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Japanese Dog That Almost Disappeared Very Popular in Taiwan

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A breed of dog that almost disappeared from Japan years ago is very popular in Taiwan.

The breed is known as the Shiba Inu. Owners of the dog say its size and behavior make it a good choice for people living in apartment buildings in busy cities.

Taiwan's Council of Agriculture says it does not keep records of how many Shiba Inus live on the island. However, one dog breeder sells four Shiba Inu puppies each month. A group for people who own the breed has about 60 members. The dogs are a common sight in parks and other open spaces in the capital, Taipei.

Lee Yu-tsung owns a pet store in the city of Taichung. He has a lot of praise for the Shiba Inu.

"They're easy to raise and their overall quality is strong," Lee said.

The Japanese breed nearly disappeared

The Shiba Inu and other Shiba breeds have been popular in Japan since ancient times. Japanese tribes used them to hunt large and small animals.

But the American Kennel Club, a group for dog owners and breeders, notes that nearly all of Japan's Shiba Inu died off during World War II. Many were killed in bombing raids. Others died from distemper, a viral infection that can spread quickly among dogs.

The kennel club said that after the war, breeding programs helped increase the number of Shiba Inu in Japan, where many now serve as "companion dogs."

The Shiba Inu is now considered a national treasure.

Shiba Inus in Taiwan

The Taiwan Shiba Inu Club reports that the dog breed started becoming popular on the island about five years ago. Lee Yu-tsung says the dogs are good-natured, do not have a strong smell and are generally healthy. He said he sells puppies for between $390 and $820.

The Shiba's size also works well in Taiwanese apartment homes because they are smaller than a fully grown hunting dog, Lee noted. Larger apartments often house three generations of a family, leaving little room for a big dog. Couples may only have a small living space. The dogs rarely make noise, he added, reducing the risk of objections from neighbors.

"Because it's a smaller to medium-sized dog, basically the space where they're raised doesn't need to be very big and so this breed of dog therefore is quite suitable for keeping in the cities," Lee said.

The Shiba Inu is sometimes described as a cat-like dog. In other words, it is more independent and easier to care for than other breeds. The dogs are often compared to foxes because of their size and pointy ears.

Liao Di-hua is an official with the Taiwan Shiba Inu Club. He said he likes the dogs because, to him, they are like wolves and are strong hunters. He raises 11 of the breed at his home and walks all of them twice a day.

Japanese culture can be influential in Taiwan, where people respect the country's movies, art and food. Taiwanese also love dogs whose images are often seen in the media.

Shiba Inu appear in advertisements and toy dogs are sold online. One Japanese restaurant in Taipei called itself the Honest Shiba Inu.

But there can be too much of a good thing.

Bruce Shu is with the Taiwan-based animal shelter called the PACK Sanctuary. He warns that too much popularity for purebred dogs in Taiwan has led to puppy mills. These businesses raise large numbers of a pure dog breed to sell. But they do not pay attention to genetic diseases or carefully raising the animal, leading to problems later on.

Shu said puppy mills will always produce popular breeds. He advises that those who buy puppies should meet the parents first.

I'm Mario Ritter Jr.

Ralph Jennings reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter Jr. adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Words in This Story

breed – n. a kind of dog, cat, horse or other animal that is produced by breeding

puppy – n. a young dog

pet – n. an animal kept for pleasure

companion – n. a person or animal that you spend time with and enjoy being with

couplen. two people who are married or have a strong personal relationship

suitable – n. having the right qualities

toyn. a plaything

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