By Dr. Watuwa JamesDr. James Watuwa Last updated: 27th November 2023


Kishu is a medium-sized Japanese Spitz-type dog breed originating in the mountainous Kishu region (now called Wakayama Prefecture). Descending from ancient dogs in that area, the Kishu was primarily used for hunting boar and deer. The Kishu is often mistaken for some other Japanese dog breeds including the Kai Ken, Shikoku, and Hokkaido because of some similarities in their appearance.

It is a sturdy dog with a well-developed, compact, and muscular structure. Its head is quite wide with small prick ears that are slightly bent forward. Usually, it has a black nose, but a brownish or pinkish color is sometimes observed in those with the white fur. Like the Shiba or Akita Inu, its tail is curled over its back.

Kishu Pictures

Quick Information

Other namesKishu Inu, Kishu Ken
CoatShort, straight, harsh outer coat; thick and soft undercoat; fairly long hairs on the tail and cheeks
ColorWhite is mostly common; brindle, red or sesame, pinto, black also occur
Breed TypePurebred
Group of BreedHunting, Working, Companion
Lifespan11-13 years
Weight30-60 lbs (13-27 kg)
Size and HeightMedium; female: 43-49 cm
male: 49-55 cm
Size of Litter3 puppies on average
Shedding1-2 times a year
TemperamentLoyal, loving, intelligent, friendly, strong-willed, alert, noble
Good with ChildrenYes
Country Originated inJapan
Competitive Registration/ Qualification InformationACA, DRA, NAPR, AKR, AKC/FSS, ARBA, Nippo, JKC

Kishu Inu Puppy Video


The primitive dog breed Kishu Inu is believed to have been developed for more than thousands of years. Initially, all the Japanese dogs were considered a single breed and were thought to have originated from the same source. Later, these dogs were classified based on their size and physical characteristics. The Kishu Ken breed was standardized in 1934, and it primarily included dogs that were developed in the Wakayama region.

When the breeding program was first started, most of the breed members were non-whites. Gradually, the white Kishu Ken lines gained popularity, and this trend exists even today. The American Kennel Club (AKC) has recognized this breed as a “Foundation Stock Breed”. Two Japanese registries including the NIPPO (Nihonken Hozonkai) and the JKC (Japan Kennel Club) have also accepted this breed.

Temperament and Behavior

Though these dogs typically attach themselves to any one person in the household, some are also known to relate well to the other family members. Their love, as well as devotion to the family members, is evident from the way they mingle with the children. They are known for their courage and alertness, which make them suitable for use in hunting smaller animals.

They should be acquainted with kids, strangers, and household pets (cats or other dogs) right from their puppyhood to keep away their aloofness and shyness. Smaller pets like guinea pigs, hamsters, and rabbits should not be trusted with them as these Kishu Kens have a high preying instinct. They are good climbers and can easily ascend to the higher places in the house to observe everything carefully.



Being lively by nature, the Kishu requires moderate amounts of daily activities to expend its energy. A regular long walk or a jog on the leash, as well as a free-run in a fenced yard, will satisfy its exercise requirements. It will also enjoy interactive playing sessions with you. Since it is driven by a strong pack instinct, your dog will always want to lead the way. Make sure that your pet heels behind or beside you while out on a walk. Do not let your pet off the leash while it is outdoors.


Its coat is easy to maintain. Weekly brushing by using a brush with firm, closely spaced bristles will remove all the loose fur. Bathe your pet only when it is noticeably dirty and smelly. Check its ears frequently for dirt or wax buildup. Trimming its nails once a month is also recommended.

Health Problems

The Kishu is a healthy dog breed with no known life-threatening health concerns. However, it is prone to hypothyroidism, genetic eye disorders like entropion, and allergic infections.


When it comes to training the Kishu Kens, the owners should exhibit an authority over their pet. Their headstrong and willful behavior can be handled with firm, consistent, and confident training methods. The puppies should be properly socialized otherwise they might grow up to be quarrelsome and aggressive. Crate training could be used as an effective housebreaking aid.


You can provide your Kishu a quality commercial dog food containing a fair amount of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Make sure that you divide its food into two meals, keeping the regular amount between 1 and 1.5 cups. You can also feed your Kishu Ken dog raw meat and fish.

Interesting Facts

  • Since 1934, the Kishu dogs have been considered as the Japanese National Treasure.
  • The famous Japanese artist Yoshihiro Takahashi has portrayed many Kishu Kens as skilled fighters in his manga and anime series.
  • When used in hunting, these dogs can climb the trees to keep an eye on the prey.

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