Photo/IllutrationIshi, a Sekishuken dog, is the ancestor of all living Shiba Inu. (Provided by the Japan Dog Preservation Society)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

MASUDA, Shimane Prefecture--All 600,000 or so Shiba Inu dogs in the world today are descended from a single pedigree hound called Ishi that was born here in 1930, research shows.

Shiba Inu is a much-beloved breed native to Japan. However, Ishi's pedigree was of the Sekishuken line, an indigenous breed from western Shimane Prefecture.

Local experts are promoting the little-known link between Shiba Inu and Sekishuken to promote local development.

The tidbit was revealed by the Japan Dog Preservation Society, a Tokyo-based public interest organization and the country’s oldest kennel club founded in 1928.

It noted that some small dogs were called by distinct names depending on where they originated, which gave rise to Mino Shiba Inu, Shinshu Shiba Inu and Sanin Shiba Inu, among others.

Dogs classified as having the temperament and physical characteristics of the native breed were referred to as Shiba Inu.

The qualifications were compiled by the society after it started making detailed pedigrees of dogs nationwide in October 1932 with the goal of preserving the Japanese line well into the future.

Shiba Inu were designated by the central government as a natural monument in 1936.

Ishi's pedigree was registered the same year.

Although he was not the first dog registered as being of Shiba Inu stock, there is a simple explanation.

“Ishi's bloodline pretty much ensured that the breed would live on," said Makoto Inoue, the society's secretary-general. "Dogs in his paternal bloodline that were registered before Ishi died, as well as all Shiba Inu newly registered at the preservation society, can all trace their bloodlines back to Ishi."

Inoue, 65, noted that the total figure for new registration is slightly less than 30,000 a year and the pedigrees of Ishi’s parents’ are lost to history.

Ishi was born in the village of Futakawa (present-day Masuda) in 1930.

Ishi's history dates from when he was adopted by a Tokyo dentist named Tsurukichi Nakamura, according to the Sekishuken Laboratory based in Gotsu, also in the prefecture.

Records show that Nakamura, a native of Shimane Prefecture and member of the Japan Dog Preservation Society, had been searching for a Japanese dog with all the right characteristics and found what he was looking for in Ishi, which he brought to his home in Tokyo in 1936.

Ishi's pedigree was registered that year. It went on to win a prize at a dog show organized by the society.

Ishi sired a male puppy named Aka in 1939. Aka later fathered a male pup with a Shiba Inu from Tottori Prefecture and a female with a Shiba Inu from Yamanashi Prefecture. The pair produced a male heir named Naka in 1948.

As a purebred, Naka fathered numerous outstanding offspring and was credited with reviving the Shiba Inu breed after World War II.

Members of the Sekishuken Laboratory have been researching the history of Sekishuken dogs, with a special focus on Ishi, as part of efforts to contribute to local development.

The research group was established in 2017 by Mayumi Kawabe, 61, who uses a room in her home as a base for her studies.

In addition to introducing the history of Sekishuken through the group's website, she wrote and composed a song titled “Sekishuken Ishi” to promote the native breed.

The song notes that the roots of all 600,000 Shiba that exist in the world today can be traced back to Ishi in Iwami Province (present-day Shimane Prefecture).

Kawabe said she came up with the idea after she adopted Sunny, a Sanin Shiba Inu of Sekishuken blood, in December 2016.

“I came across Ishi while I was doing research on Sanin Shiba Inu,” she recalled. “I couldn’t believe it when I learned that Shiba Inu can be traced to Shimane.”

To gain a detailed understanding of the history of Sekishuken, Kawabe delved into numerous books and publications, and visited the National Diet Library in Tokyo. She also interviewed people who are familiar with the native breed.

“We have the Shiba Inu as we know it today, and it’s all because Tsurukichi Nakamura found Ishi and brought him to Tokyo. From now on, we intend to dig deeper into the ‘Ishi family,’ including Ishi, Aka and Naka, and promote their drama across the country,” she said. “The fact that Shiba Inu, a breed that is much loved around the world, has its roots in Shimane is little known even among locals. We hope to contribute to local revitalization by making (Sekishuken) more widely known.”