What are the Six Authentic Japanese Dog Breeds?

Japan have been known to produce excellent breeds that are recognized worldwide. These breeds are equipped with several incredible qualities, making them unique and admirable. In terms of their characteristics, there are also some common features, which resemble the traits of a true Japanese dog. Interestingly, there are six native Japanese breeds, also known as Nihon-ken. 

All of the six authentic Japanese dogs boast their beautiful appearance and gentle behavior. Expertise is another trait which makes these dogs a true dog lover’s delight. They received a global recognition because of these traits, wherein we often see them in movies, TV shows, and so on. 

In this article, let us take a look into each of the Japanese dogs’ characteristics, as well as other information about the breed. 

Akita Inu


Similar to the other Japanese breeds’ name, Akita Inu is derived from the Japanese word ‘inu,’ which means dog. Akita Inu, or simply Akita, is one of the Nihon-ken, which is a clear definition of a dignified and substantial breed. The appearance of this dog is quite common since it is often shown in TV shows; it flaunts its elegant coat, along with a foxlike head. This breed also gained recognition for its versatility, especially during its early existence, wherein it helped the Japanese people in various tasks. Hunting was one of its primary tasks in the mountainous area of Tōhoku region; however, people also used this breed in other canine tasks, such as guarding and fighting. 

The wide scope of expertise showcased by the Akita Inu is what makes it popular in Japan, as well as in other countries. Despite the Akita’s greatness in the field, it almost reached the brink of extinction after World War II. The war left the breed with a catastrophic decline in its population, pushing breeders to start a restoration process for the Akita Inu. Thankfully, the breed survived the devastating event, and today, it is known as one of the most significant breeds in Japan. 

Shiba Inu


The Shiba Inu shares a lot of common characteristics with the Akita Inu; it has a curved tail, a dense coat, and a foxlike face that has expresses the breed’s positive nature. In addition to its appearance, the Shiba Inu also has other characteristics that many dog enthusiasts find interesting. The skillset of this breed proves its worth as a reputable hunting dog; it helped humans in the field many years ago. However, like the Akita Inu, the Shiba Inu also had a significant decline in its population after World War II. Thanks to its importation to the United States, the breed was saved and continued to have a healthy population over the years. 



Hokkaido was mainly recognized for its medium-sized and muscular body. Other qualities may appear the same, but there are still some small differences. Like other Japanese breeds, Hokkaido has a dense coat, which is known to be longer and thicker. Along with its muscular body, it has a wider chest, which contributes to its robust image. The Japanese breeds are known to have pointed ears, so does the Hokkaido; however, its ears are smaller compared to those of its groupmates. The Hokkaido is also one of the early breeds to have accompanied the Ainu people during their travel in the 12th century. 



Japanese breeds are proud hunters, especially during their early existence; it is also where Shikoku gained its recognition. Shikoku, also known as Kochi-ken, was a popular hunter many years ago. It helped the Matagi hunters in the field, tracking various targets, such as wild boars. The incredible work of the Shikoku is all thanks to its muscular and powerful body, giving it the strength and agility to dominate the field. Similar to other Japanese breeds, Shikoku has a dense coat and a curled tail; the difference is that it has a more powerful look and more developed muscles. 

Kai Ken


Out of all the six Japanese breeds, Kai Ken probably has the most unique appearance. It showcases its distinct brindle coat, which comes in three variations: Brindle, Black Brindle, and Red Brindle. These fascinating colors present in the Kai Ken is what allows it to work more efficiently in the forests, wherein it can camouflage itself from predators and other hunters. As expected, it is also a well-known hunter, which earned a solid reputation in climbing trees, as well as swimming on rivers. 

Kishu Ken


The Kishu Ken’s appearance pretty much describes its soft and gentle nature. Despite dominating the hunting field, Kishu Kens are known for their affectionate and loyal nature. They are eager to please their owners, making them a lovable and trustworthy breed. It is a faithful and outgoing breed that loves the company of its family members. In terms of its appearance, the Kishu Ken also share the same qualities with other Japanese breeds; it only has a sleeker built.