Japanese Dog Breeds FULL List (10 Traditional Japanese Breeds)

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Leading-edge technology, vending machines for every item possible, and delectable food choices are some of the things that make Japan famous.

But for people who love dogs, discovering the various traditional Japanese breeds and their histories is an amazing opportunity.

Traditional Japanese dog breeds
Learning more about traditional Japanese dog breeds

Read on to find out more about these four-legged companions. 

History Of Japanese Dog Breeds

The history of traditional Japanese dog breeds goes back thousands of years.

As a result, they remain at the top of the list among the most devoted and vigilant dogs worldwide.

Japanese dog breeds history
The history of Japanese dog breeds

They are strong, have beautiful bodies, and will be loyal, loving family members forever. 

Dog lovers tell amazing stories about authentic Japanese dog breeds. More reason why learning all you can about them is eye-opening.

Which Popular Dog Breeds Come From Japan?

There are six purely traditional Japanese dog breeds in Japan.

They are

  1. Kai Ken
  2. Akita Inu
  3. Shiba Inu
  4. Hokkaido
  5. Shikoku
  6. Kishu

As the national dogs, their registrations and histories are under the preservation of the Nihon Ken government organization. 

Besides the six, other well-loved spitz breeds also call Japan home. Some are rare across their native country, so coming across a pure breed in your town may be impossible.

Although they may not hold national status, owning one is still a privilege for many families.

10 Traditional Japanese Dog Breeds

Below is the full list of the coveted traditional Japanese dog breeds that make the best companions.

1. Kishu

Popularly referred to as Kishu Ken, this traditional Japanese dog breed has been around for centuries.

Kishu dog breed from Japan

Due to their lithe medium-sized bodies, owners initially preferred them for hunting small wildlife such as deer.  

During the early 30s, the Japanese recognized the Kishu as a national treasure.

Not only are they rare, but people love them due to their intelligence, faithfulness, and loving nature. 

Fun Facts About The Kishu Ken

  • Purebreds only have one solid color. They may be black, reddish-brown, or white, although traditional ones have a pure white coat.
  • They are loyal and protective of their owner but will also make excellent companions for children.
  • Kishu dog breed is highly intelligent, loves to play, is alert, and is competitive. They tend to be dominant when encountering other dogs, making them excellent hunters.
  • A purebred Kishu Ken is a costly undertaking. A puppy costs you as much as $500, so watch out for an authentic breeder.

2. Japanese Chin

You will not help but stare at this little dog due to its distinctive features. The flat-like face, wide-set eyes, and dark sloppy ears give it a toy-like appearance.

Japanese Chin
Japanese Chin

Their feathery tails also add to their elegant poise, thanks to their royal breeding.

The Japanese Chin is among the oldest dog breed and has two colors: red and white or black and white.

Their long, silky fur makes them appear regal even though they love perching on shelves and at the top of seats.

As clean and friendly dogs, they were first introduced into Japan by the Japanese royal court.

Their regal air is still one of their characteristics, whether they live in an apartment or farmhouse.  

Fun Facts About The Japanese Chin

  • Despite their cat-like demeanor, they also have a fierce canine personality.
  • They are extremely playful, well-mannered, and love being around children.
  • Watch out for their leaps around the house; they love jumping from one high location to the next.
  • Although grooming is necessary, they will lick themselves clean throughout the day.
  • A purebred Japanese Chin puppy may cost you as high as $2,500.

3. Akita Inu

Akita Inu has been one of the largest traditional Japanese spitz breeds for hundreds of years.

Akita Inu dog from Japan
Akita Inu

They are celebrated as the most loyal dogs, symbolizing good health, prosperity, and happiness.

It is not uncommon to find visitors gifting new parents Akita-shaped toys and tokens as a symbol of good luck and best wishes.

Fun Facts About The Akita Inu

  • They almost disappeared during the Second World War, but traditional breeders kept them alive.
  • In Japan, it is a national symbol of loyalty and status. Tokens depicting the canine are common. It represents an Akita Inu that waited for its master every day to come home from work at the train station, even long after he passed away.
  • Akita Inu have muscular bodies and grow as tall as 25 inches, and an adult may weigh up to 120 pounds.
  • Their soft fluffy fur does not shed much, and they are friendly pets among children. 
  • Although they have a laid-back personality among family members, they can get fierce with strangers.
  • One must train them while young to help them become more sociable.
  • A native Japanese Akita Inu will cost between $700 to $2,000, depending on age and training.
  • The American Akita dog breed is a different breed from the Japanese Akita.

4. Tosa

Tosa is the largest dog breed among all Japanese canines.

Weighing as high as an amazing 200 pounds, this friendly beast has distinct physical features.

Tosa dog from Japan

It has soft black fur, a large head, a wide powerful jaw, and large floppy ears that hang on the sides.

Due to its massive size, it is common to find it as a guard dog, especially since the Japanese initially bred them for fighting.

They are protective but can become less aggressive toward strangers with proper training.

Fun Facts About The Tosa

  • Tosa dogs are banned in some countries due to their large size and aggression.
  • The breed commands power and may be a challenge for first-time dog owners. As a result, they are well-suited to strong and experienced dog owners.
  • Although they are friendly among family and children, supervision is mandatory, especially during training when they first join the family.
  • Their temperament is generally sensitive and quiet, but they have a loud bark that can be intimidating.
  • They are the best watchdogs for anyone interested.
  • A Tosa Inu puppy may cost between $500 and $800.

5. Hokkaido

The Japanese consider the Hokkaido one of the oldest breeds among the six traditional canines in Japan.

Although seeing this dog outside Japan is rare, it is a fearless companion common in Japanese homes.

Hokkaido dog from Japan

Their thick fur makes them cuddly and friendly, with a calm personality suitable for children.

However, they are quite active and often wander to discover the world. Homeowners keep their furniture safe by providing lots of outdoor play space and time.

If you love the outdoors, Hokkaido dogs will love the exercise and playtime with family.

Fun Facts About The Hokkaido

  • Their thick skin, fur, and strong bones make them suitable for cold regions, as they can withstand snow.
  • They were initially hunting dogs, which makes them great outdoor companions today.
  • Despite their dominant personality, they are highly intelligent and easy to train.
  • Their sense of smell is also quite strong, and they can find their way home from miles away.
  • They enjoy being around children and will make playtime fun with lots of kisses and cuddles.
  • On average, acquiring a Hokkaido puppy will cost you about $400.

6. Japanese Terrier

As one of the rare Japanese miniature pets, the Japanese Terrier makes the perfect best friend.

Although small, at an average of 13 inches tall, they are cheerful and highly protective of their owners.

Their fur is short and stiff, tan, white, or black. Most of them have a slender build and a pure black head.

Since they adapt well and are easy to train, they are the best family dog.

Fun Facts About The Japanese Terrier

  • They can get jealous, so ensure they are not around children smaller than them.
  • Due to their possessiveness, they tend to get overly attached to one family member.
  • On average, you will pay about $600 for a Japanese Terrier puppy.

7. Shikoku

As one of the rarest traditional Japanese dog breeds, Shikoku is a distant cousin of the Shiba Inu and Akita in appearance.

Shikoku dog breed from Japan

Their stocky wolf-like appearance may seem wild, but they are surprisingly calm and friendly.

Their fur is thick and soft and comes in three colors, red, black, and white.

Their triangle-shaped face and short ears make them resemble a wolf. However, they quickly adapt to home comforts and make excellent family dogs.

Fun Facts About The Shikoku

  • Thousands of years ago, Shikoku were wild canines roaming the wilderness as hunters.
  • They love the outdoors and plenty of exercises.
  • Initially, their owners bred them for boar and deer hunting on the Japanese Island of Shikoku.
  • As a rare breed, you are unlikely to find it outside Japan. If you do, it will cost you over $2,000.

8. Kai Ken

The Kai Ken Japanese dog breed is unique due to its tiger-like fur. Its tawny black fur has brown streaks, which help it to camouflage while hunting.

Kai Ken
Kai Ken

As an athletic dog, its lithe body and speed make it very fast and an excellent hunter.

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Although breeders initially wanted them for work, with proper training, they make wonderful companions.

They will be loyal to one person but may not like children much.

Fun Facts About Kai Ken

  • They can swim across rivers, climb trees, and run over hills when they spot prey.
  • In Japan, locals call it Kai Tiger due to its agility and fur color.
  • They adapt to the home environment, but one has to be alert as untrained ones can easily escape.
  • A Kai Ken puppy goes for about $600 or slightly less.

9. Shiba Inu

Shiba Inu are tiny but have fierce personalities.

Shiba Inu dog breed from Japan
Shiba Inu

They are an ancient Japanese breed that nearly faced extinction in the 40s but are now quite popular.

Their small bodies, sharp ears, and orange and white fur resemble that of a fox.

Fun Facts About Shiba Inu

  • They can be stubborn, but with proper training, they become friendly.
  • Their fearless spirit makes them highly possessive of their family.
  • One can cost as high as $3,000 from a reputable breeder.

10. Ryukyu Inu

Common in the Okinawa region of Japan, the Ryukyu Inu traditional dog breed is almost impossible to find.

Due to its muscular build and easy camouflage fur, it was popular as a tracker during hunting centuries ago.

Today, the strong, confident dog breed makes excellent therapy dogs, and with training, they will remain calm at home.

However, they are alphas and will require a dominant person to take charge of them.

Fun Facts About Ryukyu Inu

  • Unlike other dogs, they have an extra claw at the back of their paws. 
  • The theory behind the extra claw goes back thousands of years ago, when they were wild animals and could climb trees.
  • In Japan, a Ryukyu Inu puppy goes for about $600. However, finding a pure breed outside the country is very rare.


Traditional Japanese dog breeds are special, and their unique characteristics make them highly favored among dog lovers.

People seek them out worldwide as they make amazing companions, guard dogs, trainable working dogs, and swift hunters. We hope one of these turns out to be your favorite.

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