Since ancient times, the Japanese have cultivated their own dog breeds. These dogs were historically responsible for everything from hunting wild boar to serving as lap companions for the most affluent members of society. Here are the more well-known Japanese breeds, along with their fascinating histories and reasons why they continue to be revered and beloved in their native country.
01 of 08
Translated in Japanese as “brushwood,” the Shiba Inu dates back more than 3,000 years. One of the smaller members of the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) non-sporting group, these dogs were originally bred to hunt birds and other small game, however would occasionally hunt for larger animals including deer, bear, and boar with their owner.
The Shibu Inu is a confident dog that’s known for his “Shiba scream," a unique sound of excitement. They are tiny yet muscular dogs that have become the most popular companion dog in Japan, probably thanks to their active and attentive while still good-natured and easy-going personalities.
Height: 14.5 to 16.5 inches (male); 13.5 to 15.5 inches (female)
Weight: 23 pounds (male); 17 pounds (female)
Physical Characteristics: Long coat, heavy shedders; coat comes in black with tan points, sesame, red, or urajiro (cream to white ventral color), undercoat is cream, gray, or buff
02 of 08
The Akita is considered a Spitz breed, so it it believed to share both its traits and ancestry with other similar breeds. These brave and strong--while loyal and affectionate dogs--make the Akita a popular family pet, although his thick double coat does require some maintenance--and they can also weigh over 100 pounds.
Smuggled into the United States via plane after World War II, the Akita quickly won the hearts of American servicemen and cultivated the breed's popularity in the United States. These quiet, independent dogs are suspicious of strangers but more than happy to share their playful and affectionate side with their families. and friends.
Height: 26 to 28 inches (male), 24 to 26 inches (female)
Weight: 100 to 130 pounds (male), 70 to 100 pounds (female)
Physical Characteristics: Burly and heavy-boned dogs with a dense double coat that comes in multiple colors, including white
03 of 08
Though the breed is called the Japanese Chin, these charming, noble dogs are actually believed to hail from either Korea or China. However, the Japanese aristocracy made these dogs popular in Japan, as they came to be revered in the country’s highest social circles.
Weighing no more than 10 pounds, these small, dainty dogs were believed to be bestowed upon foreign diplomats and other nobility to commemorate their service to Japan. They’re completely “indoor" yet perfectly lovable companions that possess an unmistakably Eastern look.
Height: 8 to 11 inches
Weight: 7 to 11 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Large head and short muzzle; profuse mane around the neck and shoulders, plumed tail arching over the back, and pants or “culottes” on the hind legs
04 of 08
The Shikoku (or sometimes the "Shikoku Inu" or "Kochi-Ken") is a native Japanese breed that was relied on as a hunting dog. These are one of the original native Japanese spitz-type dogs, and were highly valued by Japanese hunters as a tracker of game, particularly wild boar.
These dogs are known for their endurance as well as their intelligence and alertness. Though they continue to be enthusiastic hunters, the Shikoku is docile towards his master.
Height: 17 to 22 inches
Weight: 35 to 55 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Well-developed, clean-cut muscles, pricked ears, and a curled or sickle long-haired tail; outer coat is harsh and straight, while the is soft and dense; comes in colors including red, black and tan, or sesameContinue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
The Tosa Inu is a rare Japanese dog breed that was, sadly, bred to become an ultimate fighting dog in Japan. Its origins lie in the Tosa region, where dog fighting was once an important and celebratory sport. They are also known as the Tosa Ken, osa Token, Tosa Dog, Japanese Fighting Dog, and Japanese Mastiff.
They are known to be eager-to-please dogs that are not only extremely athletic but also attuned to his owner. With a potential weight of up to 200 pounds, these massive and intimidating dogs are actually banned in some countries. The Tosa of today is quietly affectionate with their families, but can be somewhat aloof with strangers. However, they are extremely watchful of other dogs, and may react aggressively towards other dogs if they are considered to be intruders.
Height: At least 21.5-23.5 inches
Weight: 100 to 200 pounds
Physical Characteristics: The largest of all Japanese dog breeds; short, dense coat comes in colors including fawn, red, apricot, black or brindle; can also have white markings on their chest and feet
06 of 08
Considered to be one of both the oldest and wildest dogs of Japanese descent, the Hokkaaido Inu is a bold, athletic, and muscular breed tasked with the job of guarding, hunting, and even sledding. They are extremely rare outside of their native country.
Today, the Hokkaido is a faithful, dignified dog with a great deal of stamina and endurance. They are docile yet very alert. They make loyal and dedicated companions who are eager to please their families, however, they can become overly wary of strangers if not socialized properly.
Height: 18 to 20 inches
Weight: 44 to 66 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Longer, thicker coats than the other Japanese breeds, we well as wider chests and smaller ears; double coat (in white, red, black, brindle, sesame, or wolf grey) comprised of protective, coarse outer guard hairs, along with a fine, thick undercoat that sheds seasonally
07 of 08
The Kai Ken is one of the six native Japanese breeds, and was traditionally used to hunt a wide range of game in the mountains of Japan. The highly intelligent, eager-to-please breed is now considered quite rare. These dogs are considered amongst the Japanese to be devoted and trustworthy guardians of their families.
Kai Ken are athletic with a strong desire to hunt. They have been known to climb trees and swim rivers in pursuit of their game.
Height: 15.5 to 19.5 inches
Weight: 20 to 40 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Kai Ken have a unique brindle coat that comes in three colors: black brindle (Kuro-Tora), brindle (Chu-Tora), and red brindle (Aka-Tora); distinct coloring and brindle pattern enabled these dogs to blend in with mountainous forests while they hunted
08 of 08
An extremely rare breed, the courageous yet docile Ryukyu Inu hails from the southern islands of Japan (Okinawa), and are often referred to as the "national treasure" of the island.
Though they look similar to the Kai-Ken, their history remains a bit more unclear, but they are believed to have been bred to hunt and track wild boars on the Japanese island.
Height: 17 to 19.5 inches
Weight: Up to 40 to 50 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Developed a unique dewclaw that enables these dogs to climb trees and track their prey from higher vantage points while hunting in the rainforest