Dogs have been companions to humans for thousands of years – and we’re talking, like, almost 10,000 years. And throughout this time, a handful of native Japanese dogs emerged and became companions to people all over the world.
There are 10 distinct Japanese dog breeds that you should know about in case you come across one of these dogs at your local shelter or adoption center. But there are six races which are “Nihon-ken” or “Nippo”, meaning they are native in Japan. These breeds are the Akita Inu, Hokkaido, Kai Ken, Kishu, Shikoku, and Shiba Inu. Other breeds commonly found in Japan are not necessarily native to the country, but have been imported from other countries over time.
If you want to know a little more about these Japanese dog breeds, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 most common breeds found in Japan and included some information that will help you get a good idea of their history and characteristics.
Japanese dog breeds
So which dogs reign supreme in Japan? Here are the 10 most popular Japanese dog breeds in the country.
Akitas were originally excellent hunters. They have webbed feet that allow them to navigate snowy terrain with acumen, and their front dew claws are like ice picks to help them get a grip when emerging from icy water. At one time in Japanese history, Akitas were only owned by the Imperial family, but now Akitas are loved by people all over the world.
2. Hokkaido Inu
Hokkaido Inus are a medium-sized breed and will reach an average weight of 45-60 pounds at full size.
3. Shiba Inus
Shiba Inus have been part of Japanese culture since 7000 BC and were originally hunting dogs. It is very common to encounter this breed of dog in Japan today, but they almost disappeared after World War II due to the bombings in Japan as well as distemper. Shibas are more like cats than dogs because they spend a lot of time cleaning themselves.
Shikoku dogs come from the mountains of Kochi prefecture on the island of Shikoku and were historically good at hunting wild boar. These dogs may have red; black and beige; or black, red and white coats, which help them blend into their winter surroundings.
5. Tosa Inu
The Tosa Inu is the largest of all Japanese dog breeds. Tosas can weigh between 100 and 200 pounds, and their love and loyalty to their family runs deep. Tosas are unwavering and patient with those they love.
6. Kai Ken
Kai Ken dogs are excellent swimmers, climbers, and trackers, and their brindle coats (mottled black, brown, and sometimes red) help them blend into their surroundings.
Originating as hunting dogs in the densely forested areas of the mountains of Japan, Kishus are modern family dogs that are popular around the world. They are super smart and love to be mentally stimulated often.
8. Japanese Spitz
Similar in appearance to a Pomeranian, the Japanese Spitz is a small dog that doesn’t require much grooming despite its fluffy white coat.
9. Japanese chin
Oddly enough, Japanese Chin dogs actually originated from China. They were once gifted to the Japanese royal family by the Emperor of China and have been an easy breed to spot in Japan ever since. They are companion dogs that are very small in size – they are only about 9 inches tall!
10. Japanese Terrier
The Japanese terrier is the first breed of terrier originating in Japan. They are a small breed, weighing between 10 and 30 pounds, they are energetic and very fond of play and activity.
These breeds, although native or common in Japan, are adoptable anywhere in the world. If you have your heart set on saving one of these breeds, start with your local shelters and refuges, like New York Shiba Rescueor discover the adoptable dogs on animal finder.
If you decide to adopt a Japanese dog breed, know that you are adopting an incredibly unique and fun pup that will stay with you and your family forever. And it certainly helps that they’re all cute too!