Japan could actually be known as the Land of Dogs. After all; the country has given us Hachiko, the famous Akita known for his loyalty. In Japanese archipelago, people often speak about dogs and people with imperial vocabulary. Today, people have identified certain dog breeds with the nation and claim that these breeds symbolically embody the civilization, race and cultural characteristics of Japan. The Akita and Shiba Inu are famous Japanese breeds but so are others like the Japanese Spitz, Japanese Chin and others. Let us study 10 of the most popular Japanese dog breeds.
Popular dogs in Japan
The Akita has its origins from the wolf-spitz dog combination and today the breed is declared to be the National Monument of Japan. Akita dogs are known for their superior intelligence, easy trainability and protective nature. The loyalty of Hachi-ko or Hachi, a famous Akita, is well known. Akitas have an intense personality and tendency to keep clean. They are good natured, bold, and courageous, but could get aggressive with other pets. These large, powerful working dogs measure about 80-120 lbs. They are expensive dogs; a purebred Akita puppy could cost anywhere between $500 and $1500.
Shiba Inu (Inu is Japanese for dog) is a small Japanese dog breed and also one of the most ancient ones. Its roots can be traced back to the Joumon period (10,000-300 BC). They are the smallest of all Japanese Spitz breeds. Also known as the Shiba Ken, these dogs were bred for hunting. They are medium sized dogs weighing between 15 and 25 lbs. Shibas make great watchdogs and they have a lively and playful personality.
Kishu Ken (Ken means dog in Japanese) are hunting dogs. The matage (ancient hunters of Japan) believed this special native breed to have characteristics like loyalty, bravery, and obedience which made them excellent hunter companions. They have mild and considerate temperaments. Kishus have triangular receded eyes that are said to be ‘signifying their burning spirit within’. The breed is rare in United States. Even in Japan, Kishus are rare but highly prized and even considered the National Treasure of Japan. Kishu were bred to hunt in the mountainous region of Kyushu. These dogs are quiet and faithful but can be quite a handful owing to their strong instinct to chase.
Shikoku Japanese dogs can be found in beautiful black or sesame black colors. They have a lifespan of 10-12 years and weigh between 35-57lb. Shikoku is an affectionate breed but they cannot be trusted around small pets. Once used as boar hunters in the mountains of Japan, Shikoku are known for their resilience, agility and tendency to chase small animals. They are challenging to train but are extremely loyal to their owners.
Kai Ken are also Kai Tora Ken where Tora stands for tiger and Ken, as stated above, is Japanese for dogs. This is an ancient Japanese dog breed primarily bred for hunting. They were once thought too primitive to be family dogs but today, they are well loved household companions that form strong bonds with their owners. One of the oldest and purest breeds of Japan, the Kai dog was declared to be a national treasure in 1934. Kai dogs are pack animals and love running with other dogs. This makes them excellent household companions but not for a novice dog owner.
The dogs that were brought to the Japanese island of Hokkaido by the Ainu tribe came to be known as Hokkaido Ainu. They weigh between 45-60lb and have a lifespan of 11-13 years. Although medium sized, these dogs were fearless and brave enough to even take on bears. Hokkaido dogs need plenty of training and socialization to mold them into loving household companions.
7. Japanese Spitz
For years, the Japanese called white dogs ‘Samo’. Later in 1935, they started categorizing dogs as per their size so all larger white coat dogs were ‘Samo while smaller ones were the ‘Spitz’ dogs. Samoyed and Japanese Spitz are similar looking and closely resemble each other. The Japanese Spitz may have been developed from European Spitz type dogs. Later they were established in Japan where they became extremely popular house dogs. Japanese white spitz dog is famous for its ‘smile’ that can melt hearts. This is breed with wonderful combination of beauty and brains. Japanese Spitz is a medium breed that needs plenty of training and socialization. Their alert, lively and happy nature is evident just by looking at them.
8. Japanese Chin
Also known as the Japanese Spaniel, the Chin dog of Japan is a toy breed that may have originated in China and later brought to Japan. Japanese nobility loved these dogs and often gifted them among each other. Chins are small, well balanced dogs with silky coats that form a ruff at the neck. They weigh between 4-11 lbs and measure up to 11 inches in height. Japanese Chin dogs are known to have an excellent memory and they get along well with most people, including children and other pets. These are sensitive, mild mannered and intelligent dogs.
9. Japanese Terrier
The ancestors of the modern Japanese terriers were brought to Nagasaki by Dutch people. They have tiny stature and short coats which make them unsuitable for the cold weather. Japanese terriers are also known as Nippon terriers. They are a strong athletic breed known for their lively and cheerful disposition. The breed is rare, even in Japan and almost extinct. Japanese terriers are also known by other names like Kobe, Mikado and Oyuki (snowy) terriers.
10. Tosa Fighting Dogs
Once a solely fighting dog, Tosa are known as loyal and faithful household companions today. Japanese people have had the Tosa as part of their rich culture for more than 900 years! This breed is known for its intelligence and unwavering loyalty. They also have impressive physical characteristics and a rare blend of brawn and brains. Japanese Tosa is a versatile and athletic dog breed. Winning Tosas can be valued at six-figures or more. In fact; in early times, there were families where their Tosa was the sole earning member. Dog fighting Tosa were never fought to death and rarely injured. Today, in most provinces of Japan, dog fighting is hailed an illegal activity.