Other names: Kishu Inu, Kishu Ken


This loyal and vigilant dog is only around 60% as serious as he looks. Yes, he is disinterested in strangers (perhaps a healthy trait) and often cold towards his own kind, but he can also be fiercely affectionate towards his chosen confidants and enjoys a game as befits his sporting heritage. Native to Japan, where he is descended from the hunting dogs of the Wakayama and Mie Prefecture mountains, he is celebrated as one of his home country’s six ‘national monument’ breeds. His distinctive sickle-shaped brush tail, white, red, or sesame coat, and blissful expression have made his name beyond the shores of his home island.

Key facts about the Kishu

Life expectancy :





Temperament :


Size :

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Origins and history

The Kishu Ken can trace his heritage to a 3,000-year line of spitz-type hunting dogs of Japan’s mountain regions. In later centuries, they were selectively bred for their skills and also their colour, so that by 1945 the spotty varieties had all disappeared. In 1934, this proud dog became a “Memorial of Nature” in his homeland.

FCI breed nomenclature

FCI Group

Group 5 - Spitz and primitive types


Section 5 : Asian Spitz and related breeds

Physical characteristics of the Kishu

Adult size

Female : Between 18 and 20 in

Male : Between 19 and 22 in


Female : Between 44 and 55 lb

Male : Between 44 and 55 lb

Coat colour

Type of coat

Eye colour



This wolfish fellow has something of the seriousness of the Alsatian about his person, but with an Asian twist. Most commonly white in colour, and always without spots, stripes, and other patterns, his strong bone structure and searching eyes make him stand out in a crowd. He has a broad forehead, triangular, inclining eyes, and wolfish ears, although his aloof expression deprives him of the sensuality of the canis lupus. Still, he backs-up an already-attractive package with a tail apparently built for pleasure. 

Good to know

Finding an available Kishu Ken in the UK is a lengthy process. Originally, these dogs’ coats had red or sesame spots or streaks, but from 1934 only uniform coats were admitted, and spotted coats disappeared by 1945. Nowadays, a white coat is not uncommon.


  • 66%


    He can be affectionate with his closest companions.

  • 66%


    This dog likes a playful and educational game.

  • 66%


    Whether at home or at work, this is one thoughtful, calm, and serious dog.

  • 66%


    The Kishu Ken is considered to be a versatile and competent dog that can be trusted.

  • 100%


    This dog is adept at the hunting of deer and boar and, if kept in civilian quarters, may instead turn his bored attention upon the local feline life.

  • 100%

    Fearful / wary of strangers

    He is a watchful dog who is suspicious of strangers. It takes time to gain his trust.

  • 100%


    Although affectionate to his master, the Kishu Ken is quite an independent soul.

    Behaviour of the Kishu

    • 66%

      Tolerates solitude

      The Kishu Ken still has an element of wildness about him, so if you are to leave him for any period of time it is best that he is somewhere safe outdoors if he is not to become destructive.

    • 66%

      Easy to train / obedience

      He is a clever dog and a quick learner, who is receptive when a relationship of mutual trust has been established. The Kishu pup must learn the basics early to become the wonderful companion he deserves to be.

    • 33%


      He doesn’t bark much, but will use his voice as a warning if necessary.

    • 100%

      Tendency to run away

      He is a very good escape artist and may follow his latent instincts at the slightest hint of an adventure.

    • 66%


      He can become destructive if left alone indoors without having enjoyed the requisite exercise.

    • 66%

      Greedy / Gluttony

      Treats can be a good way to maintain focus and interest during training.

    • 100%

      Guard dog

      He can make a good watch or guard dog but requires proper training to do so safely and effectively.

    • 66%

      First dog

      He can be a good first dog if his many needs are taken into account. He shouldn’t be adopted purely for his beauty.

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      • 66%

        Kishu in a flat

        Apartment life is not impossible, but this naturally outdoorsy, mountain sort of a dog needs space and opportunity to exercise several times a day.

      • 100%

        Need for exercise / Sporty

        This dog has impressive stamina. He needs sport and exercise to fully flourish.

      • 66%

        Travelling / easy to transport

        His size is generally not a problem for car or public transportation, but his independent and suspicious temperament requires early socialisation to different environments.


        • 33%

          Kishu and cats

          The Kishu Ken, that keen hunter, loves cats, but not as friends.

        • 66%

          Kishu and dogs

          He can get on well with other dogs if well socialised as a puppy, but will always stand up for himself – sometimes with troubling results – if an issue of dominance arises within the group.

        • 66%

          Kishu and children

          A Kishu Ken can integrate into a home with children, but they must respect the tranquility of this independent dog.

        • 33%

          Kishu and the elderly

          All in all, this dog is a big ask of the elderly; his energy needs and training difficulties may be more trouble than they’re worth.



          We do not have enough data to set an average price. Looking after a dog of this size typically costs between £70 to £110 a month, including food, medical/insurance, and incidental expenses.


          A weekly brush and/or bath should do the job nicely.


          He sheds twice a year as the temperature turns direction.

          Nutrition of the Kishu

          The Kishu Ken is known to suffer some food allergies so quality dog food should be used, and preferably checked out with a vet an early point. Home-made meals made from raw meat are most suitable.

          Health of the Kishu

          Life expectancy

          Other than his allergies (certain foods and environmental factors) the Kishu Ken keeps pretty good health and has an average life expectancy of 12 years.

          Strong / robust

          This is a robust outdoors-type dog, who is predisposed to some problems specific to Japanese breeds.

          Withstand heat

          Beware of heat stroke; this breed is not made to withstand high temperatures.

          Withstand cold

          His double coat gives him excellent protection against cold and damp.

          Tendency to put on weight

          Not especially, unless he is suffering from hypothyroidism, which is not uncommon among the Kishu Ken.

          Common illnesses

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