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.


4 thoughts on “Roadblocks with Hokkaido in the US

  1. If I may speculate, one reason for the Hokkaido's rarity outside of Japan is geographic. They are from the northernmost island, and pretty much the whole population (and most of the shows) is located in Hokkaido.

    This means that most people even in Japan never get to see a Hokkaido.


  2. I adopted an Ainu ken from a shelter in Philadelphia. I have now idea how she got to the USA. I was wondering how I can enter her in a database so she can add to the number of Hokkaidos in the USA. Also, where does it say there are only 5-10 in US?


  3. So many people come forward with “rare breeds” they adopted from shelters. The truth of it is, there are no breeders of Hokkaido in North America, and after speaking with the small number of actual owners in North America (with pedigreed dogs imported from Japan and Europe), the chances are so remote of a Hokkaido ending up in a shelter. None of them are in Philadelphia that I am aware of. Most of what people think of as “hokkaido traits” in shelter dogs, like dark tongues or pointy ears, are in reality resulting from chows and other spitzy mixes. Without a pedigree, you have a pet that has a nifty look. If you would like to email photos, feel free. Also, the Nihon Ken Forum would be a great place to share photos and get in contact with actual owners.


  4. we have one that followed my wife home while she was out for a walk. he was basically abandoned near fort hood, tx ine early 2003. is you look up images of ainu dogs on google, our dog trouble looks exactly like the second picture.


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