Ancient Japanese Dog Breeds

Ancient Japanese Dog Breeds
March 4, 2019

In total there are 6 different ancient Japanese dog breeds. While some are fairly rare, the breed which has become the national treasure of Japan is celebrated for just how adorable it is all around the world.

Most of the Japanese breeds share a lot of characteristics, unlike larger countries where there are many different kinds of dogs which are all used to different environments.

But when it comes to telling these six breeds apart, it is often easier said than done. The Shiba Inu and the Japanese Akita look fairly similar. While some people even confuse Spitz dogs with Pomeranians.  

We’ll introduce you to each of the six different Japanese dog breeds, let you know how to tell them apart and also share a little of their history with you!

  1. Hokkaido Dog

The Hokkaido Dog isn’t the biggest of the Japanese breeds standing at just 20 inches tall, but it is highly probable that they are one of the most hardworking. Despite their medium size build, they are still efficient hunters of wild boar and have definitely played their part in keeping the population size down in Japan. Their fluffy coats are often white, but they can also come in black, wolf grey, red and brindle. Along with its charming looks and efficiency when it comes to keeping the ecosystem in balance, the breed is also incredibly devoted to their owners. Their sense of dignity is only matched by their intelligence. As they are intelligent, they’re not overly keen on strangers. So, if you want a friendly pup you’ll have to socialise the breed well to ensure that they don’t take their role as your protector that seriously!

As you can expect from a hunting or working dog, they come with boundless amounts of energy which they will need to burn. If you don’t ensure that all of their physical and emotional needs are met, that’s one sure fire way of destroying your home! This breed is also only suited to people with large homes with a sizeable yard.

  1. Akita

The Akita dog breed is one of the most stunning dogs, not only in Japan but in the rest of the world. They have graced the big screen plenty of times as the globe has fallen in love with their adorable fox-like features. But their looks are just one reason for their popularity, the Akita’s temperament ensures that they are the perfect breed if you are looking for a new best friend. Their loyalty and bravery were often favoured by owners of working Akita dogs. Due to their size, they were often used to hunt large prey such as boar, elk, and even bears!

Sadly, that’s not all that the Akita was found to be useful for. During World War 2 many of the breed were slaughtered for their thick double coats to allow the soldiers to keep warm. Their numbers fell into decline, and it was by an intervention of American breeders that the breed was preserved. It’s no surprise that American servicemen fell in love with their character and appearance. Now, there are two different types of Akita; the Japanese Akita and the American Akita. Generally, American breeds are heavier and larger.

Due to their strength and their stubbornness, they aren’t generally recommended for first-time owners. In fact, in America, the breed is restricted or banned in many states because it is believed that they are a dangerous breed. Of course, there’s no such thing as a dangerous breed. But Akita dogs definitely need a firm and experienced hand.

  1. Shiba Inu

Like the other ancient Japanese dog breeds the Shiba Inu has a double coat, can come in many colours and is medium size. Yet, it is the smallest breed to feature on this list so far standing at no more than 17 inches. You’ll also start to pick up on the similarities in Japanese Dogs’ characteristics by this point, as once again the Shiba Inu is strong-willed and spirited. They are very aloof with strangers, but one of the most loyal breeds you could bring into your home. Once more, you’ll want to ensure you have plenty of experience before you welcome a Shiba Inu due to their independence!

One of the most adorable things about the Shiba Inu is the fact that they emit a high-pitched squeal when they are excited! Your neighbours may not be overly enamoured by it, but it definitely adds to the experience of bringing a Shiba Inu into your home. Yet, this may also happen if they are unhappy, so they can be rather hard to read. But, Shiba Inu love plenty of attention and exercise, so they will probably just be telling you that they want a walk! Two other things to consider about the Shiba Inu is how much their double coat sheds and the potential for them to develop separation anxiety if they are left alone for extended periods of time.

  1. Kai Ken

Of all the Japanese dog breeds, the Kai Ken is definitely one of the rarest. You won’t see all too many of them, even if you travel to Japan. But for the owners who are lucky enough to own them, they report that the Kai Ken breed is eager to please and incredibly intelligent. In fact, they may be the breed which is the easiest to train. Like many of the other Japanese breeds, the Kai Ken is a medium-size hunting breed. So, it is no surprise that they are yet again a very active dog. Yet, it is not only running in a field what they love getting up to. They are also excellent swimmers and climbers. This breed is definitely only suited to owners with tonnes of energy themselves who love outdoor adventures! You’ll need to consider their prey drive when exercising them too! If there’s something to chase, they will definitely go in pursuit of it.

Kai Kens tend not to be as aloof as most other Japanese breeds, but they still won’t be overly happy about meeting strangers. Yet, they are still not recommended for inexperienced owners.

  1. Tosa Inu

Never heard of the Tosa Inu breed? That may be due to the fact that they have been banned or restricted in multiple countries. The breed often goes by the name of ‘Japanese Mastiff’, and it is tragically still used in legal dog fights to this day in Japan. That disturbing fact is even worse when you consider that the Tosa Inu is an incredibly sensitive breed. Their characteristics don’t make them the most even-tempered breed as they can be both suspicious of strangers or strange animals and highly aggressive. They can weigh anywhere up to 200 pounds and stand at 23”.

The Tosa Inu is more of a mix of breeds including Bulldogs, Mastiffs, German Pointers and Great Danes. Whilst there is also a rumour that Bull Terrier and St Bernard’s were also brought into the genetic mix.

For the owners who treat their dogs well, they will often report they are incredibly docile around the home and come with an intense need to please and protect their owners. Yet, this does mean that your dog may get into some altercations to protect you. It should go without saying that this breed should only be owned by people who know how to train and socialise a dog.

  1. Spitz

We’ve saved the best and smallest dog breed until last! Okay, maybe the Spitz is in competition with the Shiba Inu for the cutest dog. But it’s impossible not to be endeared by the sight of a Japanese Spitz. Generally, they don’t exceed 16” in height. You’ll often spot them in a white coat which you will have to dedicate a lot of time to maintain if you want to keep them looking respectable!

Of all the dogs on this list, they are probably the most recommended for inexperienced owners. However, you will have to ensure that you have enough time, energy, love and devotion to give the Spitz. If they are left alone for long periods of time they can become incredibly destructive and start to emit their high-pitched barks. So, it’s safe to say that the Spitz is a fairly needy breed! And one which will be along for a fairly long time as they can live up to 16 years on average. However, they can be prone to allergies and runny eyes.