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4 Shiba Inu Colors, Markings & Variations (With Pictures)

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Shiba Inu Dog Breed

The Shiba Inu is the number one companion dog in Japan, and you can trace its history back to 300 BC. Its face looks as it’s always smiling, and it has a curly Q tail that it holds high above its back.

Shiba Inu Brief History

The Shiba Inu dates to ancient times where it worked as a hunter in the mountains of Japan and continues to do so today. Originally, they were used for hunting large game, but today they hunt much smaller prey. They almost went extinct after World War II and were brought to America in the 1950s. They have grown steadily in popularity and today are the 44th most popular dog.

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Shiba Inu Coat Colors

The Shiba Inu has a double coat, which means it has a soft fluffy inner layer that keeps it warm in cold temperatures and a longer layer on top to which protects the inner one. The positive thing about their coats is that it doesn’t tangle or become matted, so it’s relatively easy to brush and keep neat looking. However, these dogs shed heavily, especially In the spring and in the fall, which can deposit large amounts of hair in your home if you don’t keep them brushed or take him to a professional groomer.

It’s possible to find a Shiba Inu with a long-haired coat, but the long hair is considered a serious flaw in the breed, so these dogs are not very popular.


Urajiro is a Japanese word for the unique white markings found on a Shiba Inu. You can locate Urajiro on the sides of the mouth and cheeks. It’s also on the underside of the jaw, neck, chest, and stomach. There may be other white markings on the Shiba Inu that are not you Urajiro, including white socks on their feet.  These additional white markings are optional, but Urajiro is the required white markings.

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Shiba Inu Colors

Unlike many birds that can have more than a dozen colors, there are only four Shiba Inu colors.
shiba inu colors

The 4 Shiba Inu Colors Are:

1. Red Shiba Inu

Red Shiba Inu
Image Credit: pikist

Red is not only the most common Shiba Inu color; it’s also the most desirable, especially in award shows. Red is likely the original color, and it gives the dog a foxlike appearance. The Urajiro on the red Shiba Inu does not have sharply defined edges and is instead slightly blurred. The blur is because the gene that controls the red color in the Shiba Inu always lightens towards the belly.

2. Shiba Inu Black and Tan

Black and Tan Shiba Inu
Image Credit: Scott Tang, pexels

The black and tan is a tricolor coat when you factor in the Urajiro. The coat has a black or rusty tinted base and tan tips. A single strand of hair from the black and tan Shiba Inu will often contain all three colors. It will have a white base, followed by a reddish tan middle, and a black tip. Some dog owners may choose this color over the standard red because this dog sports an attractive white bow tie along with the Urajiro.

3. Shiba Inu Sesame Color

sesame shibu inu
Image Credit: Natalia Fedosova, Shutterstock

The sesame is the rarest of the four main Shiba Inu colors, and it’s also one of the most mislabeled as there are quite a few requirements that your dog must meet to be considered a sesame Shiba Inu.

  • They must have a red base coat.
  • They must have an even overlay of black.
  • The hair must be less than 50% black.
  • There can’t be any areas that contain a black patch. The overlay of black must remain even.
  • There can be no black mask.
  • The pattern resembles the black and tan with the black spots replaced by the black overlay.

4. Cream Shiba Inu

cream shiba inu
Image Credit: OlesyaNickolaeva, Shutterstock

The cream coat is the least desirable of the four coats because it’s difficult to see the trademark Urajiro. It’s also very rare and is the result of two recessive genes. Some cream Shiba Inu colors are so light they even look like white Shiba Inus.


sable coat shiba inu
Image Credit: Elena Shvetsova, Shutterstock

Sable is not a recognized Shiba Inu color, and many people will call this color sesame. However, as you saw in our sesame section, the pattern and colors need to follow a strict set of guidelines to get the title sesame. Any sesame coat that does not follow all guidelines is better-called sable.

shiba inu colors

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Health Concerns

Fortunately, unlike many other dog breeds, the colors of the coat do not have any negative impacts on health. There is also no evidence that coat color or pattern affects the temperament or behavior of the dog.

Shiba Inu Color Changing

The Shiba Inu can take several years to develop its final coat, and during that time, it can go through many changes, which can include color changes. Some puppies are born with white marking on their face that fades over time. Many puppies also have a sesame coat that also changes over the first few years, which results in the mislabeling of many dogs as having a sesame coat.

Other Shiba Inu Color Variations

Unfortunately, there are no other color variations than the ones we have listed here, and breeders warn that if you do come across an alternate Shiba Inu color, that it can be the result of outbreeding in the dog’s genetic past. A color not recognized can also be a sign of a poor breeder or puppy mill, which you should always avoid.

Shiba Inu
Image Credit: Thorsten1970, Pixabay

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Summary: Shiba Inu Colors

The Shiba Inu is a great pet and makes a perfect companion dog. There’s not a lot of color variations, but the standard red is very attractive, as are the other three. A true sesame coat is very rare and is most likely the rarest, with most being sable. The cream coat is the next rarest because it is the result of two recessive genes. The cream coat is also the least desirable because you can’t enter it into show competition.

We hope you have enjoyed reading over this guide to Shiba Inu colors and have learned something new. If you have found it interesting, please share this complete overview of Shiba Inu colors on Facebook and Twitter.

Related Read: What Were Shiba Inus Bred for? Shiba Inu History Explained

Featured Image Credit: 9685995, Pixabay

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