The Kishu Ken and the Akita are both Japanese dogs breeds. Both breeds were once standardized by the greater landrace of hunting dogs native to the Japanese archipelago, both breeds were standardized about 100 years ago, and both breeds have an appearance often described as "spitz-like" - that is, erect ears, a double coat, a roughly square body, and a tail that is sickle or curled over the back.
Sometimes, it's easier to say that is where the similarities between the breeds end, but here, we're going to break down just how the Kishu Ken is like their sibling-breed, the Akita.
In every major registry around the world except the American Kennel Club, there are 2 breeds of Akita: the American Akita (sometimes called the "Akita") and the Japanese Akita (sometimes called the "Akita Inu" or "Japanese Akita Inu".) We will not discuss the difference between these breeds for the sake of the article, but it is important to understand there are some differences between these two breeds for further research. We will be generalizing as fairly as we can and merely using the term "Akita" for both breeds.
Further commonalities exist. Both breeds are utterly dedicated to their owners, and it may not be uncommon to find a well-bonded Kishu or Akita who would put their lives on the line to serve their people, even without being asked. Both breeds can be hyper-intelligent, independent problem-solvers, and may be combative - particularly with strange animals.
But once we really start to look at the Akita and the Kishu in comparison and contrast, even their fundamental function is different: the Akita was standardized from dogs bred to hunt bear in Akita prefecture, which is a more northerly region of Honshu. The Kishu was and is still bred to hunt wild boar (and sometimes, deer) in the southerly Kiishu province of Honshu. They hunted in different terrain and different skills are needed to pursue their specific (and equally dangerous) game.
Kishu, due to their modern use and recent history as a large game hunting dog even today, tend to be far more energetic and driven to work and hunt than their Akita counterparts. They need a job to do, and this job cannot be monotonous. Kishu are also incredibly athletic; not that the Akita is not an athletic and active dog in their own right, but it is not uncommon to know a Kishu to climb a tree in pursuit of game, or scale a six to eight foot fence for the same.
Kishu might have higher drive and higher energy than the average Akita, but it may be that they are easier to motivate during training - many Kishu are highly food-motivated, and work easily for simple food rewards as long as they are not frustrated with the monotony of the exercises.
Physically, Kishu are a smaller dog. The largest Kishu are only as large as some of the smallest Akita. They also have a closer coat than their Akita relatives, and many have larger, thinner ears. Bodily, they tend to be leaner and frame, but otherwise, the Akita and the Kishu do share many similarities in appearance, and it isn't uncommon for someone new to the breed to think that the Kishu is a small Akita-mix.
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