What Makes Shibas A SHIBA INU

In June 1999, FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale)
adopted a decision to consider the American Akitas as a
separate breed and named it the "Great Japanese Dog".
Many American Akita fanciers are furious about the
decision and objecting strongly. Why this happened is not
the subject of this article, however, I believe Shiba fanciers
need to take note of the current Akita issue very seriously.
It may be worthwhile for Shiba fanciers world over to
reflect on what he or she is breeding now and how they plan
to breed in the future. I think there is a danger of Shibas
becoming separate breeds like Akitas if the fanciers from
different parts of the world go on breeding their own
separate ways. Would you like to see American Shiba,
British Shiba or what have you? I for one object to it

The world has become a very small place in the modern era
of inter-net communication and it is not difficult to have a
common understanding of what makes shibas a "Shiba-Inu".
I believe a close communication between the fanciers around
the world and correct understandings of standard are the
keys. An exchange of information and breeding stock by
shiba fanciers is an important prerequisite. The standard
established by Nippo (The Association for Preservation of
Japanese Dogs) in 1934 is a basic standard used by many
organizations in and out of Japan for Shiba Inu.

   Oujin Go (recent shiba) Ichi-ou Go (old shiba)

Nippo was established in 1928 to preserve endangered
indigenous breeds of Japanese dog as a cultural heritage.
The Government of Japan recognized shiba-inu as a natural
monument in 1936. Unlike many other Western breeds such
as Bulldogs, Chihuahuas etc, Japanese did not "create"
shibas with particular purposes in mind. It is a "natural"
breed. Since the establishment of Nippo, the members have
endeavoed to maintain the intrinsic qualities of indigenous
hunting dogs. In the seventy years history of Nippo, there
has been some deviation from the original phenotype but I
think the intrinsic qualities have been maintained to a large

The intrinsic qualities of Japanese dogs are Kan-I, Ryousei
and Soboku as stated in the Nippo standard. The essence of
the nature of Japanese dogs is expressed in these three very
important words: KAN-I means the intense strength of
intrepid character and dignity. Shibas may be fierce and
bold without being excessively aggressive to the point of
refined excellence. (Shibas must express a dauntless and
noble presence, which may even be called majestic.)
RYOUSEI means faithful and obedient. Dogs should have
total trust and attachment to the owner, expressing full bond
and partnership. (It is often said that the Japanese dogs
would take only one master in his lifetime.) SOBOKU means
natural beauty from seasoned maturity and modest
appearance. Its expression is the feeling of refined simplicity
and sober elegance. (Flashy quality, appreciated in the
West, may be considered the exact opposite of Soboku. Such
gay and loud quality is considered coarse and lack elegance.)

In order to comprehend the intrinsic qualities of Japanese
dogs, I must mention the feelings I had when looking at the
photographs of wild wolves taken by Mr. Monty Sloan of the
Institute of Environmental Learning (USA). The wild wolves
are not faithful and obedient but the majestic natural beauty
of these wolves was apparent. I thought many of these wolves
had "Kan-I" and "Soboku" qualities. The concepts,
therefore, are not unique only to the Japanese culture. To
me intrinsic qualities of Shiba Inu are in the "smell" of the
wildness as if shibas are co-existing with nature.

Nippo shows in early days were the place to present the
result of how successful Nippo members have been with
conserving once endangered species. However, the recent
Nippo shows have become just a conformation shows, like
JKC shows, and many breeders began to breed only "cute,
pretty" shibas to win at the shows. As a result, we have seen
a significant deterioration of coat quality and lack of the
above-mentioned intrinsic qualities, especially Soboku
quality, in some shibas. Nippo judges are very much aware
of this fact and feel responsible. I hope that there still are
enough breeders left in Japan who have not forgotten the
original intentions of the pioneers of Nippo.

Shiba Inu has recently become very popular in many parts
of the world mainly due to the efforts of American Shiba
fanciers. Many Shibas are exported out of the United States
to Europe, Australia and other countries in a significant
number. In this respect, I think the American Shiba
fanciers have a great responsibility to the breed. It is
becoming more important for American breeders to have a
correct understanding of what makes Shibas a Shiba Inu.

Currently, JKC is the only internationally recognized
kennel club in Japan. It is unfortunate that, in my opinion,
JKC judges do not have enough knowledge of indigenous
Japanese breeds compared to Nippo judges. I strongly feel
that Nippo needs to do more to be international in their
approach to preserve the Japanese breeds. I sincerely hope
that there will be more frequent communication and
cooperation between Japanese breeders and breeders from
abroad in the future.

I dream of a day when "ideal" Shibas with all three intrinsic
qualities from the States, Europe or other parts of the world
are shown at the Nippo Grand National Show and walk
away with the Best Shiba Award.


Shiba Inu as a Japanese Heritage

In a recent Nippo Bulletin, Mr. Hamaoka raised an
interesting question about "what is the right way to
preserve the Japanese breeds of dogs." Mr. Hamaoka said
that Nippo was established to "preserve" the indigenous
breeds of dogs as a cultural heritage. He claims that during
the 14th Grand National Show held on May 27, 1951, Nippo
added a new judging resolution to appreciate show quality
of Japanese dogs under the pretension of "improving" the
breeds. 60 years since, he feels that the current Japanese
dogs are not any better or "improvement" over the dogs
prior to the change in the judging resolution. Mr. Hamaoka
criticized Nippo for deviating from the original goal. He says
that the modern Japanese dogs have only a superficial
"beauty" and it has lost the intrinsic qualities, and the
spirit. Mr. Hamaoka criticized Nippo for not indicating
what constitutes the "improvement". He further argues that
Nippo should clearly state what to "preserve" and re-think
about the current system of Nippo shows. (In the early
Nippo shows, the breeds were judged on how close the dogs
are to the standard and graded only as excellent, out
standing, very good etc. No placements given, no BIS, no
BOS, no firsts nor seconds.)

Mr. Hamaoka's article was very interesting because I had a
similar feeling about the significance of recent Nippo shows.
My attraction and fascination with the shiba inu were the
natural beauty of the breed and not the artificial physical
beauty of the show dogs. I am not totally satisfied with the
current "winners" of the Nippo shows. I believe many of the
winners do not have the intrinsic charms of the breed.

A recent Nippo winner A shiba from the 60's

Let me try to elaborate on what I think should be

The Japanese archipelago is a long, thin strip of islands
stretching from north to south with a wide range of climates.
It has a distinct seasonality. The vegetation is thick with
greeneries. The mountains are steep and valleys are deep.
Each locality had different types of natural environment
with its indigenous hunting dogs. Only the fittest dogs
capable of working in such environment are valued. Shinshu
shibas, San-In shibas, Mino shibas are just a few names for
the small dogs used for hunting in such remote villages.
These hunting dogs must have well balanced body to sprint
at full speed in the steep slopes and cross the snowy rivers. A
strong eye expression radiated an intense air when in
pursuit of wild animals. The "improvement" these days was
on the hunting capability and its functional beauty. The
constitution and disposition of a shiba inu should contribute
above anything else to this ability. Although shibas are
genetically primitive dogs, over the years, it has adapted
well to the environment and evolved together with people
living in the Japanese archipelago. The love for hunting dogs
by the Matagis (hunters) and the local villagers is timeless
tradition of inter-relationships between dogs and people.
The villagers enviously protected the indigenous bloodline,
eliminating outside dogs. Over ten thousand years of such
relationship has created shiba inu. I believe the pioneers of
Nippo must have conducted investigations and researches in
quest of ideal models of such hunting dogs in the deep hills
when the standard of Japanese dogs was established.

The environment in which we live today is very different
from the remote villages but the congenial relationship of
dogs and people continues. A breed will change with time
but I do not wish to forget that shibas were a hunting
companion of Japanese people. I have a dilemma as a
breeder of shiba inu to adopt the current needs and yet to
preserve the timeless heritage. I hope shiba inu as a breed
will retain the heritage as it adapts to the changing world.


What is the "Quality" of Shiba Inu

I feel philosophical tonight. Outside, wind is blowing hard;
it is snowing. Clock on the wall says a few minutes before

My thought floats on the question of what is "Quality" of
shiba inu. The lack of knowledge of what quality is
constitutes incompetence. When we say a shiba has an
excellent quality, to what are we referring to? Is the quality
of shibas subjective or objective?

If the quality of a shiba is subjective, it exists only in the eyes
of the observer. This sort of 'quality' is anything you like, a
fanciful imagining. On the other hand, if this 'quality' exist
objectively in the shibas we observe, scientific instruments
must be able to measure it. If it can not be measured, such
'quality' is not there.

When we are talking about the quality of shibas, we are not
merely measuring the qualities of color, size, shape, and
such physical properties but also concerned with qualities
such as excellence, temperament, intelligence, which are not
measurable. There is no objective quality in such non-
measurable properties. On the other side of a coin,
subjective quality means, in essence, quality of shibas is
whatever "you" like it or rather, what judges like it. One
may say that the shiba quality is explained in the standard.
But if people have different interpretation of standard, the
standard looses its meaning. We are facing a dilemma. We
are entering a dangerous arena. People differ about quality,
not because quality is different, but because people are
different in terms of experience even a competent judges.

What is the definition of "Quality"? Tao Te Ching of Lao
Tzu said, "The quality that can be defined is not the
Absolute Quality." In such philosophical mysticism, the
truth is indefinable and can be apprehended only by non-
rational means. The quality of shibas cannot be defined,
therefore, it is neither subjective nor objective.

There are aesthetic values in shiba inu that are non-rational
yet these qualities exist as our goal. Natural beauty of
metaphysical values are beyond the human design. The total
sum of overall expression coming from inner strength is the
value of shiba inu. An inquiry into the intrinsic values lead
us to Kan-I, Ryosei and Soboku in shiba inu.
Outside, wind has died down; snow is falling quietly. Clock
on the wall says a few minutes after midnight.

(application of the metaphysical thoughts of robert m. pirsig
to shiba inu)

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