Get to Know the Shiba Inu: The Internet Sensation

His foxy good looks have made him one of the most watched breeds on the Internet -- he's also the dog behind the crazy doge meme.

Caroline Coile  |  May 27th 2014


“Is that a fox?” No, but if you walk a Shiba Inu, be prepared to hear that question over and over. He’s not a fox, but he is a pretty foxy character!

Wily, resourceful and independent, the Shiba is a great watchdog and a super companion for people who like a dog who thinks for himself. But if you expect a yes-man, look elsewhere. The Shiba can be a handful!

More interesting things about the Shiba Inu

  • Of course he’s not really a fox. Compared to a fox, the Shiba is longer on leg, with a squarer body. His ears are smaller and his tail is shorter and carried over his back. Some people may also confuse him with the Chow Chow, but the Shiba is much smaller and finer boned, with a longer head and, usually, shorter coat. The Shiba may also be confused with the Finnish Spitz, but the Shiba is smaller and has smaller ears and a slightly shorter, more uniform length coat.
  • The Shiba Inu is the smallest and probably most ancient of the six traditional Japanese native breeds. DNA evidence confirms it is one of the oldest breeds of dog.

  • These dogs may have been used as early as 300 B.C. to flush birds and small game.
  • Inu means “dog” in Japanese. Shiba can be translated as either “brushwood,” referring to a tree that has reddish leaves in the fall (like the Shiba’s coat color), or as “small,” in an older dialect. The Shiba is sometimes called “the little brushwood dog.”
  • The breed became almost extinct after World War II, but was revived by combining dogs from three strains: the Shinshu Shiba from Nagano Prefecture, the Mino Shiba from Gifu Prefecture, and the San’in Shiba from Shimane and Tottoru Prefectures.
  • In 1936, the Cultural Properties Act declared the Shiba Inu a precious natural monument of Japan.


  • The first Shiba Inu came to the United States in 1954, but it wasn’t until 1979 that the first litter was recorded.
  • The AKC recognized the Shiba Inu as a member of the Non-Sporting group in 1992.
  • The FCI, which governs breeds throughout most of the world, places the Shiba in the Spitz and Primitive Breeds Group, further subdividing it into the Asian Spitz division. Like most Spitz breeds, the Shiba has a square build, stand-off coat, small ears, and curled tail.
  • Shibas can be very vocal, not only barking but emitting the infamous, ear-piercing ”Shiba scream,” which they usually reserve for times of great excitement or disagreement.


  • A miniaturized version of the Shiba weighing under 10 pounds exists, but is very controversial and not AKC recognized. It is called the Mame Shiba Inu.
  • The most popular dog on Instagram, with more than 800,000 followers, is a Shiba Inu living in Japan named Marutaro. 
  • Shiba Inu puppies Aki, Akoni, Ando, Autumn, Ayumi, and Amaya were dubbed the most famous puppies on the Internet after their puppy cam attracted almost 35,000 followers, garnering nearly 65 million views!


  • The Shiba cam has returned with subsequent litters — and don’t worry, these are carefully bred, managed, and placed puppies!
  • A Shiba named Kabosu is responsible for the insanely popular doge meme.
  • The Shiba Inu is AKC’s 46th most popular breed, up from 62nd most popular a decade ago.

  • No Shiba has ever won Best in Show (or, for that matter, even placed in the group) at the Westminster Dog Show.
  • Owners include Kelly Osbourne, Roberta Flack, Daniel Dae Kim, and Zack Follett. Dustin Hoffman has been spotted with his son’s Shiba.

Do you own a Shiba Inu? Have you spent time with one? Let’s hear what you think about this fascinating breed in the comments! And if you have a favorite breed you’d like us to write about, let us know that, too!

Interested in other breed profiles? Find dozens of them here.

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About the author:  Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier. 

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