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Shikoku Island

 Origins and Temperament

 The Japanese native Nihon Ken were designated as a “natural monuments” in 1937 and include the breeds of the Kai Ken, Kishu Ken, Hokkaido Inu, Akita Inu, Shiba Inu, and Shikoku Ken (ken & inu = dog).  They are divided into 3 sizes; large (Akita), medium (Shikoku, Kai, Hokkaido, Kishu), and small (Shiba).  Most of the Nihon Ken took the name of the region where they were developed. All have the typical spitz double coat, prick ears, and a sickle or curved tail.

Shikoku Ken were developed and bred on the island of Shikoku, on the southern side of Japan. They are also sometimes referred to as Kochi Ken, after the prefecture that the island of Shikoku is located in. The island of Shikoku is mountainous and somewhat isolated, so Shikoku Ken were developed for centuries relatively free of crosses with outside dog breeds .


The Shikoku is a rare breed both inside and outside ofJapan. Even in Japan, the breed is uncommon, especially when compared with the other native Nihon Ken breeds or Western breeds. The number of Shikoku in Japan is estimated to be below 10,000, with breed registrations provided by the Nihon Ken Hozonkai (Nippo). NIPPO is an organization dedicated to the preservation of the 6 native Japanese spitz-type dogs. In 1937 NIPPO succeeded in having the Shikoku Ken declared a "Living Natural Monument" of Japan and a major reconstruction effort was undertaken. At NIPPO shows, the judges place high importance on the essence of the Japanese dog, which is indentified in both its attitude, physical presence, and conformation.  Outside Japan, there are approximately 100 Shikoku, mainly residing in Europe,  the United States, and Canada.

The Shikoku is bred as a hunting dog mainly for hunting deer and wild boar in the mountains of Kochi Prefecture. The dogs were usually used in pairs or triplets during a hunt and were trained mainly to bark to detain ( hoeru-dome) the prey until the hunter arrived to dispatch it. Some dogs were bred to bite to detain (kami-dome) the prey, but because of injuries to the dogs, these type of dogs are no longer selected for breeding. This is especially true for hunting wild boar, who are notoriously aggressive and dangerous to both the dog and the hunter. Shikoku Ken have a high pitched "detain" bark, which was selected for so that the hunter could hear them over long distances. This bark is different from the bark they use when they see a (possible) intruder to the home.

Shikoku Ken have a unique personality, unlike many dog breeds. A tenacious hunter, fearless in facing off large game, they are calm, loyal, and affectionate with their family. Inside, they are very quiet and not hyper, yet they have tremendous endurance when taken outside and a lot of energy. They tend to be submissive to their owner and more willing to be obedient than some other breeds of Nihon Ken. They do display some primitive behaviors (eg, peeing when greeting someone, especially as a puppy) and tend to have softer temperaments (ie, they do not take to forceful discipline and do much better with positive reinforcement). However, with proper positive reinforcement (eg, clicker training), they are incredibly smart and willing to learn. In comparison with a lot of Spitz-type breeds, they do enjoy obedience and can be quite skilled at competitive obedience. In training, they quickly learn what you want and can execute with high precision.

Shikoku Island

Courage and stamina are common in the breed.These dogs are tough and sufficiently agile to run through a mountainous region. They tend to be good companions for active outdoor people. However, keeping them on-leash is recommended because of their very strong hunting drive. Shikoku can be territorial and can display adequate watch dog capabilities, however, they are not guard or protection dogs. And although very intelligent and obedient, their softer temperament does not make them suitable for Schutzhund training. However, they would enjoy regular obediene training, Rally, Tracking, and Agility. With proper training, they could make good search and rescue dogs.They need to be well socialized with other dogs, and even still, tend to play a bit more aggressively than other (Western) breeds and  may not be suitable playmates for those dogs.

Shikoku Island

Three distinct lines of the Shikoku were developed: the Awa, the Hongawa and the Hata all named after the areas they originated from within Kochi prefecture. Currently, the distinction between lines has become less obvious because of more crossbreeding between the lines. The modern Shikoku is thought to descend mainly from the Hongawa and Hata lines. Dogs from the Hata line are generally heavier and stockier in build, with longer, and more profuse coats. Hata line dogs have broader heads, smaller ears, and move less gracefully. In contrast, dogs from the Hongawa line have light and air movement, are more slender, graceful, and long legged, and have less dense coats when compared with the Hata line. Hongawa Shikoku have the most influence on the direction of the breed currently.

The Shikoku standard, as written today, describes them 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." Dogs are supposed to range from 19-21.5 inches at the withers and bitches from 17-19 inches. Dogs weigh an average of 45 pounds and bitches closer to 35. There are four accepted coat colors in the standard: goma (sesame), aka (red), kuro (black), and shiro (white/cream; undesirable coloration). All Shikoku should have "urajiro" markings which are markings of a white or cream color presented on the ventral portions of the body and legs, as well as on the cheeks and brow of the head.