There are native Japanese dogs that range in size, appearance, temperament, and talents, which is impressive from a not-so-large country.
In this list of 13 popular Japanese dog breeds, you will see the differences and similarities to be made between these breeds, their purpose, either old or new, and why the Japanese people love them so much and are celebrated in their home country.
Let’s dive in.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- 1. Shiba Inu
- 2. Kai Ken
- 3. Japanese Chin
- 4. Tosa Inu
- 5. Japanese Spitz
- 6. Kishu Ken
- 7. Akita Inu
- 8. Hokkaido Inu
- 9. Ryukyu Inu
- 10. Shikoku Ken
- 11. Sakhalin Husky
- 12. Sanshu Inu
- 13. Japanese Terrier
- Final Thoughts
1. Shiba Inu
They’ve been described as foxlike due to their looks and cat-like due to their cleanliness and unwillingness to get themselves dirty.
Being an easier-to-manage-sized breed has helped them grow in popularity among urban areas. They’re okay with small children, but they won’t tolerate much roughhousing.
Frequently Asked Shiba Inu Questions:
2. Kai Ken
The Kai Ken came from the mountainous regions of Japan and was historically used as a hunting breed for various wild, large or small game. Today, this breed is rare, even in its homeland.
Similar to the Shiba Inu, they are a clean breed, often staying occupied cleansing themselves but won’t avoid the risk of getting dirty- particularly at play or when on the hunt.
3. Japanese Chin
The Japanese Chin (also called the Japanese Spaniel) are companion dogs through and through and have held that title since its creation.
They are little lapdogs who were meant to be indoors but still like to go out and rough it up on occasion when allowed, akin to most other small dog breeds.
Their face is constructed so that it often has an astonished expression, delighting the hearts of many an owner. They have been a great companion for both royals and commoners alike.
4. Tosa Inu
Often referred to as the Japanese Mastiff or the Tosa Ken, Tosa Inu was originally bred in the Tosa region for dogfighting, but those days are long since over.
Today, this good-sized breed is more at home as a loving and good-natured companion or a guard dog.
This breed is not known to be naturally aggressive toward humans. Still, its instincts to become territorial and aggressive toward other animals (other dogs in particular) need to be curbed as soon as possible through early training.
This can be a dangerous dog to those outside of its household when left untrained and unchecked and has been banned from entry into a few countries. With the proper training, this breed can be quiet, affectionate, loyal dogs, and are obedient house pets.
Like any large dog breed, they are more prone to suffer from familiar things, such as hip dysplasia.
5. Japanese Spitz
Known to have originated by a culmination of other Spitz breeds, this attractive small to medium-sized breed could be summed up as the class clown of the group.
With its snuggly, long, all-white coat, its stately appearance usually doesn’t prepare one for the comedic antics of which this breed is known.
Their fur gives them a lion-like mane. With their pointy ears sticking through the mane, their coat style resembles what you’d see with a Chow Chow.
6. Kishu Ken
The Kishu Ken (or the Kishu Inu) is a medium to large dog with a Shiba-like look about the face from the Kishu region. They were bred to hunt and chase down wild game in the thick forests, blanketing the hills and mountains of the Kii peninsula.
They’re highly intelligent and trainable, but they will need to be trained early to help curb their high prey drive.
7. Akita Inu
Hailing from Northern Japan, the Akita Inu is known well in Japan for its spirit, beautiful double coat, and endurance. Originally bred as a hunting dog, this breed has held many job titles over the years.
These are energetic hard workers who require stimulation and have high exercise needs.
There is an American variety of this breed originating with the Japanese Akita. The result is an Akita that’s slightly larger than their Japanese counterparts. The United States variety of Akita is a separate breed from that of Japan.
Akita’s are the stuff of local legend in Japan. The story of Hachiko is engrained into the Japanese culture and is about an Akita’s love, loyalty, and long-suffering over his recently deceased owner.
A monument was placed at the train station that was one of the focal points of the story, later on, replaced and relocated by another at the place of Hachiko’s owner’s work.
The Japanese Dog Preservation Society and other breeders are working hard to ensure that the breed’s line is not mingled as per the standards presented by Nihon Ken Hozonkai (NIPPO) within the Japanese borders.
Frequently Asked Akita Questions:
8. Hokkaido Inu
The Hokkaido Inu (also called Hokkaido Ken) isn’t very well known outside of its homeland Japan but is a beautifully coated, well-adjusted breed dawning robust features.
This is a breed that is historically a hunting dog. They are medium-sized solid dogs who are generally docile but can be bold and alert.
9. Ryukyu Inu
The Ryukyu Inu is a medium-sized dog that is an extremely rare breed. The latest tally was that only about 400 individuals are left in the world. Efforts are being made to prevent it from going by the wayside, as have another rare Japanese dog breed.
This breed is intelligent and well-mannered enough to be a loving family pet and excellent companions.
With any luck, efforts made by those who care will succeed in removing the Ryukyu from being among the rarest Japanese dog breeds.
10. Shikoku Ken
Like most breeds in this list, the Shikoku Ken (or Shikoku Inu) is a medium-sized breed held in high regard for its intelligence, endurance, and, particularly, its hunting skills.
Historically they were used for hunting down wild boar amongst other varieties of prey, comparable to the hunting activities of Great Danes.
They are also described as having a naive sense of themselves and forming a close and loving bond with the family members. However, they will eventually gravitate toward one person in the bunch and be ever faithful to that person for life.
11. Sakhalin Husky
Also known as the Karafuto Ken, the Sakhalin Husky has tragically now been classified as extinct. In 2015, the only dogs remaining were seven individuals dwelling in their homeland of Sakhalin, an island of Japan.
Their appearance is very similar to what we see in Huskies today, dawning a thick coat of fur.
Ultimately, this dog breed is no longer with us in its original, genetically pure form. Nonetheless, it deserves a spot on our list.
12. Sanshu Inu
The Sanshu Inu is a new breed to Japan and was originally a combination of Chow Chow dogs and Japanese native breeds.
The result of this mix is what appears to be a small Akita with almond-shaped, dark eyes. This breed is currently enjoying a good amount of popularity across Japan.
13. Japanese Terrier
This breed is the first “Terrier” type canine within Japan, dating back to the early 1900s. This breed has a short coat with a black and tan head with an all-white body. Otherwise, the dog is white from head to toe to tail.
They are small dogs yet make good guard dogs, willing to raise the alarm at the first sign of trouble. These are intelligent, loyal, and independent dogs.
This was an extremely popular breed in Japan for many years until other foreign breeds were introduced around the mid-1900s, where their numbers began to decline. Efforts are being made to help support the numbers of this small Japanese dog.
For thousands of years since the days of the Jomon people, Japanese breeds have captivated the hearts of native dog owners.
But when you look at the post World War II numbers of these native dog breeds, it’s plain to see what the introduction of foreign breeds (mainly European breeds) did to the local canine populations.
Some Japanese canines have found homes successfully across the globe, others are lesser-known- mainly popular in Japan.
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Breeds, beloved since ancient times, have lost their utility in recent years and have suffered the loss of popularity and numbers. That notwithstanding, they are perceived by the Japanese as national treasures.
Of late, dogs of small size are in demand for the most part due to tight living quarters of over-populated areas, making it tough to be a large breed in their native country.
There’s many a good reason why the Japanese are indeed a country of dog lovers who take pride in the historical significance they’ve brought to the table regarding a variety of beautifully coated, hearty dog breeds.
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