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The Kishu Ken is a dog of noteworthy endurance, showing nobility, dignity and naive feeling. His temperament is faithful, docile and very alert. The Kishu Ken is a large game hound used in the densely forested mountains of Japan. They are spirited, alert, and rustic dogs with compact, well-developed muscles.
Kishu Ken shed their coat one to two times a year in seasonal “moults.” Bathing and drying with a high velocity drier during these time will get rid of dead coat. They may need occasional maintenance with a rubber brush or slicker and should have nail trims as needed.
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*Please Note: It is difficult to know which breeder is trustworthy when you are in another country. But fortunately there are reputable associations that can guarantee the quality of breeders who are members of their association. These can be mentioned as Japan Kennel Club – JKC, The Kennel Club of Japan – KC or Nihonken Hozonkai – 日保 and many other associations (JABC, JCC, ICC, CPRO, JCU, KCP, ACC, CCJ, KCC, NMSA, WCA, JMSA, ZCC). Dogs and Cats sold by breeders belonging to these associations are always accompanied by a pedigree certificate.
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Now rare but much prized, the Kishu was possibly bred hundreds of years ago for hunting large game in Japan’s mountainous Kyushu region. A “national treasure”, this dog is quiet and faithful but can be a handful as a companion because of its strong instinct to chase.
The Kishu is the most popular breed of Japanese dog in the medium-sized category, yet it is still quite rare. It is the dog most often used today in hunting in Japan.
Used since ancient times to hunt wild boar, deer, and smaller animals like rabbits, the breed originated in a mountainous area of the Kii Peninsula that straddles Mie, Wakayama, and Nara prefectures. The Nanki Kumano area in particular had many outstanding Kishu dogs, and in this part of the country, they were known, after their local areas, as Kumano inu (“dogs of Kumano”) and Taiji inu (“dogs of Taiji”). In the Nansei region of Mie Prefecture, another area that produced excellent Kishu, they were known as Ouchiyama inu (“dogs of Ouchiyama”). In the area from Hidaka to Arita, most Kishu dogs were white, and they were called the Hidakakei, or “Hidaka strain.” The dog began to be called Kishu when it was designated a Protected Species in 1934.
Kishu dogs can be broadly categorized into three varieties according to the game they are trained to hunt: wild boars, deer, and rabbits. Wild boar dogs have a strong, muscular build and a fierce disposition. Deer dogs have slightly more slender bodies since they need to be able to run very fast; they are agile and have good powers of endurance. Rabbit dogs are also used to catch birds, and they are rarer than the other two varieties, perhaps because dogs are less essential in hunting smaller types of game. Despite the differences in name and build arising from variations in the dogs’ environments and the game they hunted, the dogs are all considered to have been the same breed.
Of the three varieties, the most typical of the breed is the boar dog. The indomitable spirit and ferocity of these dogs are evident from the Japanese phrase ichiju, ikku (“one gun, one dog”). The phrase refers to using a single Kishu to catch a boar, either by keeping the boar at bay near his lair or sometimes setting the dog onto the boar to fight it long enough to allow the hunter to shoot the boar at extremely close range. These were the traditional hunting methods used with Kishu, and the dogs thus had to possess great spirit, courage, and physical strength. However, this method of hunting is no longer used, and now the preferred method is hunting with several dogs.
Given Kishu’s background as a hunting dog, even though it is usually calm and imperturbable, if the need arises it will quickly demonstrate its courage. It is also extremely loyal to its owner, obedient, and full of the unaffected straightforwardness typical of the Japanese breeds.
The dog can be thoughtful and silent, even cunning, Some Kishu has used it as their hunting method sit- ting and waiting for prey to come along. Kishu is loyal to a master but not reliable with other people. The breed is perfect as a watchdog for someone living in mountainous or remote areas.
Kishu has various similarities to Shikoku. Both breeds are large medium-sized dogs and have a primitive, wolflike aspect to their character. Both breeds were developed in areas where there could be little cross-breeding and so are quite pure.
Originally there were many red or sesame Kishu, and some black or piebald ones as well. In hunting wild boar, Kishu that were sesame or red were often better able to remain unseen by their prey. But they also met more frequently with accidents, when inexperienced hunters would see their movement in the brush and mistake them for boars. White Kishu was of course easier for boars to see, but this disadvantage was offset by the fact that it was much easier for hunters to follow them. Today nearly all Kishu is white, and hardly any are red or sesame.