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In Japan dedicated breeders have founded an association called Shiba Inu Hozonkai (SHIBAHO) which has made it its business to recreate a dog from the Paleolithic Age (Old Stone Age) – the Jomon Shiba.
Recent archaeological findings indicate Stone Age life existed in Japan 20,000 years ago when the northern islands were still connected to the continent. About 14,500 B.C. the Jomon culture developed, named after the ceramic pottery decorated with cord patterns (jo = cord; mon = pattern) characteristic of that period. The Japanese original inhabitants of this period sustained hunting dogs which they highly appreciated.
There are Jomon sites all over the archipelago and many of them contain well-preserved skeletons of dogs that were buried in the graves. Researchers assume the dog of the Jomon culture with its prick ears and its sickle tail to be the ancestor of the six indigenous Japanese breeds. The contemporary Jomon Shiba was bred to correspond with the build of the dogs that were found in the Jomon sites. The main differences between the Shiba we know and the Jomon Shiba are the narrow, thin head, a shallow stop (small forehead depression) and the big teeth. With respect to character the Jomon Shiba is considered to be not quite as compliable.
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The pictures are from the very recommendable book "Japanese Dogs" by Michiko Chiba (Kodansha International, Tokyo, New York, London 2003).
The following pictures are of Jomon Shibas we found on the web site of the SHIBAHO association.
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the Japanese wolf was grey-haired and remarkably small, from head to tail he measured about 34 inch, whilst the Siberian grey wolf can have a body length of 55 inch. His tail was about 12 inch long. This difference in size to the European wolf had already attracted the attention of Philipp Franz von Siebold whose description is the only one by a non-Japanese witness. Siebold served as a Medical Officer in the Dutch East Indian Army and stayed from 1823 until 1829 in Nagasaki Bay. In his "Fauna Japonica" (published 1842 in French in Leyden, Holland) he describes the wolf from the mountains and forests that the Japanese called Jamainu, i.e. "mountain dog" (the other Japanese name "Shamainu" is just a corruption of Jamainu). Siebold examines carefully the size of the different parts of the wolf's body and concludes that because of his small size the Japanese wolf cannot be related to the European wolf. He considers him instead to be a remote relative of the North American wolf. Due to its remarkable slight build a controversy concerning the origin of the Japanese wolf has arisen recently in Japan. In this dispute there are two contrary positions. One position insists that the Japanese wolf is a subspecies of the grey wolf and explains its small size by ecological changes in pre-historic Japan resulting in the extinction of large prey species. The Japanese wolf had to adapt to this evolution and quasi shrank accordingly. The other position in contrast maintains that the immigrated Siberian wolf already had mixed with the ancestors of the Japanese dogs – an assumption that is in accordance with newer insights of DNA research. The literal meaning of Jamainu thus complies with the real facts; the wolf is really just a "mountain dog". If that is the case, then the Jamainu described by Siebold was not really a wolf. The Japanese dog (Canis familiaris japonicus)
If the Jamainu or Japanese wolf was not really a wolf, then he could only have been a dog, a Canis familiaris japonicus or Nippon'inu as it is named in Japanese. Siebold was also first to describe the Japanese dog, in even more detail than the wolf. It is worthwhile to take a look at his description of the Japanese dog in his "Fauna Japonica".
Siebold describes the Japanese dog in the chapter "Les Chiens", section "Canis familiaris japonicus" (Fauna Japonica, p. 36 ff). He distinguishes three kinds of dogs, these are
hound dog:Kari-inu, also called No-inu.
street dog:Bawa-inu, also called Kai-inu, and Muku-inu. According to Siebold the street dogs were imported from China, India and also Europe to Japan and have mixed with the indigenous hound dog. Siebold gives no specification of size, neither for the hound dog nor for the street dog.
domestic dog:Makura tsin (a pet dog), Suiken tsin and Sjok-ken (a dog for eating). The Tsin (Chin) was imported, according to Siebold, from China (Macao), brought there by the Portuguese.
Siebold also mentions the Ookame, which lived in hiding and which was considered to be a cross between the hound dog and the Jamainu or wolf. He was said to be a clever hunter on land and as well as in the water. Unfortunately the difference between the Ookame and the Jamainu is not explained farther, Siebold just says that the Japanese appreciated the flesh of the Ookame as a meal, whereas the consumption of the Jamainu was believed to be harmful to health
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Whilst Siebold restricts his description of the Japanese wolf to its appearance, in his examination of Japanese dogs he also goes into their way of living and history. He considers the hound dog to be a descendant of Siberian dogs which accompanied hunters and fishermen on their hunting expeditions across the country. The street dogs in contrast are described as hybrid hound dogs that live in towns and waterside villages, partly wild but a constant companion to man. Finally domestic dogs are considered to be hardly worthy of description. Overall Siebold does not draw a particularly complimentary picture of the Japanese dog. He sees the street dog and the domestic dog as bastards and petted and the hound dog on the road to degeneration.

In search of a progenitor of the contemporary Shiba the Canis familiaris japonicus also came into question. In her commendable book "The Complete Shiba Inu" Maureen Atkinson refers to (unnamed) Japanese researchers who allegedly consider the "pure-bred" Canis familiaris japonicus to be the direct ancestor of the present-day Shibas. According to the description of Siebold, Temminck and Schlegel, who are acknowledged zoologists, the Canis familiaris japonicus was neither a specific breed nor especially "pure-bred". As a noble ancestor he is hardly suitable.

Interesting indeed in Siebold's description is not so much the somewhat derogatory tone in which he characterises the Japanese dog but more the picture that he draws of their way of life. He pays particular attention to street dogs, the Bawa-inu and the Muku-inu. According to Siebold they live mainly in towns with closed quarters where they form a big family together with the residents. The street dogs do not have a distinct owner but belong to all people in the neighbourhood. One of their duties is to protect the quarter at night. One of the reasons why they are welcome by the people is that they eliminate litter and thus ensure cleanliness. These dogs are just partly domesticated and live very independently. They can also become a plague if they go marauding about the streets at night attacking livestock such as chickens, pigs and goats.

This picture of the Japanese dogs corresponds in detail to the description by Alfred Brehm in his "Animal Lives" of the street dogs in Cairo and Constantinople. The famous natural scientist watched these dogs around 1847 on his travels to Egypt and the Middle East, just 20 years after Siebold's sojourn in Japan. While Siebold characterises the street dogs as "paupers" and "mendicants" (pauvres, mendiants) Brehm calls them by the catchy title pariah dogs.

Pariah dogs

According to Brehm the term pariah dog goes back to the British colonial masters who had transferred it from the pariahs, the lowest social layer in Indian society, to the ownerless dogs in the cities. These dogs lived like outcasts on the brink of the community but always in contact to and dependent on humans. In our days such dogs still can be found in the South and East of Europe as well as in large numbers in Southeast Asia (Bali Street Dog).

In the meantime the term pariah dog is well established in the canine sciences, pariah dogs are an important object of research. The segregation of the dog from the wolf took almost 100,000 years. In this long period there must have been forms of transition, dogs that were not completely feral, but also still not domesticated. The contemporary feral or pariah dogs are considered to be the group of dogs which could provide information about the dog's gradual dissociation from the wolf.
Today pariah dogs include the breeds mentioned at the beginning, namely Dingo, Carolina Dog and Korea Jindo as well as the Basenji and Canaan Dog characterised by the FCI as "primitive breeds" and some other breeds in section 6. The term is no longer disrespectful; on the contrary it refers to extraordinary breeds with a long history of development.

Today feral dogs like the Australian Dingo or the New Guinea Singing Dog are also considered to be pariah dogs. Common to many pariah or feral dogs is that despite differences in their outside appearance, they have some traits of the wolf, e.g. they do not really bark (although they are able to do so) but communicate by howling. Perhaps the answer to the controversy which arose in Japan as to whether the Jamainu was still a wolf or already a dog is that he was neither a domestic dog nor a wolf but a feral dog, a pariah dog. Maybe Siebold unconsciously chose the correct word in his description of the "loup du Japon", the Japanese wolf, by calling him at the same time a "chien sauvage", a feral dog. Obviously the mountain dog Ookame mentioned by Siebold, which the Japanese themselves characterised as a species between wolf and dog, was also such a feral dog.

The majority of Japanese scientists tend to be of the opinion that the Japanese wolf actually was a genuine wolf and not a dog. However after reviewing the sources it appears to us that the latter is more plausible. Reliable information however can only be expected by a DNA analysis. In Japan the investigation of the wolf using up-to-date methods just has begun. A study has already been published which compares the skull of the Akita Inu with that of the Japanese wolf using computer tomography. And in 2002 a group of Tokyo University and other researchers have extracted a gene from a stuffed Japanese wolf and conducted the first ever gene analysis on the extracted cell nucleus. We can look forward to the solution of the mystery of the identity of the Japanese wolf.
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Hokkaidō (Ezo) Wolf - Canis lupus hattai & Honshū Wolf - Canis lupus hodophilax · Extinct Animals