8 Shiba Inu Colors, Markings & Patterns (With Pictures)

Three different Shiba Inu colors

The Shiba Inu is Japan’s most popular companion dog. Aside from their permanently smiling faces, these dogs boast gorgeous coats that come in an array of colors.

In choosing a Shiba Inu, new dog owners should know that this breed can exhibit lighter or darker shades of colors and markings. Ultimately, it will depend on the person’s preference when it comes to picking a color.

If you’re planning to own a Shiba Inu or are just generally curious about their coat colors, this article can provide you with the right information. You’ll also learn about the genetics behind each color, so hang tight!

How Many Shiba Inu Colors Are There?

Three Shiba Inu puppies in different colors

The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes four standard colors of the Shiba Inu breed. However, there are also unofficial colors that are not accepted by the AKC and the National Shiba Club Of America (NSCA).

The four standard Shiba Inu colors are the following:

  • Black and Tan
  • Cream
  • Red
  • Red Sesame

Meanwhile, the non-standard Shiba Inu colors include:

  • Sable
  • Silver
  • Black Sesame
  • Brindle

A Shiba Inu with an unrecognized coat color means they cannot be registered at major kennel clubs and join dog shows and competitions.

Some breeders may put a higher price tag on non-standard colors due to their rarity, but remember to ensure the quality of the Shiba Inu puppy they are offering. Further, always do your research to ensure that you are dealing only with reputable breeders.

What Is “Urajiro” in Shiba Inu?

Urajiro in Shiba Inus refers to the cream or white markings that must be present on specific areas of the dog’s body, regardless of its coat color. It is also described as a form of countershading.

The AKC requires urajiro markings to be present on the sides of the muzzle, cheeks, inside the ears, lower jaw and upper throat, legs, abdomen, and the underside of the tail.

Urajiro markings are caused by low pheomelanin in these areas and may vary in intensity. They can appear with a crisp edge or blend seamlessly with the Shiba Inu’s red base coat color.

However, unlike white spotting patterns in other breeds, urajiro markings are not caused by a lack of pigment. Although, evidence suggests that Shiba Inus with recessive genes for red coats tend to have larger markings.

8 Shiba Inu Colors

Shiba Inus have double coats that shed heavily during the spring and fall. Although quite rare, this breed can also be long-haired. Regardless of coat length, Shiba Inus can exhibit both standard and non-standard colors.

Even though other breeds boast more shades than the Shiba Inu, each of the colors on this list is unique and makes the breed quite distinct.

1. Black and Tan

Black and tan Shiba Inu

First off in the list of standard Shiba Inu colors is black and tan. Black and tan Shiba Inus appear with a tri-colored coat pattern composed of a black base coat, tan points, and urajiro markings.

In fact, a single hair strand of a black and tan Shiba Inu contains all three colors. The base is white, the middle is a reddish-tan hue, and the tip is black.

The tan markings are specifically located in the eyes, appearing as oval spots. It can also be observed in the sides of the muzzle, forelegs, hind legs, and toes.

Black and tan is a very attractive color for dog owners since it clearly showcases the Shiba Inu’s urajiro markings. It is also very common in this breed.

2. Cream

Cream Shiba Inu puppy

Among the four standard Shiba Inu colors, the cream is very scarce. Some cream Shiba Inus have a very pale color that makes them appear white.

Although it is an official coat color, having a cream coat is considered a fault in AKC dog shows because the urajiro markings are not distinguishable on a cream base color.

In terms of genetics, the cream color is produced by two recessive genes (e/e), which also ensures that the coat gradually lightens on the belly area.

3. Red

Red Shiba Inu

The red Shiba Inu is the most common variety among the four official colors. It is the color that represents the breed and is probably what you think of when a Shiba Inu is mentioned.

The classic red color of the Shiba Inu is the most popular and sought-after. That’s why it’s no surprise that it is most favored in dog shows and competitions.

Unlike in the black and tan Shiba Inu, the urajiro pattern in a red Shiba Inu is somewhat blurred on the edges. You will commonly see the markings on the dog’s throat, forechest, and chest.

My friend, a Shiba Inu enthusiast, admires this color so much on the Shiba Inu that he has five of them, a male and female adult, and their three puppies. He describes the color as iconic of the breed and reminds him a lot about its country of origin, Japan.

As a breeder himself, he plans to also focus on specializing and developing this color further on the Shiba Inu, while creating the proper urajiro pattern that the breed is known for.

4. Red Sesame

Red Sesame Shiba Inu

The last standard Shiba Inu color in this list is the red sesame, which is considered the rarest among the others. 

The red sesame Shiba Inu is also the most misunderstood since there are some requirements that must be met to be classified as this color.

These qualifications include the following:

  • The base coat must be red.
  • There should be an even overlay of black fur.
  • The black fur must not make up more than 50% of the coat.
  • The coat must not have any black patches.
  • The dog should not have a black mask.
  • The black overlay should resemble the pattern found in black and tan Shiba Inus.

Because of these requirements, only a few breeders produce this variety. That’s why a red sesame Shiba Inu is pretty hard to spot in the market.

5. Sable

Sable Shiba Inu
Image credit: loki_theshibainu6 / Instagram

Sable is not a recognized Shiba Inu color by the AKC or other major kennel clubs. Sable is just a term used to describe red sesame Shiba Inus since their coats resemble the sable pattern seen in other dogs.

So, whenever a breeder offers a sable Shiba Inu, it might just be red sesame with a lighter red base coat color.

6. Silver

Silver Shiba Inus are paler versions of red Shiba Inus. They have greyish coats and often exhibit black faces and black legs.

There is not much information about this non-standard Shiba Inu color, but they are mostly offered by backyard breeders or puppy mills. They may be advertised as a rare variation of the breed and sold for higher prices.

7. Black Sesame

Black sesame Shiba Inu
Image credit: sirlanglang / Instagram

Also called “Goma” in Japan, the black sesame Shiba Inu is a variation of the sesame Shiba Inu. But instead of a red base coat color, this pup has a predominantly black coat.2

It is another unofficial color of the breed that is rarely seen and bred. If you wish to own a black sesame Shiba Inu, you should do a background check of the breeder and make sure that the puppy comes from a healthy bloodline.

8. Brindle

Brindle Shiba Inu
Image credit: reiko_shiba / Instagram

The last Shiba Inu color on this list is brindle. Like silver Shibas, this variation was derived from the classic red Shiba Inu.

However, the brindle Shiba Inu has a black and tan coat with lighter stripes across its body.

Do Shiba Inu Colors Affect Behavior and Health?

Having a specific color doesn’t affect the behavior of a Shiba Inu. Regardless of what shade a dog has, its overall disposition is affected by various factors like environment and training.

When choosing a Shiba Inu, it’s important to learn more about the bloodline of the pup in the litter. This will also give you an idea about the temperament of the parent dogs.

Similarly, the health of a Shiba Inu is not dictated by its coat color. The medical history of its parents is the most accurate evidence of a healthy litter.

Previously, there were debates on whether a cream Shiba Inu is more prone to health problems common in light-colored dogs. Over time, a correlation between coat color and health was not found.

Do Shiba Inu Puppies Change Colors as They Grow?

Three Shiba Inu puppies held by a woman

It is not uncommon for Shiba Inus to change color as they mature. This is primarily due to the fact that it takes several years for their coat to fully develop.

Most Shiba Inu puppies are born with dark coats and masks. Their puppy coats, made of fine, short hairs, will gradually develop over time. In most cases, their dark spots will fade.

In the first two months, you will notice that your Shiba Inu’s puppy mask and coat will lighten to a red shade. Their urajiro markings will also become more prominent.

As they reach three or four years, you may still observe various changes in their coat color. And once they reach seniorhood, their coat may fade to grey similar to humans.

However, it is also possible for some Shiba Inus to retain their original coat color or only have slight changes in their coat until old age. 

What Color Will My Shiba Inu Puppy Be?

Predicting the color of your Shiba Inu puppy is challenging since they may go through several transformations throughout the years.

While observing your Shiba Inu’s parents can give you an idea of their possible coat color, it may not always be an accurate method. 

Since coat color and markings are determined by genetics, the only way to predict your puppy’s color is through DNA testing. There are several possible color genotypes for Shiba Inus, as discussed in this article.

Asking your breeder is also encouraged since they usually perform genetic testing of their dams and sires before mating them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Three Shiba Inu puppies playing outdoors

What Is the Difference Between Cream and White Shiba?

Due to their light-colored coats, cream Shiba Inus and white Shiba Inus are often confused with one another. However, the former has a red and gray tinge, while the latter is considered all-white.

Moreover, since a white Shiba Inu is entirely white, the traditional urajiro markings of the breed are hidden. As a result, they are not recognized as an official coat color.

Meanwhile, a cream Shiba Inu is a standard color, although considered the least desirable.

What Is the Rarest Shiba Inu Color?

Among the Shiba Inu colors mentioned, red sesame is the rarest variation. This is due to their scarcity in the dog market.

Only a few breeders produce red sesame Shiba Inus due to the strict regulations when it comes to breeding this color. 

What Is the Most Common Shiba Inu Color?

The most common Shiba Inu color is red. Red Shiba Inus represent the breed and are most often produced by breeders due to their popularity.

Those with deep, vibrant red hues are mostly preferred by Shiba Inu lovers and kennel organizations. They are favored during dog show events as well.

Final Thoughts

Shiba Inus mainly come in four standard colors but may also exhibit unofficial color variations. The most popular Shiba Inu color is red, while the rarest is red sesame.

This breed also sports their trademark urajiro markings, which are present in specific areas of the body. This trait, along with their distinct appearance and personality, makes Shiba Inus quite loveable pets.

Regardless of their coat color, Shiba Inus remain a beloved ancient breed in Japan and well-loved companions in other countries as well.

Would you like to own a Shiba Inu? Which of the Shiba Inu colors is your favorite from this list? Tell us your opinions in the comments below!

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