by Leslie Ann Engen
published in 1997 Feb/Mar Shiba-E-News

First, lets get the pronunciation right! There are four syllables: u/ra/ji/ro. The u is pronounced oo as in the word food. The r in ra is slightly different from the English r, more like an l or d or a Spanish r without any flip or roll. If you fin it difficult to pronounce, use an English r sound. The a is pronounced like a in father. The gee in the word, gee whiz will do nicely for the ji. And, the r in ro is the same as above; the o as in the word boat. All together now, URAJIRO - oo/ra/gee/ro!

The Japanese do not have a dictionary definition for this word because it is a two-part word. The first character, ura, means the reverse side; the undersurface, or inside. The s word. You thought English difficult?

So, urajiro means undersurface white, which in English, is really a description rather than a word. Another English word for undersurface is ventral. If you remember that sharks and dolphins have a dorsal fin on their backs, it's easy to remember that ventral means the opposite of dorsal. We could say that all Shibas must have ventral white, but this single word, urajiro, far better brings the image to mind.

The Nippo Standard states that all Shibas are required to have urajiro in the following areas:

1. The mouth sides and cheeks 2. Each undersection of the jaw, neck, chest and stomach 3. The forechest, extending to the shoulder joint, but not extending onto the shoulder itself

The Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) standard for the Shiba uses the word urajiro in its English translation. It defines it as "a whitish coat on the sides of the muzzle and on the cheeks, on the underside of the jaw and neck, on the chest and stomach and the underside of the tail, and on the inside of the legs.

The inside of the ears and eye spots were not included in this list but probably should be since they are part of the same set of genes. As with everything about Shibas, the amount of urajiro a dog should have is moderate - neither too much nor too little. The line between the red coat color on the dog and the urajiro is not clear-cut, but rather, is slightly blurred. This is because the urajirt characteristic is linked with the kind of red coat the Shiba has. The gene that controls the Shiba red always shades to a lighter color on the belly of an adult dog. It is completely different from the gene that makes a solid red dog like an Irish Setter.

The Nippo Standard for the Shiba also makes reference to other white markings that are acceptable but not required, and most important, these white markings are not urajiro. They are:

1. White socks on the forelegs no further than the elbow joint; rear legs no further than the knee joint 2. The tip of the tail

Another example of this type of marking is the patch of white blaze on the chest of a newborn Shiba puppy, standing out clearly from the brownish baby coat. Many times these newborn chest patches or tiny toe socks will fade into the urajiro as the puppy grows up. They're still there, you just can't see them anymore. Less desirable white markings that sometime occur are a snip on the bridge of the nose or forehead, a white spot on the back of the neck, or a white collar like those seen in Collies and Shelties. All of these markings have clean-cut edges. All are controlled by the same set of genes. Again, they are not urajiro.

Hopefully, you are no longer asking why should we use the Japanese word urajiro in the United States. Remember:

1. It consolidates all of the required white areas (controlled by the same set of genes) into one word. It clearly separates the required - from the not required optional white areas (i.e., socks and tail). 2. There is no simple translation of the word into English; one that can give these white areas a similar and consolidated identity. 3. FCI has already incorporated this Japanese word into the English FCI Shiba Standard, making it an international term.

URAJIRO? . . . the required white markings on a Shiba!