I read this article last night. I had time to think it over, digest it, and hopeful write a good opinion of it. First off, I enjoyed the article. While it does not directly relate to my breed, I could easily envision the Shiba being part of the article. The Shiba was once a hunting breed. The Shiba is now mainly a companion and an occasional rat or lizard killer. People will argue that their Shiba is a hunter because, like any dog, it will chase, catch, and unalive the unfortunate quarry. Does this make the dog a hunting dog, or simply a dog acting on instinct?
From my limited knowledge but thanks to my lust for it, I have learned that the Nihon Ken aren’t typically hunting dogs anymore*, but more show/companion dogs. Especially the Shiba Inu. Gone are the days that the little brushwood dog goes streaking in the mountains after prey, flushing or even baying (as I have heard), the quarry for their owner to dispatch. Pouncing on lizards in the backyard is hardly hunting in the way the breed was originally developed. Hunting in Japan (again from my limited but romantic view on it) was where the dog and the hunter worked together to locate, flush or hold, and eventually dispatch the pheasant, rabbit, deer, or boar. It wasn’t necessarily the dog going ‘hold my beer, I got this.’ It was a complicated dance of understanding between two beings and the balance between life and death. Can today’s Shiba do that? I honestly think not.
Who’s to blame? Show breeders? The decline of hunting for food? The society’s need for a softer, easier going pet? People turning the breed into something of their own creation out of greed with no regard to the culture or history behind it?
Am I to blame? I show my dogs in conformation. I participate in multiple performance events/venues – heck all three of my Shiba are NSCA (National Shiba Club of America) Versatile Shiba Inu recipients. But… I don’t hunt. I do not participate in the activity that the breed was originally developed for. Can my Shiba track a boar or deer? Can they hold it until someone comes to end the animal’s life? Can they be fast, smart, and strong enough to survive a wild animal fighting for its life? When I go hiking, they definitely are searching – noses to the ground, muzzle thrusted into wild pig ruttings, or scenting the air as we approach where a wild animal was once at very recently. We have encountered boar, deer, turkey, armadillo, opossums, raccoons, and I swear a bear**. Each animal we’ve encounter, my Shiba went into the primitive state of let’s get it (especially with the feral pigs). But that is not hunting in the traditional sense. That’s not teamwork, that’s a disregard to any training, giving into raw instinct that would probably get them killed.
Do I think my Shiba have what it takes to be a hunting dog? Honestly, I do not know. Do I like to think they could – of course. But wanting them to be versus what they are, are two different things. They can and will track – it’s more of a hobby for them. Something fun to do while out in the Florida scrub. Are they following some kind of ancestral guidance? Hopefully. But I wouldn’t know if they can perform as hunting dogs in days past until I put them to the test. But I’m not a hunter. This is my dilemma. Am I really preserving the Shiba as it was meant to be? This is the question I feel I cannot answer, and it haunts me.
I am not a hunter. I have never hunted in my life. So, I voice my opinion on hunting on the simple fact of doing research and listening to stories. With that being said the article gave me a lot to think about, now I must figure out what I will do with this information. Here is an older article I did on hunting with Nihon Ken several years ago, which I feel pertains to my jumbled thoughts.
*Kishu are still used for hunting in Japan. I’ve also heard of some Shikoku are as well. (I have a friend who has used/uses both). I saw some hunting line Shiba on my last trip, but I do not know how successful they are.
** I can’t be for certain it was a bear, but I’ve never experienced the quiet of the woods where even the squirrels were silent and not daring to move. A slow rustling was all we heard, the girls were on high alert – on their tip toes, hackles bristling, Delilah let out the loudest snarl/bark I’ve ever heard, which echoed through the scrubby woods. I had to DRAG them away from the area, they were ready to fight. I did not stay around to see it. There was no way that was a bobcat, it sounded large and heavy. Cats are quiet.