Let's talk Shikokus

Cool, calm, and fiercely loyal, the Shikoku may be the rarest of the six Nihon-Ken, or Japanese dogs, in existence. A national treasure in their native Japan, Shikokus were historically used to track boar and deer in the mountains of Shikoku Island, earning them the nickname “boar hound”. The athletic prowess and boundless energy that once served their hunting efforts have since translated well to urban life, earning the Shikoku a modern role as a cherished canine companion. In that role, the only thing they track is an unattended dinner plate. 

Official name: Shikoku

Other names: Kochi-ken, Kochi-inu, Mikawa-inu

Origins: Japan

Close-up of Shikoku in black and white
 Drooling tendencies:  Very low  Warm weather? High
 Shedding level:  High  Suited to apartment living? Medium
 Energy level (high, low, medium) *:  Medium  Family pet? * Medium
 Compatibility with other pets:    Can stay alone? * Medium

* We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behaviour. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed’s specifics should be taken as an indication.

For a happy, healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socialising your pet as well as covering their basic welfare, social and behavioural needs.

Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.

All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company. However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.

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Illustration of Shikoku dog
48 - 56 cm translations.feature.breeds.height
15 - 25 kg translations.feature.breeds.weight
45 - 51 cm translations.feature.breeds.height
15 - 25 kg translations.feature.breeds.weight

 Baby age:  Birth to 2 months
 Puppy age:  2 to 12 months
 Adult age  12 months to 7 years
 Mature age:  7 to 10 years
 Senior age:  From 10 years

Shikoku sitting in grass looking at camera


Get to know the Shikoku

All you need to know about the breed

If there’s one thing the Shikoku has in spades, it’s presence. One of just six breeds native to Japan, the Shikoku possesses placid dignity and grace of movement that can only be admired. With a medium-sized, well-proportioned body, compact muscles, and a steady gaze, the Shikoku demonstrates impressive self-mastery. This breed is as adventurous and rugged outdoors as they are quietly calm indoors and navigate both equally well—provided they get ample amounts of exercise.

Instinctively alert and wary – traits that no doubt served them well back when they were tracking big game – Shikokus tend to be standoffish towards strangers. Conversely, Shikoku dogs are highly protective of their human families. Anyone who bonds with a Shikoku graduates to eye apple status, entitling them to endless affection and devotion. It’s only natural that this status should be earned.

Shikokus will get along well with anyone sharing a temperament similar to theirs and crave owners who exhibit a strong sense of leadership. Should the quick-minded Shikoku sense that the “boss” position is vacant, they will happily step in. As such, Shikokus tend to be more at ease around adults and older children. The Shikoku probably won’t understand the excited antics of a younger child—and won’t bother trying.

Though now considered a domesticated breed, the Shikoku has retained a strong prey drive, so it’s best not to leave them unsupervised with small children or other pets. Early socialisation and training will help to reinforce a mutually respectful and rewarding relationship with your Shikoku.

Side view of beige and black Shikoku


2 facts about Shikokus

1. If it's not Urajiro...

The Shikoku’s coat can be one of several standard-approved colours. But as is the case for their cousin the Shiba Inu, the Shikoku’s coat must have “urajiro”—the famous white or cream-coloured markings on the ventral portions of the legs and body, as well as on their muzzles and cheeks. And if we’re talking about the black and tan Shikoku, then add the “yotsume”, or ‘four eyed’, to the list—white spots located just above the eyes!

2. Mistaken identity 

Shikokus weren’t always, well, Shikoku. For centuries, the breed was known by numerous names including Tosa Ken. This last name led to some confusion since there happened to be another dog of the same name—the Tosa fighting dog, odd considering the two dogs look almost nothing alike! After the launch of breed reinforcement efforts in the early 20th century, it was decided the breed would be referred to as the one and only Shikoku.


History of the breed

The Shikoku is a primitive breed dating back to the medium-sized dogs of ancient Japan. Originating in the Kochi Prefecture of Shikoku Island, the Shikoku was bred by traditional Japanese hunters, or Matagi, who prized these tough, agile dogs for their ability to track large game across rugged mountainous terrain.

After World War I, Japan entered a period of economic hardship during which previously common luxuries such as pets became unaffordable. The resulting decline in dog ownership drove many breeds towards extinction. But, in 1928, the Nihon Ken Hozonkai, or NIPPO, was formed to work towards the preservation of Japan’s six native Spitz-type breeds, including the Shikoku. Their work paid off and the Shikoku was declared a Living Natural Monument in 1937. The breed reconstruction efforts also resulted in the development of three distinct lines of Shikoku: The Awa, Hata, and Hongawa. Bred in a remote region, the Hongawa maintained the highest degree of breed purity and ultimately had the largest influence on the modern Shikoku.

While the Shikoku began to attract attention outside of Japan in the 1960s and 70s, it wasn’t until 2010 that the breed became eligible to participate in the American Kennel Club’s Companion events. Today, the Shikoku remains a very rare, but deeply appreciated breed. And rightly so.

Side view of Shikoku looking at camera in black and white


From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Shikokus

1. Eyes

Dark brown, almond-shaped eyes and a black nose.

2. Head

Broad forehead, pricked ears and wedge-shaped muzzle.

3. Body

Thick, muscular neck, straight back and well-sprung ribs.

4. Coat

Harsh, topcoat in sesame, red, black or black and tan.

5. Tail

High-set, plush tail curled tightly upward.

Close-up of Shikoku looking beyond camera


Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Shikoku
Shikoku lying in show looking at camera


Caring for your Shikoku

Grooming, training and exercise tips

To keep your Shikoku’s double coat looking healthy and glossy, brush it at least once a week, and two to three times weekly during seasonal shedding periods. Their nails should be trimmed every few weeks and ears checked regularly for dirt and wax build-up. Also, be sure to establish a healthy dental routine using a vet-approved toothpaste if necessary.
Energetic and intelligent, Shikokus should get plenty of regular exercise and mental stimulation. Brisk daily walks, swims, puzzles, and off-the-lead play in enclosed areas are just a few good ways to keep your Shikoku healthy and occupied while ensuring positive behaviour indoors.
Shikokus will get along best with non-family members and animals when trained and socialised from an early age. Positive reinforcement and reward-based training administered with a gentle but firm approach will get the best results.


All about Shikokus

Shikokus aren’t big barkers, but they are vocal, with a repertoire that includes growling. Although not necessarily aggressive, this growling could be understood and therefore not go over well with children or at the dog park. Early socialisation and training can help smooth your Shikoku’s “foreign relations”. 

Shikokus that receive early socialisation generally do well around children, especially older kids; that said, it’s important that all children understand the importance of respecting animals and avoid teasing or prodding them. 



1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/