There are six dog breeds in Japan that are considered to be the “Nihon-ken,” or national dog of Japan. The Nihon-ken consist of many different types of Japanese dogs, such as the Shiba Inu, Kishu Ken, Shikoku Ken, Hokkaido Ken, Kai Ken, and Akita inu. (The Akita Inu breed is the one made famous by “Hachiko.”)
The Nihon-ken Hozonkai, a government agency in Japan charged with protecting and conserving the six indigenous dog breeds of Japan, established this standard in 1934.
Typical Japanese dog names are included, as well as advice for anyone interested in adopting one of the six recognized Japanese dog breeds.
Do you know about Hachiko, the cute dog memorialized by a monument in Shibuya, Japan? If so, you’ve likely heard about the Akita Inu.
The Akita Inu is another popular Japanese dog. The Akita Inu, in contrast to the smaller Shiba Inu, is much bigger and stockier.
There aren’t many people of this breed living in the city. Because they evolved in the Arctic, Akita Inus have thick, long fur and a double coat—two features that are essential in frigid climates. They have a massive frame and a face that looks like a bear’s.
All of these colors are acceptable for the Japanese Akita, however, the chest, cheeks, and tail regions must have the guajiro markings that are characteristic of the breed.
Quick Akita Inu Facts
- Weight: 32 – 45 kilograms (about 70 – 100 pounds)
- Size: 61 – 71 centimeters tall (24 – 28 inches)
- Personality: Akita Inus are dominant dogs and are known to do poorly with other dogs of the same sex. They are, however, very good with children.
When compared to other Japanese dog breeds, the Hokkaido Inu (or Hokkaido Ken) is said to have a more ancient ancestry. The Hokkaido Inu, native to the most northern island of Japan, has a thicker outer coat, longer paws, and smaller ears to protect itself from the extreme cold.
Hokkaido Inu were developed to be hunting dogs because of their intelligence, strength, and devotion; they were used to kill wild boars and even tiny bears. Therefore, they may still be aggressive against other dogs and maintain their reputation for being highly headstrong. They form deep, devoted bonds with their owners and need a lot of time and care.
Quick Hokkaido Ken Facts
- Weight: ~20 kilograms (~44 pounds)
- Size: 46 – 52 centimeters high (18 – 20 inches)
- Personality: Strong, devoted, intelligent
The Kai Ken stands out among the original Japanese dog breeds for its unique appearance. They got the term “tiger dog” because of the striking contrast between their black and white fur and the bright orange of tigers.
The Kai Ken was developed to hunt wild boar, deer, and even birds. Because they are descended from dogs who formerly roamed the mountainous areas of Japan, this breed is agile and muscular. They are autonomous yet devoted to their owners and have a high capacity for learning new things.
Due to their heritage, Kai Kens are high-energy dogs with a strong desire to hunt. If you have a Kai, make sure you never walk it off-leash, since it will quickly lose interest in you as it catches the smell of anything more exciting.
Quick Kai Ken Facts
- Weight: 4 – 9 kilograms (10 – 20 pounds)
- Size: 33 – 43 centimeters high (13 – 17 inches)
- Personality: Independent, active, highly intelligent
Even in its native Japan, the Kishu Ken hunting dog remains a rarity. An ancient Japanese myth claims that wolves were the first ancestors of the Kishu Ken.
They have a more impetuous personality than other Japanese dog breeds, but are nevertheless smart, courageous, and self-reliant. As a consequence of their innate hunting urge, they should not be left alone with smaller pets. Although they thrive in the great outdoors and enjoy an active lifestyle, their intellect also makes them adept evaders.
Quick Kishu Ken Facts
- Weight: 14 – 27 kilograms (31 – 59 pounds)
- Size: 43 – 55 centimeters high (17 – 22 inches)
- Personality: Active, brave, intelligent
Shiba Inus are considered a national treasure in Japan and are among the most well-liked dog breeds in the country. In Japan, the Shiba is the smallest of the spitz breeds.
Recently, however, smaller Shibas have been utilized to develop a prettier and more apartment-friendly unofficial’mame’ size, or bean-sized Shiba.
Shiba Inu are characterized by their petite, pointed ears, wedge-shaped muzzles, and curled tails.
Quick Shiba Inu Facts
- Weight: 7 – 10 kilograms (around 16 to 22 pounds)
- Size: 33 – 45 centimeters high (13 to 17 inches)
- Personality: Shiba Inu are independent, territorial, and proud. They need to be socialized early.
The Shikoku Ken is a stunning Japanese spitz breed that looks almost like a wolf.
Just like the Shiba Inu, the Shikoku Dog is a prized symbol of Japanese culture. Even in Japan, you’ll have a tough time tracking down this kind of bread.
Compared to other large breeds like Shibas and Akitas, Shikoku Kens are noted for being more sociable and less resistant to training.
Quick Shikoku Ken Facts
- Weight: 15 – 20 kilograms (33 – 45 pounds)
- Size: 43 –53 centimeters tall (17 – 21 inches)
- Personality: The Shikoku Ken are great companion dogs for outdoor people.
The Japanese spitz is a lovely and lovable choice for a pet dog. It was specifically intended for city life, yet this little, fluffy Japanese breed makes the best of companion dogs. The thick, long, white fur is a dead giveaway that these dogs are related to the Siberian Samoyed.
Its pointed ears and nose are characteristic of the spitz family of dogs. The Japanese spitz is lively and obedient but may bark a lot if not taught correctly. This dog does well with both kids and other animals.
Quick Japanese Spitz Facts
- Weight: 5 – 10 kilograms (11 – 20 pounds)
- Size: 30 – 38 centimeters high (12 – 15 inches)
Another kind of Japanese dog that is rather little is the Nihon terrier, also known as the Japanese terrier. Smooth-coated fox terriers from the Netherlands, pointers, and native Japanese breeds are all speculated to be their ancestors.
Traditional Japanese terriers have a black muzzle and a white body. They often have their tails docked and have pointed ears that fold forward.
They are excellent as home pets for those who have peaceful lives. Even inside Japan, the Japanese terrier is a rarity.
Quick Japanese Terrier Facts
- Weight: 2 – 4 kilograms (5 – 9 pounds)
- Size: 20 – 33 centimeters tall (8 – 13 inches)
- Personality: Japanese terriers are sensitive and playful.
Japanese Mastiff / Tosa Inu
The Japanese mastiff, also known as a Tosa Inu, is the biggest dog breed in Japan. The Tosa Inu is not a spitz like other Japanese dog breeds but rather a mastiff. It is well knowing that the Japanese mastiff is a formidable fighting dog and accomplished hunter.
The Japanese mastiff is a short-haired, smooth-coated dog that may be any shade of red, fawn, or brindle. Dogs of the Tosa breed are known for their gentle nature, devotion, and reserved demeanor. They are great with youngsters and make wonderful security dogs.
Quick Japanese Mastiff Facts
- Weight: 31 – 61 kilograms (80 – 135 pounds)
- Height: 62 – 82 cm (24 – 32 inches)