Other names: Hokkaido-Ken, Ainu-ken, Seta, Ainu dog, Dō-ken
This deeply fluffy cutie may look like a cuddle on legs, but he’s built for action. The Hokkaido’s affable, dignified expression and distinctive coat make him a common pet in his homeland of Japan, but he originally worked as a hunter of boars and even of the mighty bear, who he disarmed ‘playground-style’ by leaping on her back and biting her neck flesh until she gave up or retreated. Today, he is making solid inroads towards domestic life, although his playing style – as unconventional as his bear-baiting style – has marked him out to some as a risk. In fact, he’ll play nicely with humans and other dogs, although smaller creatures should beware that he’s still keen on a casual game of hunt-the-furry-thing.
Key facts about the Hokkaido
Life expectancy :
Origins and history
Named for his home island, the Hokkaido seems to have originated from the medium-sized Japanese dogs who migrated there nearly 1,000 years ago. Over the centuries, he has been a brave and loyal hunting colleague, but he became very rare by the early 20th century. Partly thanks to his appearance in animations and a series of commercials, the Hokkaido-Ken has enjoyed a renaissance in Japan in recent years; now, due to the proliferation of cute pics on the internet, he is ready to take over the world. Here’s to our Hokkaido-Ken overlords!
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 5 - Spitz and primitive types
Section 5 : Asian Spitz and related breeds
Physical characteristics of the Hokkaido
Female : Between 18 and 19 in
Male : Between 19 and 20 in
Female : Between 40 and 51 lb
Male : Between 44 and 55 lb
Type of coat
The Hokkaido-Ken is aesthetically notable for two main characteristics: his upturned, almost triangular eyes; and his puffed-up coat, giving him the look of an inflated wolf (if instead of air he was inflated with cuteness). His face is mid-length, and his wedge-shaped head works its way back to small triangular ears flanked by thick fur that avalanches down over his powerful neck. Beneath that deeply dreamy double-coat, his body is broad and muscular, adding to the sense that he could bear-hug as strongly as any of his long-vanquished ursine foes. But you really know they’ve made an effort with this dog because, although he’s already proven himself spectacular long before you reach his rear, the Hokkaido bum is decorated with a high, thick, sickle-shaped tail in perfect curved relief to the rest of his square-edged body.
This dog can be quite an affectionate type, depending on the individual.
He loves to play, and his ‘pronking’ style with other dogs should not be mistaken for aggression.
The Hokkaido-Ken can make for a very calm household pet.
He needs to perceive meaning in what is asked of him, and in this he shows great intelligence. He does not blindly obey. He’s a natural problem-solver.
Naturally, and while his star rises in the pet world the Hokkaido can still be found working to keep boar and bear numbers in check.
Fearful / wary of strangers
He can be wary and protective against strangers, so should be well-socialised from a young age to keep the balance right.
He is faithful to his social group, but independent like many in his class.
Behaviour of the Hokkaido
If he gets enough exercise he can tolerate some alone-time.
Easy to train / obedience
This is not an easy dog to lead, and is not recommended for novices. He needs to be trained from early on by an experienced master, who knows the peculiarities of the breed. Patience and determination must be the watchwords for this one.
He never barks without reason, but can be intimidating if needed.
Tendency to run away
His independent temperament pushes him to flee, especially if he is hasn’t been exercised enough.