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Dogs Named for the Regions of Japan

Dogs Named for the Regions of Japan


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Japan is the native land of several spitz dog breeds that are seen around the world. ("Ken" means "dog" in Japanese.) These pooches are named after the regions of Akita, Shikoku and Hokkaido. Kai and Kishu are both former names of locations in Japan. Shiba kens, while renowned, aren't named after a Japanese region.

Akita Kens

Akita kens are sturdy and sizable canines that have an extensive history in Japan as working animals. Hunting was a big job for these double-coated dogs, who were employed in going after big animals like deer. Modern Akitas are still hardworking dogs, and are often seen working alongside the police. Akitas are often thought of as self-sufficient, courageous and loyal family dogs. Although they're often loving with the people closest to them, they can be detached around new people.

Shikoku Kens

Shikokus, similarly to Akitas, also have hunting origins. The lively dogs hail from Japan's mountains—specifically within the Kochi prefecture—where they were admired for their steely determination while working. Some of the temperament traits often attributed to Shikokus are curiosity, spontaneity and self-confidence. These midsize dogs are highly nimble and energetic animals. "Kochi ken" is another occasionally used moniker for them.

Hokkaido Kens

Hokkaidos are robust spitz dogs also frequently referred to as "Ainu kens" because of their historic ties to the Ainu peoples. Hokkaidos are appreciated for their impressive stamina and devotion. They are also often hailed as adventurous and dedicated dogs. Hokkaido kens are extremely rare in the United States and the rest of North America.

Kai Kens

Kai kens are uncommon sights, even throughout the Land of the Rising Sun. The sinewy hunting dogs share traits of Japan's other breeds—namely sturdy limbs and extremely watchful behaviors. Kai kens too come from the mountains of Japan. They typically flourish in the company of their families, but can be extremely quiet and distant around newbies. "Tora inu" is another name for these highly observant and attentive dogs.

Kishu Kens

Kishu kens in the past were serious hunters, living in the mountains and hunting wild pigs regularly. They are thought of as having silent yet jovial temperaments. Kishu kens are also athletic and powerful dogs. Though they're frequently seen as cozy domestic pets, innate hunting behaviors continue to be intense in many of them.


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