Nihon Ken-Which would you get?
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32 / M / Glendale, AZ
Posted 8/16/11 , edited 8/17/11
The text is taken from the forum, a site for admirers of the 6 main Spitz-type Japanese breeds. Author is member TheWalrus.


The Akita Inu (or Akita Ken) is the largest of the six, native, Japanese spitz type dogs, and the only breed in the 'large' category. The breed originated in the northernmost part of the island of Honshu from the hunting dogs of the matagi (subsistence hunters). The dogs of the matagi were similar in size to the other medium sized Japanese breeds, and were used to hunt big game such as deer and bear.

During the Edo period the local ruling Satake family promoted dog fighting as a way to entertain and increase moral among their soldiers. The matagi dogs were bred toward larger stronger dogs to increase their fighting prowess. With the arrival of the Meiji period, the Tosa from Shikoku, the Karafuto and Hokkaido from Hokkaido, along with many large Western breeds were bred to the local fighting dogs. Mastiffs, German Shepherds, and Great Danes are some of the Western breeds bred from. The breed lost many of it's Spitz characteristics such as prick ears, double coats, and curled tails and became known locally as the 'Shin Akita' or New Akita.

After dog fighting was outlawed at the end of the Meiji period the breed went into decline, but as the Taisho period began there were calls from breed fanciers and academics to preserve the breed. In 1918 the Natural Monument Preservation Law went into effect, and in 1931 the breed was declared a Living Natural Monument. During the harsh economic period Japan experienced during and immediately after World War 2, owning dogs was seen as wasteful and unpatriotic. Most dogs other than German Shepherds (which were considered useful as military dogs) were rounded up and killed, and the large Akita was no exception. The dog's coats were used to provide clothing for the military, and many were eaten. It was through the noble efforts of a few that the breed did not go extinct. However, the breed's number were severely depleted, and many prime specimens of the breed were lost. It took many years and the efforts of many to bring the breed back from the brink of extinction.

During the war, some Akita were bred with German Shepherds in an effort to save them from slaughter. This and the breed's mixed heritage from it's fighting days gave the Akita of the time a distinctly different look from the other Japanese breeds. After the war, US servicemen stationed in Japan became interested in the breed, and many took dogs back with them. These Akita became the foundation of the breed in the US and overseas. In Japan however a movement to return the Akita to its 'original' state began around this time. An extensive breeding program to select for preferred type began, leading to the creation of the modern Japanese Akita. In the United States however, the larger, heavier boned Akita were preferred leading to two very different strains of this once single breed. Today in Japan the types have been split into two separate breeds, however overseas some kennel clubs still recognize them as one breed.

The Akita and Shiba are the most famous of the Japanese breeds, and much of the Akita's fame can be attributed to the story of an Akita named Hachiko who for years waited daily at Shibuya station for his dead master's return. While the breed is well known in Japan, its numbers have declined due to its large size and the housing situation in the country.

The FCI Akita standard describes the breed as: “A large-sized dog, sturdily built, well balanced and with much substance; secondary sex characteristics strongly marked, with high nobility and dignity in modesty; constitution tough.” The breed comes in three colors, aka (red), shiro (white), and tora (brindle). Like all the Nihon Ken, the Akita has a double coat made up of protective coarse outer guard hairs, and a fine thick undercoat that is shed seasonally. All colors except white must have urajiro (light cream or white markings or shading) on the sides of the muzzle, on the cheeks, the underside of the jaw, neck, chest, body and tail, and on the inside of the legs.

Akita are intelligent, independent dogs, and they can make excellent companions for the individual prepared to give them the attention and exercize they require. They can be territorial, and make reasonable watch dogs, but are not by nature guard dogs or protection dogs.

They are a rare breed even in their native country with yearly registrations of between 2,000 and 2,500 (all registries). The main breed registry is run by the Akita Inu Hozonkai.


The Shikoku Ken is one of the six, native, Japanese sptiz-type dogs. Native to the mountainous region of Kochi prefecture on the island of Shikoku, these athletic and agile dogs are accomplished big game hunters and are sometimes referred to as the Kochi Ken. The Shikoku Ken is prized for it's tenacity in face of large game and their relative calm around the family. Originally known as the Tosa Ken, they were renamed so as not to be confused with the Tosa fighting dog.

In post World War I Japan, the relative prosperity of the country succumbed to economic hardship as the Showa period began in 1926. Once relatively common, luxuries such as dog ownership became increasingly uncommon. In 1928, the Nihon Ken Hozonkai (NIPPO) was formed. NIPPO is an organization dedicated to the preservation of the six native Japanese spitz-type dogs. In 1937 NIPPO succeeded in having the Shikoku Ken declared a "Living Natural Monument" of Japan and a major reconstruction effort was undertaken.

Out of the reconstruction effort, three distinct lines of the Shikoku were developed: the Awa, the Hongawa and the Hata all named after the areas they originated from within Kochi prefecture. More recently the distinction between these lines has been blurred as remote areas where the dogs originated became easier to access and lines were cross bred. The modern Shikoku is thought to descend mainly from the Hongawa and Hata lines as the Awa line essentially disappeared as a result of the hardships caused by World War II and a lack of quality specimens due to cross breeding with outside dogs.

One of the foundation dogs of the Hata line was "Gomago," who was born in 1934. He obtained a Best in Show title in 1940. The principle elements of the Hata line included a generally heavier, stockier build and thicker, longer, and more profuse coats; skulls tended to be broader, ears tidier and smaller, and movement ponderous. Much of the Hongawa line is attributable to the foundation dog "Choushungo" who took Best in Show the following year and was also born in 1934. These dogs were characterized by light, flowing movement, long, strong limbs with excellent angulation, good ear set and correct eye colour. Their outer coats were harsh and weatherproof, but their protective undercoats did not match the quality of the Hata line's. Hongawa Shikoku also tended to be slender and have a more elegant build. Ultimately it was the Hongawa Shikoku that was to have the most influence on the direction of the breed as we know it today. (Excerpted from here.) Two other notable Shikoku from the same period are "Kusugo" who took Best in Show in 1939, and "Kumago". These four dogs formed much of the foundation for the modern day Shikoku.

The Shikoku standard, as written today, describes them as: "A medium-sized dog with well balanced and well developed clean cut muscles. It has pricked ears and a curled or sickle tail. Conformation: strong, well-boned and compact." Dogs are supposed to range from 19-21.5 inches at the withers and bitches from 17-19 inches. Dogs weigh an average of 45 pounds and bitches closer to 35. There are four accepted coat colors in the standard: goma (sesame), aka (red), kuro (black), and shiro (white/cream). White is not desirable in the Shikoku and is penalized heavily in the conformation ring. For many years black was not popular with many breeders leading to the misconception that it is not desirable, however this is false. Many experienced Shikoku breeders in Japan will breed black Shikoku (especially males) to maintain darker colors and thicker coats in their blood lines. The black coloration was especially prevalent in the original Hongawa dogs. There are three types of goma (sesame): kuro-goma (more black than light colored hairs), aka-goma (red base with black hairs mixed in), and shiro-goma (white base with black hairs mixed in). Like all Nihon Ken, the Shikoku has a double coat made up of coarse outer guard hairs, and a thick fine undercoat that it sheds seasonally. All Shikoku should have "urajiro" markings which are markings of a white or cream color presented on the ventral portions of the body and legs, as well as on the cheeks and brow of the head.

The Shikoku is more eager to please its owner than some of the other Nihon Ken, but is still an independent thinker and often will not listen or ignore commands. Shikoku can be territorial and make reasonable watch dogs, but are not by nature guard dogs or protection dogs. The Shikoku Ken is one of the rarest of the Nihon Ken. Only a small number are known to exist outside of Japan. Some estimates put this number around 100 (as of 2010). Even in Japan the breed is very rare with yearly registrations at around 300-400. The number of Shikoku in Japan is estimated to be between 5000-7000. The main breed registry is run by the Nihon Ken Hozonkai (Nippo).


The Shiba Ken (or Shiba Inu) is the smallest and most popular of the six, native, Japanese breeds. It is the only Nihon Ken that was not named after a geographical area. The reason for this is that in contrast to the other Nihon Ken, the Shiba is from a very large geographical area in central Japan. Like all the Nihon Ken, the Shiba was a hunting dog first and foremost, used to hunt small game and birds.

There are differing theories as to how the breed received it's name. One is that they were named because their red coats were similar in color to dried brushwood (shiba). Another is because the archaic reading for the kanji 'shiba' means small. The last theory is that they were named so because they were adept at weaving through brushwood when hunting.

It is said that the Nihon Ken has been present in Japan since the Jomon period. Unearthed shell mounds from the period have uncovered canine bones with approximately the same bone structure and size as the modern day Shiba. The fact that many of these dogs are believed to have been buried with their masters shows the close relationship the people of the time had with these dogs. Today there is a type of Shiba called the Jomon Shiba, which has been back bred to resemble the bone structure and type present in the early native dogs.

The Nihon Ken Hozonkai (Japanese Dog Preservation Society, or Nippo) was established in 1928 to preserve the native dogs from extinction. Crossbreeding with western dogs was prevalent, and Nippo members scoured the country collecting dogs from remote areas for breeding programs. The Shiba was declared a Living Natural Monument by the government of Japan in 1936.

During the harsh economic period Japan experienced during and immediately after World War 2, owning dogs was seen as wasteful and unpatriotic. Most dogs were rounded up and killed, and the Shiba was no exception. The dog's coats were used to provide clothing for the military, and many were eaten. It was through the noble efforts of Nippo members that the Shiba survived. The breed's number were severely depleted, and many prime specimens of the breed were lost. It took many years and the efforts of many society members to bring the breed back from the brink of extinction.

Today the Shiba is the most popular of the Nihon Ken, accounting for approximately 80 percent of dogs registered with Nippo every year. The breed has also become popular overseas.

The Shiba is the only small sized Nihon Ken. It has prick ears, and a curl or sickle tail. Like all Nihon Ken the Shiba has a double coat made up of coarse outer guard hairs, and fine thick undercoat which it sheds twice a year. It has a somewhat shorter coat when compared with the other Japanese breeds. There are three recognized coat colors: red, black, and sesame. White (or cream) Shiba are also born on occasion, but are non-standard. All Shiba should have "urajiro" markings which are markings of a white or cream color presented on the ventral portions of the body and legs, as well as on the cheeks and brow of the head. Dogs range in size from 38-41cm, and bitches from 37-40cm.

The Shiba is intelligent, and like all Nihon Ken, is a very independent thinker. They are an alert and energetic breed. Yearly registrations in their home country number from 50,000-60,000 (all registries combined). At present there is no estimate available for the total population. The main breed registry is run by Nippo, but there are several smaller breed clubs, and a large number of Shiba are registered with the JKC.


The Kishu Ken is one of the six, native, Japanese spitz type dogs. The breed originated in the area known as Kishu (modern day Wakayama and Mie prefectures). Primarily a large game hunting dog, they have traditionally specialized in hunting wild boar and deer. While the Kishu originally included coat colors similar to the other Nihon Ken, due to genetics and breeder preference the majority of Kishu today are white.

Legend has it that the Kishu are descended from wolves. The story goes that a hunter took pity on an injured wolf he found by the side of the road. All he asked for in return was for the wolf to one day give him one of its pups. The wolf kept its promise, and the pup grew to be a great boar hunter and the forefather of the Kishu. The Kishu is known as a fearless, relentless hunter, and today is still used to hunt deer and wild boar.

The Kishu has also been called the Taichi Ken and Kumano Ken, names taken from areas they originated, but the breed became known as the Kishu Ken after it was declared a Natural Monument. The Kishu has been treasured by the local hunters for hundreds of years. Local paintings from over 700 years ago depict these dogs hunting wild boar. The Kishu managed to survive the changes the country experienced during and after World War 2, protected by the area's isolated mountainous terrain, and by the hunters who prized them for their hunting prowess. The Kishu was declared a Natural Monument in 1934.

Originally the breed was comprised primarily of non-white dogs at a ratio of around 7:3. The trend toward white dogs started due to the popularity of the Ouchiyama line of white Kishu. This line of white hunting Kishu was so impressive that it was bred from extensively. Due to the popularity of these white Kishu, and the nature of the white gene in the breed, today there are very few non-white Kishu left.

The FCI Kishu standard describes the breed as: “A medium-sized dog, well balanced and muscles well developed. The dog has pricked ears and a curled or sickle tail. The conformation is strong, well boned and compact.” The Kishu once came in many color variations, including 'buchi' (spotted or pinto). Today however three colors are recognized: white, red, and sesame. Dogs stand at 49-55cm and bitches at 43-49cm. The breed has a slightly more muscled, heavy set appearance when compared to the other medium sized Japanese breeds. Like all the Nihon Ken, the Kishu has a double coat made up of coarse outer guard hairs, and thick fine under coat that is shed seasonally.

The Kishu is a powerful, athletic, and alert animal. Like most Nihon Ken they are independent thinkers, and have a very strong desire to hunt. A Kishu should be fearless, but not aggressive. They can be territorial and may make good watch dogs, but are not by nature guard dogs or protection dogs. The Kishu as a breed tends to be slightly more approachable by strangers than the other Japanese breeds. They are a rare breed even in their native country with an estimated population of around 10,000-13,000, and yearly registrations of between 700-900. The main breed registry is run by the Nihon Ken Hozonkai.

Hokkaido-The Hokkaido Ken is one of the six, native, Japanese spitz type dogs. A medium sized breed that originated on the northernmost island of Japan, Hokkaido, they are often referred to as Ainu Ken after the original indigenous people of Japan. The Ainu called their dogs 'seta' or 'shita' and used them to hunt bear and deer. The Hokkaido Ken is thought to have crossed over to Hokkaido with the Ainu as they were pushed north by the arrival of the Yayoi from the Korean peninsula.

The Hokkaido are thought to carry more of the genes from the older type of dogs that arrived in Japan with the Jomon. Although they did interbreed with the dogs brought over by the Yayoi, due to their exodus across the sea to Hokkaido they were geographically isolated. Studies have shown they share DNA with the Ryukyu Ken of Okinawa which are also believed to carry more genes from the original Jomon dogs.

The Ainu passed on stories by word of mouth, and several legends featured dogs. In the legend of the birth of the Ainu people, a princess was washed ashore on a desolate beach. As she was crying over her plight a white dog appeared and brought her food. From that day on the dog lived with her, and one day a child was born between them. The child grew to be strong and powerful, and the forefather of the Ainu.

The Hokkaido was declared a Living Natural Monument in 1937. Today there the two main breed registries, the Hokkaido Ken Hozonkai (Hokkaido Dog Preservation Society) and the Hokkaido Ken Kyokai (Hokkaido Dog Association). Almost no Hokkaido are registered outside of these two clubs.

The breed was originally made up of several bloodlines named after the areas they originated, with the most famous lines being the Chitose, Biratori, Atsuma, and Yuwamizawa. Today the Chitose line is most prevalent due to the quality of the line in the breed's early days. White, smaller sized dogs with small ears and wide foreheads were common in this line. In comparison the Atsuma line had a large number of brindle dogs, with more tapered muzzles.

The Hokkaido is renowned for it's bravery. While very few are still used to hunt bear today, at breed shows hunting tests are conducted where the dogs are shown a live bear and scored on their movement, reaction, and hunting drive.

The Hokkaido Ken is a medium sized, strongly built dog. They have longer thicker coats than the other Japanese breeds, and also have wider chests, and smaller ears. Like all the Nihon Ken, they have a double coat made up of protective coarse outer guard hairs, and a fine thick undercoat that is shed seasonally. The breed comes in several colors: white, red, black, brindle, sesame, and grey. Many Hokkaido also have spotting on their tongues. The breed has prick ears, and curl or sickle type tails. Dogs are between 48.5-51.5cm, and bitches 45.5-48.5cm.

The Hokkaido is a brave, energetic breed, capable of withstanding the cold temperatures of the Hokkaido winter. They have a life expectancy of around 15 years. The breed is extremely rare outside its native country. In Japan there is an estimated population of around 10,000-12,000, and yearly registrations of between 900-1000 (all registries). The breed has recently seen a rise in popularity in Japan due to a long running series of commercials featuring a white Hokkaido Ken called 'Otousan' (father).


I wrote a post on this on my blog a while back, but since I still get many questions regarding the breed, I'm editing and reposting this information.

The Kai Ken, also known as the Tora Inu (Tiger Dog), is one of the six, native, Japanese spitz type dogs. The breed's brindle coat distinguishes it from the other medium sized Nihon Ken. In size, the Kai is larger than the Shiba, but marginally smaller than the Shikoku, Kishu and Hokkaido, giving it a unique place among the Japanese breeds.

The ancestors of the Kai are thought to have been dogs brought over thousands of years ago by the Jomon, and later the Yayoi people. Due to Japan's geographic and political isolation, there was not much inter breeding with dogs from the continent. Of the Japanese breeds Kai, Hokkaido, and Ryukyu carry more of the genetic make up of the original dogs brought over by the Jomon, while the other breeds seem to carry more of the genes from the later dogs brought by the Yayoi. This can be almost completely contributed to geographics.

The Kai originated in the mountainous region of Kai (modern day Yamanashi) which gave the breed its name. Historical records tell of the famed brindle hunting dogs of the region, and their hunting prowess was believed to be second to none. While traditionally used to hunt Kamoshika, a type of mountain antelope similar to a chamois, their versatility and athleticism allowed them to be used to hunt many types of game, ranging from pheasant to bear. Today they are primarily used to hunt pheasant, wild boar, and deer.

As Japan opened up to the outside world, traders brought dogs with them. In many cases these dogs were systematically bred with the native dogs, as in the case of the Akita and the Tosa. The interbreeding was so widespread that in the early 1900s a movement began to save the remaining 'pure' native dogs. The mood in the country at the time was leaning toward ultra-nationalism, and the government actively encouraged the preservation of all things Japanese. Teams scoured the country to find the 'best' 'pure' dogs. Thus began the classification of the Japanese Dog (and the breed standards).

Kai numbers increased under national and prefectural government protection, with the prefectural government awarding tax breaks to owners of these national treasures. In the period during and following World War 2 most Japanese dogs faced harsh conditions and extremely depleted numbers due to food shortages, and in some cases laws banning the ownership of dogs. Many dogs were killed, their coats used to provide clothing for the military, and some were eaten. Thanks to its status and ardent supporters however, the Kai was left primarily intact, with many of the dogs being kept at local government offices and police departments. The fact that post war over half of the registered dogs in Yamanashi prefecture were Kai Ken shows just how effective these measures were.

The Kai is often cited as being the most 'pure' of the Japanese breeds (this is entirely anecdotal). This is mostly due to Yamanashi being extremely back country and mountainous, making it difficult for outsiders to enter the area. The Kai Ken Aigokai (Kai Ken Protection Society or Kai Ken Preservation Society) was established in 1931, and the first Tenrankai (exhibition) was held in April the following year. In November of the same year the first Nihon Ken Hozonkai (Japanese Dog Preservation Society) Tenrankai was held in Ginza, Tokyo. Of 81 dogs shown, 17 were Kai. The breed was given Natural Monument status in 1933. The rift between the Kai Ken Aigokai and Nihon Ken Hozonkai began when Nippo (Nihon Ken Hozonkai) classified all the Japanese breeds into 3 sizes, small, medium and large. The Kai was grouped in the medium category along with the Shikoku, Kishu, and Hokkaido.

The disagreement between the KKA and Nippo was mainly over size. The Kai did not conform to the measurements of the medium standard as set by Nippo. Slightly larger than the 'small' Shiba, they do not conform to the 'small' or 'medium' standard, ending up somewhere in between. The KKA standard calls for a height of 40-50 centimeters, with the Nippo 'medium' standard set at 51cm for males (give or take 3cm), and 49cm for females (give or take 3cm). The KKA was set on preserving the Kai as it was, without breeding to manipulate size to conform to the Nippo 'medium' standard. There was also a disagreement regarding the black tongue markings that almost all Kai have. According to the Nippo standard black markings on a dog's tongue is a flaw, and in the ring counts for a point deduction. A few years ago Nippo finally changed this rule, and the Kai is no longer docked points for tongue markings (though the amount allowed is still vague).

Due to these disagreements (and possibly other politics) KKA members stopped showing their dogs at Nippo events, and does not allow their Kai to register with other canine registration organizations. Any KKA Kai registered with another organization loses its KKA registration. Due to this, there are very few Kai registered with Nippo, and it is very difficult for them to do well in Nippo events due to size constraints (and until recently, tongue markings). There is a small group of Kai registered with Nippo, but the smaller gene pool and their larger than average size leave something to be desired. I have heard on occasion of Kai that do not do well showing at the Aigokai events due to size or other issues, switching to Nippo registration to compete in their events (less competition).

One stickler born of all this is that the Japan Kennel Club (JKC) which is the FCI recognized national canine registry, only allows registration of Nippo Kai, and not KKA Kai. So, anyone looking to export and register their Kai with an overseas canine registry can have problems getting KKA papers recognized. It is easier to export a Nippo Kai and get JKC papers, but due to the aforementioned reasons is not necessarily in the breed's best interest.

It is possible to register a KKA Kai with Nippo, but the dog will only receive a limited pedigree. Resulting litters from a limited registration breeding will also receive a limited pedigree. Third generation pups will receive a full Nippo pedigree which can then be switched to JKC registration.

There are roughly 600-800 Kai registered with the KKA every year, 100-150 with Nippo, and 100-200 with the JKC.

The FCI Kai standard describes the breed as: “A medium-sized dog, well balanced, sturdily built, muscles well developed. The dog has the characteristics of a dog living in mountainous districts of Japan. Limbs strong and hocks remarkably developed.” The are three recognized breed colors, all brindle: aka-tora (red), chu-tora (medium), and kuro-tora (black), with aka-tora being the rarest of the three variations. There is a recessive gene in the breed which occasionally produces non-standard white (or cream) colored Kai. Most Kai have dark spots on their tongues.Like all the Nihon Ken, the Kai has a double coat made up of protective coarse outer guard hairs, and a fine thick undercoat that is shed seasonally.

The JKC, Nippo, and KKA offer differing standards for the breed, with the Kai Ken Aigokai having the largest variation in size and type. The KKA standard recognizes Kai between 40-50cm.

The Kai as a breed is intelligent, athletic, and alert, with a strong desire to hunt. Like most Nihon Ken the Kai is an independent thinker. Many are very attached to their owners, and they can make excellent companions for the individual prepared to give them the attention and exercize they require. They can be territorial, and make reasonable watch dogs, but are not by nature guard dogs or protection dogs. They have shown the ability to be quick learners, with some active in Japan as search and rescue dogs. They are a rare breed even in their native country with an estimated population of around 12,000-14,000, and yearly registrations of between 800 and 1,200, (all registries combined). The main breed registry is run by the Kai Ken Aigokai.

Akita breeders (of course, the American Akita is the one that you'd see more often with breeders. Tucson, AZ has the Japanese version with Celtic Akitas):


Kishu: is not only the only breeder in the country but the only breeder other than in the Netherlands that breeds outside of Japan.




Going with the word of Nihonken, there is only 12 or less Hokkaidos in the country. Thus, I know not of any breeders here. Fortunately, a Colorado guy has two and Colorado is a neighboring state to my beloved Arizona.

Size of the 7 major dogs (biggest to smallest): Tosa*, Akita, Kishu, Shikoku, Hokkaido, Kai, and Shiba.
*While the Akita breed standards put both sexes between 75-120 lbs., the Tosa's Japanese standards are close at 80-120 pounds. However, the Japanese lines Shaku1 uses are straight from Kochi City and these ones will be Mastiff-size.

Pictures(From top to bottom: Shiba, Shikoku, Kai, Akita, Hokkaido, Kishu, and Tosa).

While my fave dog after black Labradors are the Japanese Akita/Akita Inu, I would take the Tosa because it's considered a Molosser ( for a heated debate that is similar to anime forum threads I've looked at in terms of differences of opinion)

The following are Nihon Ken who have articles on Molosser Dogs. Link to all the listed breeds is".

Akita Inu

The Japanese Akita is believed by some to descend from ancient dogs that existed before the European continent and Japan were separated by the sea. This powerful spitz is related to large dogs of Central Asia and various indigenous Japanese breeds. Originally called Odate-Inu, early orange Akitas were popular among the Samurai as bear, boar and deer hunters, as well as fighting dogs. During the Showa era many foreign breeds, such as Central Asian Ovcharkas, English Mastiffs, Malamutes, St.Bernards, Bulldogges and numerous other fighting dogs were crossed into the Akita-Inu, to increase its size and improve fighting ability. The Japanese Tosa Inu was reportedly also used later on. The new type was called the Shin Akita and it had drop-ears and was much more massive and vicious than original Japanese dogs. This resulted in an alarming decline in numbers of pure Matagi type Akitas, which led Shigeie Izumi, the mayor of Odate, to start a dedicated salvation programme. The Akita-Inu Preservation Society was founded in 1927 and has been active ever since.

In the WW2, the Japanese military used Akitas as service dogs, as well as a source of fur and food. This meant that any Akita was good enough and the unpure specimens outnumbered the original Akita-Inu dogs once again. In the years following the war, there were very few pure dogs left and the breed seemed destined for extinction. Akitas of various origins were crossed with German Shepherd Dogs brought to Japan by the American forces, further compromising the purity of this ancient breed. An effort to revive the Akita-Inu resulted in the development of two main breeding bloodlines, the Dewa and Ichinoseki strains. The Dewa dogs were bigger and more popular with the American soldiers who took a great number of them to America. From these bloodlines a new type developed and today the American Akita is a separate breed from its Japanese cousin. However, the original Akita-Inu was re-established in Japan and thanks to the efforts of dedicated fanciers and breeders, this magnificient dog can once again be found in its pure form.

The largest of native Japanese breeds, the Akita Inu is a well-boned, muscular and powerful dog. The legs are strong, the head is broad and the chest is fairly wide, but a real Japanese Akita is not as massive as its American counterpart. The erect ears are small and the tail is tightly curled over the dog's back. It can be stubborn, but early socialization and obedience training will keep its dog-aggressive nature and overly protective temperament under control. The Japanese Akita can make a good watchdog and a loving family pet.

The coat is thick and harsh, preferred in orange shades, but common in sesame, red, fawn, white and as a specific bicolour, known as "urajiro". Average height is around 26 inches.


Also referred to as the Shikoku Shika Inu, meaning "the medium-sized dog from Shikoku", this breed has been used for enturies to hunt game. Shikoku is a large island off the coast of mainland Japan, south-west of Osaka. In ancient times, in teh more remote rural areas of the island, the local people used his do to help them in the hunt for game. The breed was centered in the Kochi region, and is sometimes called the Kochi-Ken or Kochi dog.

In appearance, this is a typical Japanese breed, with a dense, harsh coat in various shades of brown. It has a muscular neck and body, pricked ears and a typical, slightly curled spitz tail. In size, it is intermediate between the large Akita and the small Shiba Inu, with height of 18-22 Inches (46-55 cm).

In personality, this is one of those breeds that stubbornly attempts to dominate other dogs, but is pleasant enough with its owners. It is a tough and agile dog, well adapted to hunting in difficult mountain terrain.

Three kinds of Shikoku have been identified in the past - the Awa, the Hongawa and the Hata. Each of these was named after a particular locality within the general breed range. The Hongawa was considered to be the best variety, with the greatest level of breed purity, thanks to its isolation.

This is an extremely rare breed and there have been fears for its future survival. Fortunately there is now a Society for the preservation of Japanese Breeds, which is doing its best to protect this breed and prevent it from disappearing altogether. It was declared a Natural Monument in 1937.


Also known as the Ainu, the Ainou, the Ainu-Ken, the Hokkaido-Ken, the Hokkaido Inu, the Hokkaido Dog or simply the Hokkaido, this breed was developed to hunt a wide variety of game, from bear downwards. It is named Ainu after the ancient Ainu people of Japan, and Hokkaido .after the island where the dogs live. Other names attached to this breed are the Japanese Bear Hound and the Choken.

This is one of the medium-sized spitz-type dogs that are indigenous to Japan, others being the Kai, the Kishu and the Shikoku. It has smaller ears than the other breeds, a broader face and a fierce expression. In the field it is ferocious, brave and fearless, even when faced with a large bear, but in the home it is obedient and friendly. Apart from its main duty of hunting, it also has a secondary role as a village guardian.

Thousands of years ago, a strange, white, hairy-bodied race, the Ainu, arrived on the islands we now call Japan and settled there. They brought with them a northern type of dog and colonized all four of the main islands. Much later, the Yamato people arrived and, little by little, pushed the Ainu hunter-gatherers out. Their tribes survived only on the northern island of Hokkaido, where they managed to cling on, although their numbers grew ever smaller. (Today there are only a few hundred full-blooded Ainu left.) From ie earliest times they had hunting dogs with them and, on Hokkaido, these animals adapted to the rugged, often freezing conditions and developed into the tough, thick-coated breed which today we call either the Ainu or the Hokkaido Ainu was its original name, but the Japanese government formally changed this to Hokkaido in 1937, when it declared the breed a Natural Monument and instituted a special protection programm for it.

Most canine authorities, however, have ignored this official change of title and still insist on calling the dog by its earlier, better known, traditional name.

Kai Dog

Also known as the Kai Shika Inu, the Kai Inu, the Tora Inu, the Kai Ken, the Kai Tora-Ken. the Kohshu-Tora, the Tora Dog or the Tiger Dog, this breed was developed in medieval times for hunting large game, such as wild boar and deer. The Japanese words 'shika inu' means 'medium-sized dog'.

Like several other native Japanese dogs, this one was overshadowed by exotic imported breeds in the period following World War I. Then, in the 1930s, an attempt was made to revive the ancient breeds and arrange them into some sort of ordered classification. This was done largely by canine expert Haruo Isogai, using size distinctions as his main criterion. The Kai Dog was one of the medium-sized breeds, and in 1934 it was declared a Natural Monument.

A general-purpose hunting dog, it was named after the mountainous Kai district of the Yamanashi Prefecture where it originated. Its alternative name of Tiger Dog is not meant to indicate that it once pursued tigers, but is probably derived from its typically dark, brindled coat that, with a little imagination, can be said to show a few striped markings.

There are three brindled coat colours - red, called Aka-Tora; red-black, called Chu-Tora; and black, called Kuro-Tora. The puppies are all born solid black, and do not develop their brindled colours for some months.

The Kai can be distinguished from other medium-sized Japanese breeds by its mord tapered head and narrower skull. It is a stocky, spitz-type dog with a thick neck, pricked ears and a tightly curled tail. It is still little-known outside its native homeland although a few examples have reached North America.

Japanese Tosa

The Tosa-Inu is believed to have been developed during the Ansei era in the Tosa region of the Shikoku Island in the Kochi prefecture of Japan by a commited fighting enthusiast who crossed the indigenous Shikoku Fighting Dog with a larger Ninoh-Inu he brought from Nagasaki, hoping to create a superior arena warrior. Unfortunately, this effort proved futile and the newly established Tosa breed was no match for the increasingly popular European fighting dogs. From then on all the way to the early years of the Showa era, a great number of Western breeds was introduced to the Tosa bloodline, such as the British and German mastiffs, bulldogges and hunting dogs, namely the English Mastiff, English Bulldog, English Bullterrier, English Pointer, Great Dane and German Pointer, as well as some St.Bernards, Bloodhounds and of course, local Akitas. Initially, the Tosa's appearance was very similar to that of Western bulldogges and bullterriers, but further crosses resulted in a larger and more massive dog of an ideal fighting temperament. While developing the Tosa Inu, Japanese dogmen also created the Shin Akita, a moderately popular fighting dog achieved by crossing the Tosa Inu with the Akita Inu.

By selecting only the best examples and culling those found to be inferior in the fighting ring, Tosa Ken breeders were successful in establishing a reasonably consistent population of dogs, at least in terms in terms of working ability. At this point, variety of colourings were still acceptable, as well as various sizes, but with time certain bloodlines became so influential that the overall appearance was becoming more uniformed in the breed as a whole. In Japan, elaborate dog-fighting tournaments were held, not unlike those of their national sport of Sumo wrestling, with dogs even receiving Sumo champion titles for their achievements. The Japanese Mastiff was immensely popular for the way it fights, which is without sounds and often until death, the longer matches being more appreciated than the so-called "quick-kills".

The breed became nearly extinct during the 2nd World War, but in the following decades a joint effort between Japan, Korea and Taiwan successfully revived the Tosa, using the leftover stock and modern Western fighting dogs. The Dogue de Bordeaux has been employed in the revival effort and is believed by some to be the root of the red coats associated with the modern Tosa Inu, but the use of the French breed has been limited and was considered as a failed breeding experiment in Japan, with supposedly only one breeder championing that cross, with very little to no influence on the breed as a whole. Today it is impossible to determine the complete list of breeds which helped create and re-create the Japanese Tosa, simply because not all breeders followed the same program. There are also two Korean breeds that are closely related to the Japanese Tosa, these being the Too-Kyun Fighting Dog, often seen as basically a Korean/Taiwanese strain of the Tosa, and the very popular Korean Mee-Kyun Dosa Mastiff, which is not a fighter, but a common companion dog.

The mighty Tosa-Inu is a breed of fairly loose standards, with the Western-bred specimens being noticeably different than the ones found in Japan, in terms of size, temperament and overall appearance. Some authorities believe that American and European breeders actually still outcross their dogs, resulting in an even greater variety within the breed. This has certainly been true in the still-legal fighting world of Japan, where the American Pit Bull terrier has been used extensively to create the medium-sized Tosas for the western-style combat. Still, this is a popular Molosser today and it makes a loyal and affectionate companion, as well as a capable protection dog. Extremely dog-aggressive, the Tosa needs very broad socialization and firm, experienced handling. Some examples are very protective and unfriendly towards strangers, while others are quite docile and even-tempered. The Tosa Inu has a large head, with powerful jaws and muzzle. The neck is strong and the body is well-boned and muscular.

The short coat is hard and flat, coming in a few colours, the preferred ones being solid shades of fawn, red, brindle, apricot and black, with some white markings on the chest allowed. Other colours exist, like white, grey or black-n-tan and various types of tricolours, although they're not as appreciated by some breed purists. In Japan, the average height is around 24 inches, but the Western specimens can be much taller, often around 28 inches at the withers.

This is the longest post I've ever done
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Posted 8/16/11 , edited 8/17/11
dude, put it in a spoiler cause that's too damn long, as for which I'd choose I don't know.
Posted 8/16/11 , edited 8/17/11
Holy shit is this a long ass page about Japanese breeds xD.... Anywho I'll pick any, since I do love pets
Posted 8/16/11 , edited 8/17/11

Seriously though, the first dog is cutest.
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