Japan is comprised of four large islands including Okinawa (Ryukyu Island) and more than 1000 lesser adjacent islands. It is bounded on the north by the Sea of Okhotsk, east by the Philippine Sea, south by the Pacific Ocean and East China Sea, and west by the Korea Strait and the Sea of Japan. Topographically, Japan is a rugged land of high mountains and deep valleys with many small plains. Because of the alternating sequence of mountains, valleys, and rocky soil, only about 13 percent of Japan is arable land. The total area of Japan is 377,688 sq. km (145,826 sq.-mi.). It is divided into forty-seven administrated district called prefectures.

Hunting and gathering culture known as the Jomons were identified as one of the earliest inhabitance in Japan. Later in the 3rd century BC, immigrants and explorers from central Asia brought their dogs which interbred with descendants of the Jomonjin dogs. This produced the canines with pointed, erect ears and curly tails. Throughout its history, the dogs were used for a variety of things including hunting and being a food source. Shibas lived mainly in the mountains facing the Sea of Japan and were used as hunting dogs for small game and birds. There are slight differences in Shibas that depend on where they were bred and raised in Japan.

When Buddhist Monks introduced the writing system to the country in the sixth century, Japan's recorded history began. Once a centralized government was established in Edo (today's Tokyo), a dog keepers office was organized by the Yamato Court. This allowed the native breeds to became a more important part of the Japanese life style.

During the rule of the Tokugawa Shogun, the country was closed to almost all foreigners. Except for a few Dutch and Asian, traders everyone else was seen and treated as an invader. The Japanese dogs were probably used as a companion when hunting became a very popular pastime, in the absence of constant squabbling between Samurai Warlords. This was probably where the six unique varietys of the modern Japanese dogs came about.


As time passed, wealthy Japanese people began importing dogs from Europe and China. After 1868, there was considerable amount of crossbreeding between Shibas, English Setters, Pointers and Chows. It got to a point where pure Shibas became rare within the city and rural areas, dogs in the country and mountain regions remained relatively pure.

In 1928, the government of Japan was concerned with preserving the Shiba breed. Pure Shibas were searched for throughout the country in order to begin a breeding program.

The Nihon Ken Hozonkai (Nippo) Organization was founded in the same year. They were recognized by the Japanese government as an official organization in 1928. The Nihon Ken Hozonkai's primary goal was, and still is, to preserve the six (6) native Japanese dogs. These dogs include the large-sized Akita, the medium-sized Kishu, Hokkaido, Shikoku, Kai and the small-sized Shiba.

The first Nippo Show was held in 1932. This tradition has led to what is known today as the Grand National. It is not an uncommon sight to see over 800 registered Shibas at this event. The breed standard was unified in 1934, and in 1937, the Shiba was designated a national treasure of Japan.

During World War II, the breed was almost disseminated. It was almost disseminated again in the early to mid sixties due to the outbreak of the distemper virus. Today the breed has recovered and is enjoying world wide success. They are perfect for the Japanese lifestyle whether it includes the city or country. It's a one master dog and the Shibas are proud to proclaim it.

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