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 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 umber of Shiba Inu in Japan, where many now serve as "companion dogs."
The Shiba Inu is now considered a national treasure.
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, 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.