History and Characteristics
The Shikoku Ken is one of the six native, Japanese spitz-type dogs. Native to the mountainous region of the Kochi Prefecture on the Island of Shikoku, these athletic and agile dogs are accomplished big game hunters. The breed owes its foundation to medium-sized dogs of ancient Japan. Developed by the matagi (hunters in Japan that remained true to ancient traditions), the Shikoku Ken is prized for its tenacity in the face of large and dangerous game (such as wild boar) as well as their relative calm around the family and home.
Originally known as the Tosa Ken, they were renamed so as not to be confused with the Tosa Fighting Dog. The breed’s official name is Shikoku Ken (四国犬), but is sometimes referred to as “Kochi Ken” for the area in Japan where they originate from, or less commonly “Shikoku Inu”. Some people also refer to them as “Shikoku Dog” since ken and inu are the Japanese words for dog. Both ken and inu are used interchangeably, though recently more people are reading 犬 as ken instead of inu. A somewhat jokingly used name for the Shikoku Ken is “Japanese Wolf Dog” due to the “wolfy” coloring that many Shikoku display. This term can be seen as controversial in North America due to the mislabeling of different breeds and mixes as “wolfdogs” and the bans on wolves and wolf dogs as pets in some areas.
In 1928, the Nihon Ken Hozonkai (NIPPO) was formed. NIPPO is an organization dedicated to the preservation of the six native Japanese spitz-type dogs. The NIPPO founders initially focused their efforts on the Akita and the Shiba, but in 1937 NIPPO succeeded in having the Shikoku Ken declared a "Living Natural Monument" of Japan and a major reconstruction effort was undertaken.
The Shikoku Ken is described as: "A medium-sized dog with well balanced and well developed clean cut muscles. It has pricked ears and a curled or sickle tail. Conformation: strong, well-boned and compact." Shikoku tend to run in the range of 30-55lbs as adults, with males being larger and slightly more square in build.
The Shikoku Ken is now recognized by several kennel clubs around the world, including the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) in the Hound group, the American Kennel Club (AKC) in AKC Foundation Stock Service, the United Kennel Club (UKC) in the Northern Breed group, and the Fédération cynologique internationale (FCI) in the Spitz and Primitive Dog group.