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11 Amazing Dog Breeds from Japan

11 awesome dog breeds from japan petrage

In Japan, dogs have long held a special place in the hearts of the people. From ancient times to the present day, these loyal and affectionate creatures have been revered for their companionship and unwavering loyalty. In this blog post, we will explore 11 amazing dog breeds from Japan, each with its own unique qualities and characteristics. These breeds not only showcase the rich cultural and historical importance of dogs in Japan but also highlight the diverse range of roles that they have played throughout the country’s history. Whether you are a dog lover or simply curious about the world of Japanese culture, this post is sure to provide valuable insights into some of Japan’s great canine companions.


1) Akita Inu aka Japanese Akita

The Akita Inu, also known as the Japanese Akita, is a majestic breed of large dog that originates from the mountainous northern regions of Japan. Historically, these dogs were highly valued for their strength, loyalty, and versatility. They were originally bred for hunting large game such as bears and boars, and their powerful physique and keen senses made them excellent hunters. Over time, the Akita Inu became not only a skilled hunting companion but also a symbol of Japanese culture and national pride. In fact, they are considered one of the national treasures of Japan. Their importance in Japanese culture is evident in various forms of art, literature, and even films that showcase the beauty and noble character of this remarkable breed.


2) Hokkaido Inu

hokkaido inu dog picture

The Hokkaido Inu is an indigenous Japanese breed of large spitz type dog that holds a significant place in Japanese culture. Believed to have been brought from mainland Japan to Hokkaido in the 1140’s, these dogs have a long history and are deeply ingrained in the traditions and customs of the region. Originally used for hunting and guarding livestock, the Hokkaido Inu played a crucial role in the survival of the Ainu people, an indigenous group in Hokkaido. They have been established as a natural monument by the government of Japan (1937), and there are efforts to have the species listed as critically endangered; only about 3000 purebred animals remain today. They are sometimes know as Ainu-ken. FCI recognized coat colors are Sesame, brindle, red, black, black and tan, white.


3) Kai Ken aka Tora Inu

kai ken dog picture

The Kai Ken, also known as the Kai Dog or Kaine, is a breed of dog that holds great historical significance in Japanese culture. Originating from the mountainous regions of northern Japan, the Kai Ken was primarily developed by the native people who lived there and by Ainu hunters from Hokkaido. It is believed that samurai from Kyushu may have also played a role in influencing its development as a hunting dog. These dogs were highly valued for their exceptional hunting skills and were used to track and hunt various game. Their agile nature and strong sense of loyalty made them invaluable companions to their owners. Today, the Kai Ken is recognized as one of Japan’s national treasures and continues to be celebrated for its rich history and cultural importance. Their coat colors are Black brindle, red brindle and brindle. According the the FCI, a solid colored puppy may turn brindle with age.


4) Kishu Inu aka Kishu Ken

kishu inu dog picture

The Kishu Inu is a remarkable breed of dog that holds great historical significance in Japanese culture. Originating from the mountainous northern regions of western Japan, the Kishu has been an integral part of Japanese history for centuries. These dogs were traditionally used for hunting and were highly valued for their loyalty, agility, and strength. Their ability to withstand harsh weather conditions and navigate rugged terrains made them indispensable companions for hunters in the region. Such was the importance of this breed that on March 29th, 1934, the Kishu Inu was designated as a natural monument by the Japanese government, recognizing its cultural and historic significance. As a national treasure, the Kishu Inu holds a special place in the hearts of the Japanese people and continues to be celebrated for its unique characteristics and contributions to Japanese heritage. It is worth noting that since 1934, only solid color coats have been permitted in the breed, further emphasizing its distinctiveness and cultural value. While mostly seen in white today, the FCI also recognizes solid red and sesame coat colors.


5) Shiba Inu

rondo the shiba by kara c

The Shiba Inu is not only a beloved and iconic dog breed from Japan, but it also holds great historical and cultural significance. Known for its compact frame and well-developed muscles, the Shiba Inu is the smallest of the six original and distinct spitz breeds native to Japan. With males typically measuring 15-17 inches in height and weighing 25-36 pounds, and females standing at 14-16 inches tall and weighing 23-32 pounds, these dogs are small but mighty. Throughout history, the Shiba Inu has been used for a variety of purposes, including hunting small game in mountainous terrains. Today, they are considered a national treasure in Japan due to their cultural importance and representation of Japanese heritage. Accepted colors are Red, black and tan, sesame, black sesame, red sesame.


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6) Shikoku Inu

shikoku inu dog picture

The Shikoku Inu is a fascinating breed of dog that holds great historical significance in Japanese culture. Originating from Japan, these medium-sized dogs are known for their distinctive fox-like face and curled tail. They were originally bred as hunting dogs, specifically used for tracking and hunting boar and deer. In fact, there were three different varieties of the Shikoku breed, each named after the region they originated from: Awa, Hongawa, and Hata. These dogs played a crucial role in traditional Japanese hunting practices and were highly valued for their agility, intelligence, and loyalty. Today, the Shikoku Inu is considered one of the national treasure dog breeds from Japan, symbolizing the rich cultural heritage and deep connection to nature that defines Japanese society. Their accepted coat colors are Sesame, red, black and tan.


7) Tosa Inu aka Japanese Mastiff

tosa inu dog picture

Tosa Inu or Japanese Mastiff is one of six native breeds on the island of Shikoku in Japan; the other five being the Kishu, Kai Ken, Shikoku, Hokkaido and Karafuto. The Tosa Inu, also known as the Japanese Mastiff, holds a significant place in Japanese culture and history. They are a large and imposing breed that can weigh up to 200 pounds. While many other Japanese breeds were primarily hunting dogs, the Tosa Inu was specifically bred for fighting purposes. Its lineage can be traced back to a mix of Shikoku-ken, Mastiff, Bulldog, and Great Danes. Some theories even suggest that St. Bernards and Bull Terriers played a role in their development. Due to its historical importance and unique characteristics, the Tosa Inu is a historical treasure among dog breeds from Japan. Its strength, loyalty, and impressive stature make it a symbol of pride and admiration within Japanese culture. Red, fawn, apricot, black, brindle are accepted coat colors with white markings on the chest and paws.


8) Japanese Spitz

japanese spitz dog picture

The Japanese Spitz is a charming breed of dog with a rich history and cultural significance in Japan. Originating in Japan, this breed is slightly longer than tall and has medium proportions. One of its most distinctive features is the beautiful “ruff” of fur around its neck, which adds to its elegant appearance. The Japanese Spitz holds great importance in Japanese culture. In fact, during the late 19th century, it was even considered an unofficial symbol of Japan.


9) Ryukyu Inu

ryukyu inu dog picture
Credit : Ryukyu Mike

The Ryukyu Inu is a dog breed that holds significant historical importance in Japanese culture. Originating from Okinawa, Japan, these dogs have been a part of the local heritage for many years. Known for their loyalty and independence, the Ryukyu Inu is a breed with above-average intelligence. They were traditionally used for hunting wild boars, showcasing their remarkable hunting skills and agility. Despite their historical significance, the Ryukyu Inu is considered a very rare breed today. Their coat can come in various colors such as brindle, red, white, liver or black, and they typically weigh between 50-60 pounds and have a lifespan of 10-12 years. While not officially recognized as a national treasure in Japan, the Ryukyu Inu holds a special place in the hearts of those who appreciate its unique qualities and cultural heritage.


10) Japanese Chin

japanese chin dog picture

The Japanese Chin is a fascinating breed with a rich history and deep cultural significance in Japan. Despite its name, the Japanese Chin actually originated in China and was brought to Japan as gifts for the Japanese aristocracy. These elegant toy dogs were considered symbols of wealth and royalty, and they were highly treasured by their owners. In fact, they were even given special status as “Imperial Gifts” and were often seen in the company of noblewomen. The Japanese Chin’s role as a companion dog was so important that harming or mistreating one could result in severe consequences, including death for the offender. Today, the breed is still highly regarded in Japan. Their small size, distinctive appearance, and affectionate nature continue to make them great companions in households around the world.


11) Japanese Terrier

japanese terrier dog picture
Credit : Pleple2000

The Japanese Terrier is a small but mighty breed that has a rich history and holds great importance in Japanese culture. These energetic dogs are believed to be a cross between Dutch and English dogs that were brought to Japan by traders in the 1600s, as well as local Japanese dogs. The two breeds most associated with the origin of the Japanese Terrier are Smooth Fox Terriers and/or German Pinschers. Originally bred to hunt vermin, these terriers played a vital role in keeping homes and farms free from pests. Today, they are great companions known for their loyalty, intelligence, and playful nature.


Dog Breeds from Japan – FAQ

What makes Japanese dog breeds unique compared to others?
faq q and a section

Japanese dog breeds are known for their unique traits and characteristics, such as their loyalty, intelligence, and distinctive appearance. They often have a strong connection to Japanese culture and history, making them truly special and distinct from other breeds around the world.

What is the history and origin of Japanese dog breeds?
faq q and a section

Japanese dog breeds have a rich history and ancient origins. Many breeds, such as the Akita Inu and Shiba Inu, can be traced back thousands of years to Japan’s indigenous dog breeds. These dogs were highly valued for their loyalty, intelligence, and versatility in hunting and guarding.

What are the 6 Native Dog Breeds to Japan?
faq q and a section

The six native dog breeds to Japan (Nihon-ken) are the Akita Inu, Shiba Inu, Shikoku, Kishu Ken, Hokkaido, and Kai Ken. These breeds have a long and rich history in Japan and are treasured for their loyalty, intelligence, and beauty.

Japanese Dog Breeds – Final Thoughts

Japan is home to a fascinating array of native dog breeds that have captured the hearts of dog lovers worldwide. From the original Japanese dog breeds like the Shiba Inu and Akita Inu to lesser-known gems like the Hokkaido and Kai Ken, each breed has its own unique characteristics and traits. These canines not only boast remarkable alertness and intelligence but also form strong bonds with their owners, making them the best companions anyone could ask for.

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