1920s, when breeders began breeding various types of spitz dog breeds. According to the AKC, they are direct descendants of the white German Spitz, which were brought into Japan through Siberia and China.

These spitz dogs are currently recognized by every major international kennel club, except for the American Kennel Club. However, the AKC has categorized them in the Foundation Stock Service group.

Since then, the spitzes have grown in popularity due to their favorable temperaments and the easiness to care for. What’s interesting is that despite having long fluffy fur, debris and other junk tend not to stick to their coat.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • This breed was believed to have come from cross-breeding the German Spitz in 1921.
  • The Japanese Spitz isn’t recognized by the AKC because of their strong similarity to the American Eskimo dog.
  • This Spitz breed hadn’t been ‘finalized’ until the end of World War II.

Japanese Spitz Temperament

The Japanese spitz will absolutely thrive when fully participating in a family environment. They’re good-natured dogs and can’t help but show off affection and loyalty towards their owners. Needless to say, they make great watch dogs for families.

If confronted with unfamiliar people, they will bark to warn the family of the approaching intruders. But given their petite size, they aren’t great guard dogs.

It should surprise no one that they play well with children and can make a great dogs for seniors. No matter what you have planned, the Japanese Spitz is willing as long as they’re spending quality time with the family. They’re truly people-oriented dogs.

For these reasons, is it really a surprise why the Japanese Spitz has become so popular? It’s easy to love the Japanese Spitz because they fit right in with almost every family and household. Just reciprocate the love!

READ MORE: Japanese Spitz Breed Profile

2. Akita Inu

Highlights: Faithful, Independent, Brave.

The Akita Inu is the most common large Japanese dog.

The Akita is a very popular and highly regarded dog breed originating from the northern region of Japan. Specifically, from the Akita prefecture. They’re one of the few Japanese dogs that “successfully” made it to the west.

These grand dogs have become the national symbol of Japan – similar to what the Jindo is to South Korea. Because of this, they don’t come cheap. In fact, they’re one of the most expensive dog breeds in the world.

There are two distinctive variations of the Akita. While there’s the original Japanese Akita Inu, there’s also an “American Akita.” Oddly, the two are considered two separate breeds in every country, except the United States and Canada.

The remarkable and heartwarming story of Hachikō, the famous Akita Inu, was what first put this Japanese breed on the international stage. Throughout the years, this story has been told countless times in various media formats, fueling the breed’s popularity.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Helen Keller, the deaf and blind political activist, was the first to bring the Akita Inu into the USA in 1937.
  • The Akita Inu is considered to be the 10th most expensive dog breed, costing upwards of $2,500 USD/puppy.
  • In 2016, Japanese Prime Minister gifted Russian President Vladimir Putin a male puppy Akita to breed with his female Akita (Yume).

Akita Inu Temperament

The Akita Inu is a territorial dog breed. They can be aloof and cautious around strangers, which may be the reason why the Japanese view them as the country’s best guard dogs. And, the most notable quality of the Akita is loyalty unlike any other dog.

According to the AKC, they do not cohabit well with other dogs of the same gender. This is especially true for male Akitas. And even with two different genders, there’s no guarantee there won’t be any scuffles.

They are strong and independent dogs with an alpha personality. It’s why obedience and socialization are so crucial at an early stage. A well-trained Akita will be able to act docile towards non-threatening strangers.

Strangely enough, despite their strong personalities, they play well with kids. In fact, it’s often said Akitas have a special affinity towards children. Consider them an extra furry guardian of your children.

READ MORE: Akita Inu – The Great Japanese Dog

1. Shiba Inu

Highlights: Courageous, Confident, Charming.

Shiba Inus are the most popular dog breeds of japan.

The Shiba Inu is undeniably the most popular Japanese dog breed in the world. Famous for inspiring one of the biggest and longest-standing joke on the internet, the Shiba gave us doge memes. However, there’s so much more to Shibas.

They’re petite and agile dogs originating from the mountainous regions of Japan. But because of increasing online popularity, they can now be found all over the world. The fact that they’re such adaptable dogs probably helped with their popularity, too.

Shiba Inus are often mistaken for similar looking Japanese dogs, such as the Akita Inu or Hokkaido Inu (check out our detailed comparison of the Shiba versus Akita Inu). However, they’re much smaller with a distinct blood line.

While they may be small dogs, they aren’t your typical toy lap dogs. Don’t expect them to be okay lounging around. Shibas are lean, muscular and more agile than they look. After all, they were originally bred to hunt small wild game.

The very first documented Shiba Inu came to America in 1954. They were brought back by a military family stationed in Japan. And ever since, Shiba Inus have been steadily climbing as one of America’s most popular foreign dogs.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • After World War II, the Shiba nearly became extinct due to the Distemper virus and bomb raids.
  • The Shiba Inu will produce a horrifying vocalization called, the “shiba scream.” This can happen when they’re extremely distressed or happy.
  • In Japanese, “shiba” means “brushwood,” which is a shrub that turns red/brown during Autumn – a color similar to their coat color.

Shiba Inu Temperament

Shibas are independent dogs, much like a cat. This might explain why they tend to get along with other cats. At least, more so than with other dogs.

They’re best living in a one-dog household. However, with early socialization and a bit of training, they can still be “civil” when living with others. What’s more surprising is that they don’t play well with young children.

Despite the negatives, these dogs are intelligent with a good-natured personality. It’s just that they can be a little stubborn. On the bright side, Shibas are easy to housebreak. And often times, they’ll housebreak themselves.

Shiba Inus are infamous for a distinguishable high-pitched scream, called the “Shiba Scream.” Really, you can check it out here. You may hear the scream if you handle them in an unpleasant way. However, a similar cry can come from great happiness and joy.

READ MORE: The Bold & Spirited Shiba

The Most Famous Japanese Dog

The most popular dog to ever come out of Japan is Kabosu the Shiba.

By far the most popular dog in Japan is Kabosu (Japanese: かぼす). Unsurprisingly, the most famous dog in Japan is also the most popular Japanese dog breed – the Shiba Inu.

The picture above is perhaps the most famous picture of Kabosu. It’s featured in countless dog memes and jokes, which gave birth to the name, “doge.” The meme has traveled far, and there is even a meme cryptocurrency affectionately named Dogecoin.

Although the picture was first released in February 2010, it didn’t become viral until 2013 – through the power of Reddit and 4Chan. 

Atsuko Sato, a Japanese kindergarten teacher, adopted Kabosu when a puppy mill went out of business. She named the dog after a round Japanese fruit (Kabosu fruit) because of that Shiba’s similarly round face.

Has Sato done anything with all the fame? Currently, Kabosu receives nearly $15,000 per month in endorsements from big brands like Purina, Brooks Brothers and Coach.

She has also started a blog as a platform to increase public awareness of the dangers of puppy mills, in addition to promoting the adoption of dogs.


So let us know, which is your favorite Japanese dog breed? If you own a Japanese dog, tell us about your dog! Leave a comment in the section below.

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About the author

Richard Jeng

Richard has been raising dogs his whole life, including a Poodle, Pomeranian, Corgi and Australian Shepherd. He's always working with animal shelters and dog rescues because of his passion for all dogs. Fun fact: his all time favorite breed is the German Shepherd. Read More.

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