AKC Dog Breeds: Tosa Inu

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Foundation Stock Service® Breed
Height: 22-26  inches  Weight: 99-200 pounds  
 Tan with or without markings, red, brindle, dull black, and fawn

The Tosa  is a breed of dog of Japanese origin that is considered rare. It was originally bred in Tosa (present day Kochi) as a fighting dog and still is today. Ownership of Tosas is legally restricted in certain jurisdictions. In the United Kingdom ownership is regulated under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. A specific exemption of a British court is required to own and import Tosas legally in the UK.  Brave and majestic, the Tosa Inu came from a land devoted to the breed's strength and ability to fight to the death without so much as a whimper. They were only developed after 1854, when Commodore Perry visited Japan. This visit connected Japan to the Western World and opened up trade, thus allowing other countries to experience the Tosa. The Tosa is thought to be a mix of the indigenous breeds such as the Shikoku and foreign breeds such as the Great Dane, German Pointer, Bulldogs and Mastiffs. This led to the sumo-wrestler of Japanese dogs, the Tosa Ken. Ceremonial dog fighting was a big part of the Japanese culture, and thus the Tosa was an ideal breed for this. They are still used for that very purpose to this day. They were trained with whips to not whine or whimper in a fight, even to the death. The dogs would be in a parade on their route to the dog fighting ring, wearing colorful traditional dress. As with many breeds, the Tosa was devastated after World War II. The best of the breed was sent to northern Japan to be bred. In time, the breed was standardized and revived again. Today they exist in places other than Japan such as the U.S. and Germany, but they serve as guards in those countries.

General Appearance
The Tosa, also called the Tosa-Inu or Tosa-Ken, is a stately, massive dog. It is both athletic and surprisingly agile. The head is large, with a broad skull, fairly abrupt stop, and a moderately long, squared-off muzzle. The Tosa's jaws are very powerful. The skin at the neck forms a dewlap. The ears are fairly small and pendant, falling along the cheeks. The eyes are small, dark and almond-shaped, with a dignified expression. The long tail is very thick at the root then tapers to a point, reaching the hocks. The Tosa's short-haired coat is dense and harsh. The preferred color is solid red, though black, yellow, black & tan, fawn, brindle and multi-colored is also permissible.

The Tosa has unmatched loyalty to its master and is very good with children and people it knows. They are an intelligent breed that know when there is a threat; are known to attack if there is a threat, and is very protective of other family pets. Generally cannot live with another dog unless they have grown up together or related. The breed favors its "den" (i.e. house, car, and property in a home situation) and "pack" (i.e. human family in a home situation) and is very affectionate to its family. It is poised, but when the occasion demands, eager and alert; both fit and willing to serve in its capacity as a companion, watchdog, guide dog for people who are blind, herding dog, fighter, or guardian, whichever the circumstances may demand. Proper socialization as a puppy is one of the two key factors which determines what a dog's temperament will be as an adult. Exceptionally quiet, calm and patient.the Tosa has been bred to be a very quiet dog because Japanese dog fighting rules required the dogs to fight silently. They are highly intelligent and do not need repetitious training, but do require an equable, firm, consistent, friendly approach.  The Tosa is unmatched in strength and pain tolerance but is as clever as it is strong. Left alone, young Tosas become bored and destructive -- and their powerful jaws can literally destroy your living room.


Tosa Inus shed more than you might think. Their short, coarse hairs come off on your hands when you pet them, and stick tenaciously to your carpeting, upholstery, and clothing. The coat is easy to care for, only needing a brush every once in a while to remove dead hairs. This breed does not drool like many other Mastiff-type breeds, making maintenance very low.

Health Problems and Life Expectancy
From joint and bone diseases to skin and autoimmune conditions...all giant breeds are risky in the health department. Bloat is a common health issue to most dogs, being the second biggest killer of dogs other than cancer. Tosa Inus have a life expectancy of  10-12 years.

Activity Level

Young Tosa Inus need enough exercise to keep them lean and healthy, but not so much that their soft growing bones, joints, and ligaments become over-stressed and damaged. Adult Tosa Inus need more exercise to keep them in shape, but not in hot or humid weather for fear of overheating. The proper amount of exercise can be difficult to regulate in giant breeds. If given a yard and a place to roam, they will get all the exercise they need.


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