AKC Dog Breeds: Kishu Ken

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Foundation Stock Service® Breed
Height: 17-22 inches   Weight: 30-59 pounds  Color: white, solid red, sesame, brindle

The Kishu is a Japanese breed of dog, developed there for thousands of years. The Kishu is also called a Kishu Ken or Kishu Inu, both Ken and Inu are Japanese words for dog. The Kishu is a very ancient breed, some sources say they have been bred for 3000 years or more. They originated in the mountainous region of the island of Kyushu, the southern most island of Japan. Since they had no contact with other breeds, the Kishu stock is very pure.  It is said the Japanese wished to create the perfect dog and the Kishu Ken was the result, a pure white in color and extremely clean, highly intelligent, loyal, faithful, and an excellent hunter. The Kishu is very rare in America or actually anywhere outside of Japan. It has been a "Protected Species" in Japan since 1934, which is a major reason why they are so rare. It is descended from ancient medium-sized breeds. This breed is similar to the Akita Inu and the Shiba Inu but predates both breeds. Sometimes it is mistaken for the white variant of Hokkaido or a white Japanese Spitz because of very similar appearance. The Japanese originally used this breed of dog for boar and deer hunting. Like the Shiba, they are often quiet. Kishu will stalk prey quietly rather than bark. In 1934 the Kishu Ken was designated a National Treasure in Japan. The Kishu Ken has been recorded in the Foundation Stock Service since 2005.

General Appearance
The Kishu stands 17-22 inches tall, averages 30-60 pounds and is considered a medium sized dog. In early years Kishus came in different colors, but the white-coated Kishus showed superior qualities and therefore were used more often for breeding. The hunters preferred the white color because of easy visibility. Working dogs were bred for efficiency and usefulness. The nose color is primarily black, but with the white coat the nose can be brownish or pink in color. The bite is either scissor or a level bite. The tail is curled over the back like that of an Akita or Shiba Inu. The coat is short, straight, and coarse with a thick undercoat. There is fringe on the cheeks and tail. The ears incline forward and are smaller rather than larger. This breed is tough, agile, and friendly.

The Kishu Ken is loyal and loving with their family. A friendly, quiet, and calm, but tough and agile breed. Kishu's are a one-person dog. They are courageous and brave as hunters, and will be loyal to their owners. Due to their strong prey drive, they are not suited well around other, smaller pets. They do, however, do very well with other dogs, as they are pack hunters. They are quite headstrong and willful, making training necessary, but they are devoted and loyal to family, getting along well with children. This dog is thoughtful and silent. As a companion within the home, he is docile and content. These dogs have always been hunters first but have adjusted to life as a companion dog very well.  Kishu like to keep an eye on whatever is going on, and sometimes find a high place to look out from. They can be timid around strangers. They are easily housebroken, intelligent, and have a strong will. This breed needs an owner who is calm, but firm, confident and consistent, displaying a natural authority over the dog.


The Kishu should be brushed weekly to keep their fur mat free and clean. Bathe them as necessary, depending on how dirty they are. Their ears should be checked routinely for wax build up, infection or dirt. Their nails should also be trimmed regularly. Kishu Kens shed once or twice a year, making extra grooming at these times needed.

Health Problems and Life Expectancy
Due to isolation during the breed's development, the breed has kept pure and healthy.  The Kishu Ken  has a life expectancy of 11-13 years.

Activity Level
The Kishu needs adequate space to roam and exercise, meaning a house with a yard or urban environment with a fence. They need regular exercise on a leash, taking walks or runs. They can also be given a job to do such as herding to satisfy their exercise.


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