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The Top 9 Most Distinctive Dog Breeds from Japan

The Top 9 Most Distinctive Dog Breeds from Japan

The island country of Japan is home to a lot of dog breeds that have been there since ancient times. While they may look similar and act likewise they have individually unique personalities. However, as you would have seen in the story of Hachiko, they are all loyal, and immensely so!

Six dog breeds in Japan are referred to as Nihon-ken, hence accorded the status of national dogs in Japan. This group includes Shiba Inu, Hokkaido Ken, Kishu Ken, Kai Ken, Shikoku Ken, and Akita Inu.

It was in 1934 that this standard was determined by Nihon-ken Hozonkai, a public organization that is supposed to maintain and preserve registries for these six authentic dog breeds.

9 Authentic Japanese Dog Breeds

1. Akita Inu

Akita Inu

Akita Inu can be described as a hunting dog from the mountainous areas of Japan. They are used primarily for hunting other animals, such as wild boar, bear, and deer. They tend to be aloof to strangers and are pretty territorial too. Hence, they are not suitable to be family companions.

The members of this breed are as loyal as it gets, as we have seen in the film on Hachiko. Hachiko is an Akita who became famous for waiting for his master to arrive on the train even after he had passed away.

It is said that he waited for nine years. A statue of Hachiko was erected in Shibuya. Their legacy lives on in public memory. Compared to the likes of Shiba Inu, they are heavier and massive. You would not see them a lot in the cities.

Because belonging to the Spitz family, they are better suited to the cold weather of the mountains. They have long and thick fur along with a double coat. Their faces are like bears, and they have large bones too.

They come in colors such as sesame, fawn, brindle, pure white, or red, but they must have Urajiro markings on their chests, tails, and cheeks.

They weigh around 70 to 100 pounds and can be between 24 and 28 inches tall.

2. Hokkaido 

The Top 9 Most Distinctive Dog Breeds from Japan

Hokkaido dogs are a medium-sized breed and are used to hunt bears, and search and rescue dogs. They were used during a Japanese army expedition in 1902 that went all wrong.

They are rather protective and loyal individuals, but if they are around other animals, they need to be under supervision. They are among the ancient dog breeds of Japan and have thicker outer coats along with smaller ears and larger paws.

3. Japanese Spitz

Japanese Spitz

As their names suggest, they are small dogs resembling Spitz dogs and bred to be family companions. They were created in the 1920s and 1930s by crossing their predecessors with other kinds of Spitz so the breed of ideal size could be created. They are intelligent and active individuals that do well in families where you have small kids.

4. Japanese Terrier

Japanese Terrier dog

Japanese Terriers are referred to as Nippon Terriers. As such, this is a rare breed that can be hard to come by in Japan, their home country itself. They were created in Japan by crossing their forefathers with other terrier breeds and dogs indigenous to Japan.

The sole purpose behind their creation was to breed a pet. It was in 1930 that they were recognized as a breed in Japan. However, outside Japan, they have little recognition.

5. Kai Ken 

kai ken dog


They are the oldest dog breed in Japan. Even now, in their home country, the dog breed is still rare. They were bred to hunt the likes of bears and wild boars. As we said already, this dog breed was accorded the status of one of the six national dogs of Japan back in 1934.

This breed is loyal to the families to which they belong. They can be great companions too. They are also referred to as tiger dogs because of the colors of their coats. As such, they are among the most distinctive dog breeds in Japan.

6. Kishu

Image Source:

The Kishu Ken or Kishu Inu is an ancient dog breed from Japan and is a medium-sized breed mainly used to hunt boar and deer. Nowadays, most members of the dog breed are white, but they had all sorts of colors by the time they started becoming more popular.

They usually prefer to be one-master dogs. Hence, they are not such good family companions. They are intelligent, independent, and brave individuals but impulsive.

7. Shiba Inu  

Price of Shiba Inu

Shiba Inu is one of the oldest dog breeds in Japan. They were the smallest too. They originated back in the third century BC. This dog breed was used for hunting small game, such as rabbits and birds, across the mountainous areas of Japan.

Today, they are well-known as companion dogs even if they do not do so well when they are around children. They are arguably the most popular among all these breeds and hence are a national treasure of Japan.

8. Shikoku Ken 

Shikoku Ken Dog
Image Source: Wikipedia

It is a hunting dog breed meant specifically for boars and is native to Japan as well. Also, they are an ancient dog breed from East Asian countries. They are agile dogs. Therefore, they make great companions for people who stay more active than not.

However, they are reserved individuals and do not do well in familial settings. They are beautiful and are a lot like Spitz while resembling wolves in appearance.

9. Tosa 

Japanese Tosa
Image Source:

Tosa Inu is a breed resembling Mastiffs that originated in the 19th century. They were fighting dogs and used them for such purposes.

As bad as it may sound, dog fighting is still legal in Japan even though the sport is not performed the same way as pit fighting, which people in the United States are used to.


Dogs are well-liked in Japan. Hence, they are popular as pets. You would be able to find them in most pet shops. Japanese dog breeds are much loved for their loyal and lovable personality and character. They all are energetic lot and have a protective attitude towards those love the most.

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