The Nihon Ken Blog

Check this blog out. It’s a compilation of great info on the 6 native Japanese breeds with photos. Here is the Hokkaido link. Also, my Shiba Inu Ike is a model in the Shiba description (standing next to a flame red Japanese maple).

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Hokkaido FCI Standard (with google translate)

FCI-Standard N ° 261 / 16.06.1999 / GB
HOKKAIDO
TRANSLATION: Dr. Paschoud and Prof. JM. R. Triquet.
ORIGIN: Japan.
DATE OF PUBLICATION OF THE ORIGINAL VALID STANDARD:
20.12.1994.
UTILIZATION: Hunting dog and companion.
CLASSIFICATION FCI: Group 5 Spitz and primitive types.
Section 5 Asian Spitz and related breeds.
Without working trial.
BRIEF HISTORY: They say that this breed descended from dogs of medium size Japanese who accompanied migrants from Honshu, the main island of Japan, Hokkaido during the Kamakura era (in 1140s), while trade between island of Hokkaido and the Tohoku District were developed. When in 1937 the race was declared “Natural Monument”, it took the name of the region where it originated. It is also known as “Ainu-ken, seen as the Ainu, the indigenous people of Hokkaido, they used these dogs to hunt bear and other animals. The morphology of Hokkaido enables him to endure the bitter cold and withstand heavy snowfall. It also demonstrates a sure appreciation of things and of great strength.
GENERAL APPEARANCE: Medium size, well balanced, sturdily built and provided a solid backbone. Secondary sexual characteristics are very pronounced. His muscles have tone and offer clean lines.
IMPORTANT PROPORTIONS:
The ratio of height at withers and body length is 10: 11.
The ratio of skull length of muzzle is 3: 2.
Skull length is equal to its width at the cheeks, about one quarter of the height at withers.
BEHAVIOUR / TEMPERAMENT: Dog of noteworthy endurance, showing dignity and naturalness. He is faithful, docile, very alert and bold.
HEAD
CRANIAL REGION:
Skull and face: Broad and slightly flattened
Stop: Shallow, but still marked.
FACIAL REGION:
Nose: Black, flesh-colored dogs permissible in white dress.
Muzzle: Wedge shaped, straight.
Lips: Tight, black edges.
Jaws / Teeth: Strong with a scissor.
Cheeks: Well developed.
Eyes: Relatively small, almost triangular in shape, set well apart and dark brown.
Ears: Small, triangular, slightly inclining forward and firmly pricked.
NECK: Strong and muscular, without dewlap.
BODY:
Withers: Well.
Back: Straight and strong.
Loin: Moderately broad and muscular.
Croup: Properly sloped.
Chest: Brisket well developed chest deep and of moderate width, ribs well sprung.
Belly: Well tucked up.
TAIL: Set high, thick, carried over back strongly curled or curved like a sickle, the tip of the tail nearly reaching hocks when let down.
MEMBERS
FORMER MEMBERS:
Shoulders: Moderately sloping.
Forearm: Straight, clean lines.
Metacarpals: Slightly sloping.
Hindquarters: Powerful.
Hocks: Strong, sturdy enough.
Feet: Toes well arched and tight, hard pads and elastic nails hard and black
or dark.
GAIT: Active, lively, light and elastic.
DRESS
HAIR: Outer coat harsh and straight, undercoat soft and dense hair of the tail is quite long and discarded.
COLOUR: Sesame (red fawn hairs with black tips), brindle, red, black, black and tan, white.
SIZE AND WEIGHT:
Height at withers: males 48.5 to 51, 5 cm
females from 45.5 to 48, 5 cm.
FAULTS: Any departure from the foregoing should be considered a fault to be in exact proportion to its severity and its consequences on the health and welfare of the dog.
Sexual characters reversed.
Slight prognathism higher or lower.
ELIMINATING FAULTS:
Aggressive or overly shy.
Overshot or undershot.
Not carried ears pricked.
Short-tailed or pending.
Subject shy.
Any dog clearly showing abnormal physical or behavioral abnormalities
shall be disqualified.
NB: Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
A tongue of blue-black is not considered a defect.

Roadblocks with Hokkaido in the US

I’m trying really hard to understand why some of the Nihon Ken are more popular in the US over others, and the paths they took to get there.

There are more Shikoku and Kai in the US than Hokkaido, but the Hokkaido outnumbers them in Japan. I understand the more universal appeal of Shiba Inu in the world (smaller size, beauty, intelligence, etc). I understand why people like Shikoku at first glance. They are the MOST striking dog I have ever seen, hands down, coupled with high intelligence and drive and they make great pets for an active home. Kai are very unique in looks among the NK, they have a managable size, and they are great with other dogs as a rule. Hokkaido aren’t that much different.

As a more common, more available dog in Japan, why is it that Hokkaido are SOOO rare (5-10) in the US? Why didn’t they ever take off here and what does this imply for future breeding attempts? It must simply be lack of information and lack of first hand accounts in English of what it’s really like to live and work with them. There are no mentors in the breed in North America, and that is essential to get started on the right foot.

I think there really needs to be a concentrated effort to gain a greater understanding of the breed before any major efforts geared towards importing and breeding can take place…or a lot of money, space, time and pure gutsy nerve. It would be like driving at night without head lights, mistakes being made left and right where they could have been prevented otherwise with the right mentoring. For me and the small number of “investor” friends in breed efforts for the US, this inevitably means a trip to Japan, hopefully by next year.

Showing a Hokkaido Ken in the United States

Part of my intention when importing a rare breed like the Hokkaido, is to get it out where fanciers can meet and great it. There is one show in the US that is perfect for this, the Nippo Classic, but Canadian KC followed by UKC are also “good” starting points, and lastly, IABCA or ARBA (which are probably the least helpfull). I say that because dog shows are not the be all end all, tho it never hurts to get an outside opinion from an expert, which in the case of the Classic, would be a senior Japanese Nippo judge. For those who don’t know, I show my Shibas in AKC and my CO in IABCA, and I can tell you, do NOT breed a dog soley based on show wins. Do not do this. There are many, many examples of “champion” dogs in AKC, UKC, and rare breed shows who should definately not be bred and don’t hold up to the standards of their country of origions, but sadly are bred regardless. I do not want this happening with the Hokkaido.

Basically, where you can show depends on registration. Here is a bit of info on registration courtesy of Shigeru:

“There are two main registries, the Hokkaido Ken Kyokai (Hokkaido Dog Association), and Hokkaido Ken Hozonkai (Hokkaido Dog Preservation Society). The HKH is the older and larger of the two registries with around 600-700 registrations total every year. HKK has around 200-300. The HKK split off of the HKH though I’m not quite sure of the history behind that. The HKH is fully recognized by NIPPO and the Japan Kennel Club, so HKH dogs can have their registrations transferred to NIPPO or JKC at any time.”

What this means, is that HKH Hokkaido shipped to the US, will be able to show at Nippo events like the Classic and recieve the expert judges evaluation. I’m hoping to show any Hokkaido I have at the Classic. Here is some info on ring procedure and about last year’s Shiba Classic with instructions on how to show a Japanese Dog

A goal I have for Hokkaido in the US, is to establish a strong breed club which would be based out of Washington, and go on to host a Specialty for the breed with a Nippo judge as our guest and keynote speaker for US breeder education. There’s a lot of steps in the meantime and probably a decade or two before that comes close to happening, but it’s something to work towards.

Importing a Hokkaido from Japan

This will be my report of my experience with importing Hokkaido directly from Japan. My impression of the breed is that there is a great deal of mystery surrounding them, with very little information that would be useful to a person seeking a pet, a quality breeding and/or working dog, unless they happen to speak Japanese. According to my contact, there are about 10,000 Hokkaido worldwide and most of them are tucked away in remote areas of Japan dutifully guarding houses or hunting deer in the mountains, when they aren’t busy making television commercial appearances. 

Their breeders and owners also don’t speak English, and probably don’t use the internet. That’s where it pays to have a cultural broker who is super dog savy, knows breeders, and can speak Japanese. Oh, and the broker should probably be male as the hobby of breeding these rare hunting dogs is centered around hunting and competition. Not many ladies who will deal with that I imagine.

At this point, I’m looking for an unrelated breeding pair as it’s more cost effective to ship two pups in one crate. I’m also on the lookout for future co-owners and people who will be interested in helping me establish a breed club in the US, in importing more dogs, and planning some cooperative breedings. Any current Hokkaido owners or fanciers in the states? Reply or send me an email so we can talk.