Can You Guess How Many Dog Breeds Are Native To Japan?

There’s more than the Shiba-Inu and the Akita!

By Justyne Yuen-Lee


Shibas get all of the Internet’s attention.

Ah, the famous Shiba-Inu – just like their ancestors in Japan, they are known to have the attitude of prestige and royalty. Or the ones I’ve met do – one time I wanted to pet my neighbor’s Shiba and they told me no because apparently “she bites.” Have you ever met any dogs that just sneer at you like you’re not worthy? (?Pekingese ?) When you think of a Japanese breed, your mind might automatically go to the famous meme of “Doge” and the Shiba’s derpy face that goes against all prestigious background. I have learned that if you dig a little deeper in the Japanese dog culture – there’s actually several more than just the Shiba! However, even in Japan, these breeds are rare and very expensive and importing them is an even scarier thought, so the Internet is where we must satisfy our need of Japanese floofs.


Credit: Tumblr / @john-smith93

The infamous Russian president, Mr. Vladmir Putin loves dogs and recently got a new puppy. One of his other dogs, Yume, is an Akita and was a gift from the Japanese government. Apparently, they wanted to gift him another, but he refused as Yume was a bit fierce and “bites a lot.”


Japanese dogs have similar traits.

Native Japanese dogs are known as “spitz” dogs and have similar characteristics – thick fur, pointed ears, a cute curly tail and muzzles (and an attitude problem apparently). There are 7 breeds from Japan and are usually named after the location they come from.


Credit: Tofugu / Japanese Dog Breeds and How To Get Them

A helpful map from Tofugu shows the breeds and the area of Japan they come from. The Shiba-Inu isn’t named after an area and probably just claims the whole country.

Here’s a little bit more about the 7 native Japanese breeds!

1. Shiba Inu


Shibas are a pretty popular breed.

In 2015, they were the 46th most popular breed in America according to MentalFloss. Shiba-Inu translates to “brushwood dog” which is rumored to come from their ability to run through, well, brush and thick grass. They’re loyal, but dramatic and can scream very loudly, almost humanly when upset. We also can’t dispute the fact that they became popular after becoming a meme!

There are three Japanese words that describe the Shiba – Kan-I (alertness and bravery, Ryosei (good natured, loyal, and obedient), and Sobuku (their good looks).

2. Akita-Inu


The Akita is like the other Spitz dogs, but it is much larger than the others. In the Second World War, soldiers would hunt them for their warm coats and almost lead them to extinction. Akitas are powerful, dignified, courageous, alert, and devoted. All of this combined – they are very territorial and do not like strangers. However, if you socialize your Akita a lot, it might ease their sensitivity. They are also known to grab your wrist with their mouths. They’re not trying to hurt you, but show you that they love you! Also note that they will chase other pets and children and try not to stare at them for too long (they will react aggressively).

3. Hokkaido Ken


Have you ever heard of this breed?

The Hokkaido Ken comes in several colors – white, red, black, brindle, sesame, and wolf grey. So if you like variety, you can choose your favorite! However, Hokkaido Ken puppies range from $400-$500 USD. They are known to be hunters and can attack a Hokkaido Brown Bear! They also don’t like strangers and will probably chase them away if they don’t socialize them enough.

4. Shikoku Inu


The Shikoku Inu is similar to the Shiba, but a little larger, more wolfish, and more alert. Like the other dogs, Shikokus are loyal, cautious, brave, and highly energetic. If you want a lazy dog, we wouldn’t recommend the Shikoku Inu because they love to run! Also, be wary if you have other small pets, Shikoku Inu dogs may (probably) hunt them.

Also, if you were wondering, “Inu” means dog!

5. Kishu Inu


Credit: Instagram / @natchan_yuukun

Kishu Inus are known to be loyal and stuck to one person in a family. Like the other breeds, they need to be socialized early on and do not do well with other small pets like guinea pigs or hamsters. Like the Shikoku Inu, they also need to run a lot. So daily jogs are a must! They’ve been known as a Japanese National Treasure since 1934!

6. Tosa Inu


The Tosa Inu is a mix between the Shikoku Inu and European breeds like the English Bulldog, St. Bernard, Great Dane, and the like. They look more like their European roots rather their Japanese ones. They were bred to be fighting dogs (?) and are considered very aggressive. They’re strong and can pull up to 300 pounds! If you live on a big property alone and without other animals, then a Tosa Inu is for you. The Tosa would probably protect you from anything that moves.

7. Kai-Ken


Last, but not least is the Kai Ken dog.

Like the other breeds, the Kai Ken is a good hunter, a good watch dog, and wary about strangers. They are Japanese National Monument. They like to chase and will not do well if you have smaller pets in the house.


There are other dogs that are considered “Japanese”, but were imported from other countries. There’s the Japanese Chin who are tiny, yappy dogs that were kept as companions for royal families. The Japanese Spitz is a mixture of the other Spitz dogs and can live up to 16 years! And lastly the Dutch brought over the Japanese Terrier who is known to be cheerful and lively (probably yip/yaps a lot).


Credit: srhmhanabi blog

If you haven’t already realized – having a Japanese dog breed would be expensive as many of them are rare. They are loyal dogs and don’t take TOO well with strangers if they haven’t been socialized enough. They love to run and chase so if you’re not super active, they might just make you. But if you train them well enough and they love you a lot, you can squish their little faces!


Credit: Tumblr / @bestgirloftheday

Which breed would you want to interact with?