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White Shiba Inu vs Cream: A Guide To Controversial Coat Colors

Are you interested in the controversial coat colors found in the Shiba Inu breed? Or maybe you're looking to adopt a Shiba and researching their color options and related health. We explore everything you need to know about white and cream Shiba Inus as well as the more common coat colors to help you make a more educated choice.

Emma Braby Picture

Last Updated: August 23, 2023 | 8 min read

White and Cream Shiba Inu side by side

The Shiba Inu is a Japanese dog breed, and they are the smallest but most common in their country of origin. They are traditional hunting dogs from the mountainous regions of Japan, used to flush and hunt prey. They are also top companion dogs, adapting well to all kinds of families. Shibas get on well with children, dogs, and other pets and thrive in apartments or large homes.

The Shiba Inu is a relatively popular dog in America. They are alert and spirited, so many people confuse them for being aggressive. But they are protective of their family and can be very affectionate and sweet. And that’s not the only reason why we love them. Their foxy appearance and fluffy coat add to their canine charm. But there is a lot of controversy and confusion when it comes to their coat colors.

Different kennel clubs and countries have differing views and standards about the accepted Shiba colors. There are three commonly accepted colors are black and tan, red, and sesame. Controversial Shiba Inu coat colors are cream and white. We look at the breed standards and why that leads to much confusion, and we also set the record straight by explaining the white vs. cream Shiba Inu debate. They are just as lovely as the standard colored Shibas, but you must be extra diligent in your research if you’re considering welcoming one into your family. So, let’s take a closer look.

Shiba Inu Breed Standard

Tan Dog in Stack Pose
Shiba Inu are small and fluffy dogs that look like a cross between a wolf and a fox.

The Shiba Inu breed standard sets out the physical guidelines expected from the breed. But Shiba Inu breed standards differ depending on what kennel club you speak to or the part of the world you reside in. Not only are the accepted Shiba Inu colors slightly different in their description, but they also recognize different colors altogether. Let’s take a quick look at three differing Shiba Inu breed standards from leading main kennel clubs across the world.

America

The primary club in America is the American Kennel Club (AKC), which accepts four colors as standard in the breed. These are black and tan, red, sesame, and cream. However, the breed standard clearly explains that only the first three colors have equal consideration. It states that “cream, white, pinto, or any other color or marking not specified is a severe fault and must be penalized.” The AKC mentions a cream and a white coat in their breed standard, suggesting they are different.

United Kingdom

One of the leading kennel clubs in the United Kingdom is The Kennel Club (KC.) They accept six colors as standard in the Shiba Inu. These are black and tan, red, red and white, red sesame, sesame, and white. The breed standard states that the white coat should be “white with red or grey tinges.” There is no mention of a cream coat here, and this suggests that cream and white coats are seen as the same.

Japan

The Association for the Preservation of the Japanese Dog, commonly abbreviated to Nippo, is the preserving and maintaining registry for the six native Japanese dog breeds. They issue breed standards for all Japanese breeds, including the Shiba. They recognize three colors as standard. These are red, black, and sesame. There is no mention at all of white or cream coats.

Are Cream Shiba Inus The Same As White Shiba Inus?

White Shiba Inu laying on top of a stuffed toy
As you can see from the differing breed standards, the white vs. cream Shiba Inu coat debate is confusing.

Cream Shibas are sometimes called white Shibas, and vice versa. But there are technical and very subtle differences between cream and white Shibas.

A true cream Shiba has a white coat with either red or gray tinges. Whereas a white Shiba Inu could refer to a pure white Shiba that does not have the same tinges. This is also true in albino, pinto, and piebald coats, which are severely penalized and undesirable. Albino is not a coat color. Instead, it is a genetic mutation that rids the body of any color and is linked to health concerns. A pinto coat is white with color patches covering over one-third of the body. And a piebald coat is a coat with irregular patches of two colors, usually white and black.

To summarize, this means that a cream coat could be considered white, but a white coat cannot be considered cream. Because there is a difference between the two, we refer to them as two colors rather than incorrectly bundling them into one, as most do.

The Controversy Of The Cream & White Shiba Inu

Although they are rare, cream and white Shiba Inu pop up in litters from time to time. Some breed fanciers accept them, but most see them as a fault that should be bred from the bloodline. Especially Japanese and traditional breeders. But why is this?

The main reasons are that the hallmark Shiba Inu markings, known as “urajiro,” cannot be seen on a white or cream dog. The markings are specific white areas on the chest, face, and tail. Therefore judges cannot judge white and cream Shibas. The other reason is that Shiba Inu colors should be bold and vibrant, not lightened or diluted, so breeders avoid breeding light-colored dogs.

Nippo is a government-approved organization that aims to preserve Japanese breeds and uphold traditional standards. They have already seen color changes in other Japanese breeds over time, as in the Kishu. The Kishu is now a predominately white-coated dog due to the extensive breeding of highly desirable studs that happened to be white. But that wasn’t the case at some of Nippo’s first dog exhibitions in the 1930s when most dogs were dark in color. Nippo wants to prevent this from happening in other Japanese breeds like the Shiba.

The Origins Of The Cream & White Shiba Inu

White Shiba Inu puppy running outside
It is not clear where the cream and white Shiba Inu genes come from.

The Shiba Inu is an ancient dog breed dating back to 300 B.C. They are small hunting dogs that were initially bred to hunt big game in the rugged mountainous regions of Japan. They are still hunters today, although they now hunt smaller animals. “Shiba” means “brushwood,” which refers to the brush they hunt in or the dog’s red coloring.

Japanese breeders believe these genes were introduced into the bloodline when mixed with Kishus in the early 20th century. At this time, all Japanese dog breeds were on the verge of extinction due to war, famine, illness, and the introduction of foreign dog breeds. The three surviving Shiba bloodlines were bred extensively to prevent their extinction.

The Genetics Of The Cream & White Shiba Inu

Genetic science is a complex study. But in a nutshell, a cream Shiba results from having two recessive “e” genes. The recessive “e” gene is rare, but having two recessive “e” genes is even rarer, so there are very few cream and white Shiba coats. The National Shiba Club of America has this to say about Shiba genetics:

The black pigment in dogs is created by the Melanocortin 1 Receptor (MC1R) which in its dominant form, E, allows for black hairs on a dog, at least in some point in their lives even if it’s just one black whisker. All Shibas have this except for the cream.

In its recessive form, e, all black pigment is restricted. If a Shiba has two copies of the gene, ee, it becomes cream. Recent test samples on Shibas that are cream or cream producers show that Shibas who do not carry the recessive for cream are EE, those that are colored and have produced cream are Ee, and cream is ee. Dogs carrying the ee have no black hairs anywhere on their bodies, ever.

National Shiba Club Of America

Should White & Cream Shiba Inus Be Bred?

There is much debate around this topic, and it all depends on your stance on white and cream Shiba Inus. However, most breeders, especially Japanese or traditional breeders, advise against breeding white and cream Shibas. Like Nippo, they want to protect and preserve the breed characteristics, including the “urajiro” markings and the intense, bold colors that white and cream Shibas don’t have.

Are White & Cream Shiba Inus Healthy?

As long as the puppies were bred for their health rather than color, they are just as healthy as any other colored Shiba. And this is why it is so important to find a responsible breeder. Unfortunately, some breeders only have one thing in mind, and that’s profit. Some breed white and cream relatives to increase the chance of a white or cream litter to increase their profit. They can then sell these pups as “rare” for an increased price. But this increases the risk of genetic health problems. So, whether they are healthy is primarily dependent on the breeder.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I Buy A White Or Cream Shiba Inu?

If the breeder has bred for their health rather than color, there is no reason not to buy a pale-colored Shiba. Unless, of course, you want to show or breed your Shiba. In that case, you should pick a puppy that adheres to your chosen kennel club’s breed standard. White or cream-colored Shibas from responsible breeders are likely to be just as healthy as their litter mates and have the same Shiba personality.

Always research the breeder you choose to work with. They should be responsible and breed for health over color. And they should only breed the three acceptable colors (if in America) and subject their dogs to recommended health tests, including patella, hip, and ophthalmologist evaluation. So be sure to ask for their health certificates.

How Much Is A White Or Cream Shiba Inu?

The price of a puppy is influenced by various factors, such as age, lineage, location, and the breeder’s experience/reputation. But technically speaking, the price of a white or cream Shiba Inu should be the same as any other Shiba Inu. The average price of a Shiba Inu puppy from a responsible breeder is between $1,200 and $2,500.

Be wary if you find a breeder selling a white or cream pup for an increased price. They have probably interbred close white or cream relatives to increase the chances of white and cream offspring. This is more lucrative for them but increases the risk of genetic health issues in the pups. And if they are lying about this, chances are, they are being deceptive about other things too.

Are White Or Cream Shiba Inus Albinos?

No. White dogs are not the same as albino dogs. Albinism causes a partial or complete lack of pigmentation, which results in very pale blue or pinkish eyes. White dogs have a white coat, but all other features have pigmentation, such as eyelids and noses. Albinism is also linked to specific health issues, such as skin disorders, blindness, deafness, and more. If you want to buy a white or cream Shiba, please be sure they do not have albinism.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there is a lot of confusion and controversy surrounding white and cream Shiba Inus. Although many kennel clubs view the color cream as undesirable and penalize them heavily in the show ring, owners can still register them. But some kennel clubs don’t recognize them at all. Whereas some recognize and accept white only. But many traditional breeders, including Nippo, see them as a genetic fault that should be eliminated from the bloodline.

Overall, a cream coat could be white, but a white coat cannot be cream. However, the two terms are often intermingled because of the confusion and different breed standards. If you want a white or cream Shiba Inu, please look for a responsible breeder who breeds for health rather than color. Otherwise, you might find an ill pup on your hands. White and cream Shiba Inus are rare but as lovely as their more traditional colored siblings.

The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety or care advice. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, insurance expert, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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