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Why Do Shiba Inus Have Curly Tails: (Key Tail Questions)

One of the distinctive physical traits of the Shiba Inu is their tightly curled tail. But why exactly does this happen?

Additionally, we have owners asking us what it means if their Shiba’s tail ISN’T as curly as others, and whether or not their tail indicates their purity.

Let’s talk about:
🐶 What Makes Shiba Inus’ Tails Curly?
🐶 Why is a Curly Tail Advantageous?
🐶 Can You Tell By The Tail if a Shiba Inu is Purebred
🐶 Why Isn’t My Shiba’s Tail Tightly Curled?
🐶 Is the Curly Tail a Common Trait in Dogs?
🐶 Can the Curly Tail Tell Us About a Shiba Inu’s Health?
🐶 Conclusion: The Significance of the Curly Tail

What Makes Shiba Inus’ Tails Curly?

Shiba Inus are distinguished by their plush, curled tails, a trait deeply embedded in their genetics and history. These tails are not only an iconic breed feature but are also believed to provide evolutionary advantages, such as preserving body heat and protecting vital organs in harsh climates.

Why is a Curly Tail Advantageous?

The curly tail of a Shiba Inu offers significant advantages. Functionally, it conserves body heat by covering the anal area and provides a compact target, reducing the risk of injuries during hunting or fights. This adaptation was especially beneficial in the cold mountainous regions where Shiba Inus originated.

Can You Tell By The Tail if a Shiba Inu is Purebred

The tail of a Shiba Inu can indeed be an indicator of its purebred status, but it should not be the sole criterion.

Purebred Shiba Inus typically have a high, tight curl that loops over the back. However, variations exist even within purebreds, where the curl might be looser or tighter.

While a curled tail is a breed standard for Shiba Inus, not all purebred Shiba Inus will have a perfect curl, and some mixed breeds might exhibit a similar tail type.

Other factors are more reliable in determining the purity of the breed.

  • Overall physical characteristics
  • Behavior
  • Genetic testing

If authenticity is a concern, consulting breed registries or seeking genetic testing can provide more definitive answers. Additionally, reputable breeders will provide pedigree information demonstrating the lineage of the dogs, which is a crucial factor in verifying a Shiba Inu’s purebred status.

Why Isn’t My Shiba’s Tail Tightly Curled?

If your Shiba Inu’s tail isn’t tightly curled, it doesn’t necessarily indicate a problem or that the dog is not a purebred.

The tightness of the curl can vary widely even within the breed due to individual genetic variation, age, health, and emotional state. Here’s what it might mean:

  1. Genetic Variation: Just like humans have different traits, Shiba Inus can have variations in their tail curls. Some may have a looser curl naturally, without it affecting their purebred status or overall health.
  2. Emotional State: Dogs often express their emotions through body language, including their tails. A Shiba Inu might uncurl its tail when relaxed, sleeping, or in a very calm state. Conversely, when alert or agitated, the tail might be more tightly curled.
  3. Health Issues: While it’s less common, certain health issues can affect a dog’s tail carriage. If a Shiba Inu’s tail is suddenly less curled than usual, and especially if it’s accompanied by signs of pain or distress, it might be a sign of an injury or ailment affecting the tail or spine.
  4. Age: As dogs get older, some of the stiffness in their tails might lessen, leading to a looser curl. This is a normal part of aging for some dogs.
  5. Breed Standard Deviation: While a tightly curled tail is the breed standard for Shiba Inus, not all individuals will meet this standard perfectly. Breed standards are ideals for the breed’s appearance, but individual dogs may naturally deviate from these standards while still being healthy and typical members of their breed.

In any case, if there are concerns about a Shiba Inu’s tail or any sudden changes in how the tail is carried or curled, consulting with a veterinarian is a wise step to ensure the dog’s health and wellbeing. Otherwise, a less tightly curled tail is often just a variation of normal for Shiba Inus.

Is the Curly Tail a Common Trait in Dogs?

While prominent in Shiba Inus, curly tails are also present in other dog breeds like Akitas, Pomeranians, and Basenjis. This shared trait across various breeds indicates a common genetic lineage and points to similar environmental adaptations in their evolution.

Other types of dog tails and their names:

  1. Curled Tail: Also known as a ring tail, this is a tail that curls over the back. It is common in breeds like Shiba Inus, Pomeranians, and Basenjis. The curl can be tight or loose and is often seen as a fluffy plume in long-haired breeds.
  2. Sickle Tail: Resembling the shape of a sickle, this tail has a curve towards the back but doesn’t curl over itself. It’s often seen in breeds like the Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute. The tail is typically carried higher when the dog is alert or excited.
  3. Otter Tail: Thick at the base and tapering towards the tip, otter tails are usually covered in dense fur. They are most commonly seen in water breeds like the Labrador Retriever, where the tail aids in swimming.
  4. Whip Tail: Long and thin resembling a whip, these tails are usually seen in greyhounds and whippets. They are typically held low and have minimal curve.
  5. Gay Tail: A tail that is carried higher than the horizontal level of the back, often seen as a fault in some breeds. Despite the term “gay,” it has nothing to do with sexuality; it’s just an old-fashioned term used to describe the tail’s position.
  6. Bobtail: This is a short tail that can be natural or docked. Some breeds like the Old English Sheepdog are born with a naturally bobbed tail, while others might have their tails docked for breed standards or historical working purposes.
  7. Docked Tail: Historically, some breeds had their tails shortened or “docked” for various reasons, including perceived health, safety, or breed standards. It’s less common and even illegal in many places now due to ethical and animal welfare concerns.
  8. Plume Tail: Found on many long-haired breeds like the Shih Tzu or Afghan Hound, the plume tail features long, flowing fur that drapes down from the curled or arched tail.
  9. Corkscrew Tail: This is a tightly wound tail that spirals around. It’s commonly seen in breeds like Pugs and Bulldogs. The tight curls can sometimes lead to health issues for the dog due to skin infections in the tail folds.

Each of these tail types can contribute to a dog’s expression, communication, and overall look. They often have practical or historical reasons behind their shapes and are one of many features used to determine breed standards in dogs.

Can the Curly Tail Tell Us About a Shiba Inu’s Health?

The appearance and condition of a Shiba Inu’s tail can sometimes reflect its overall health. A healthy, well-cared-for Shiba Inu typically sports a full, robust curly tail. Any deviation, such as an uncharacteristic straightening or limpness, might indicate health issues or discomfort and should prompt a consultation with a veterinarian.

Conclusion: The Significance of the Curly Tail

The curly tail of a Shiba Inu is more than a cute feature; it’s a testament to the breed’s evolutionary history and genetic heritage. It serves practical purposes while also contributing to the unique and beloved appearance of the breed. By understanding the why behind their curly tails, owners and enthusiasts can appreciate these dogs even more deeply.


The advice given in this article is for educational purposes only and does not constitute professional advice in any context. Before making any decisions that may affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. For the FULL disclaimer Visit Here

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