It might be pretty easy to see what these animals have to do with Kishu: they are all game to be hunted. Did you know that these three words also refer to Kishu body types, as well? According to Japanese Dogs by Michiko Chiba, Kishu Ken could be categorized by the game they were bred to hunt along three different varieties:
All three varieties were considered the same breed based on geographic origin and function, but may help to explain some of the variety we see in Kishu body types today. Interestingly, we see boar-type and deer-type varieties in other medium-sized Japanese dogs, also explaining the variety in body types to laymen, so this is not unique to the Kishu Ken.
Two female Kishu Ken exhibiting different body types.
"Yuushoku" (有色) is a word that means "colored" or "with color" in Japanese. This is the word we have come to use to describe all non-white-coated Kishu Ken today. "Yuushoku" Kishu Ken may be sesame, red, black and tan, or even brindle (though brindle is a disqualified coat color), but the word describes all of them to the layman.
While at one point, yuushoku Kishu comprised almost the entire breed, some estimates put yuushoku Kishu at only 20-30% of the modern breed makeup, with white coated being the most common by a landslide. This is due to a popular sire effect when a line of white-coated Kishu became popular in the breed's history - this line was extensively bred to, and the number of dogs who were yuushoku diminished over the subsequent generations.
Yuushoku Kishu were preserved in only a handful of lines, but not all of those lines were registered.
This brings us to the plight of the yuushoku Kishu: all modern, registered yuushoku dogs exported from Japan that we have been able to observe come down from only a handful of dogs, making some yuushoku Kishu heavily linebred or inbred on these ancestors (likely in an attempt to preserve these coat colors and specific ancestors.)
It is worth noting that observations on these Kishu Ken are few in number due to the limited nature of yuushoku Kishu Ken in general. Only FIVE (5) yuushoku Kishu Ken have ever been exported from Japan. They are:
Of these 5 dogs, 4 of them come down from dogs produced by Hidaka Yamada sou, and specifically share the ancestor Kougin go Hidaka Yamada sou. Only one of them comes down from dogs produced by another kennel, Kishuu Miyama sou, and does not share ancestors with the other 3 within 4 generations. However, due to pedigree information uncovered that gives some of these Kishuu Miyama sou dogs a Hidaka no- prefix, it may be that these Kishuu Miyama sou dogs share ancestry with the Hidaka Yamada sou dogs in the generations we currently do not have information for.
When inbred (or linebred, as some use), Kishu Ken are prone to skin inflammation, allergies, and autoimmune illness.
The information from these 5 dogs paints a potentially troubled scene for the state of the modern yuushoku Kishu Ken. Add to this that Kougin go Hidaka Yamada sou is also behind a handful of other Kishu Ken exports from Japan and we have something that needs attention - to take care that we do not potentially inbreed where we should be breeding for diversity. In fact, with interest dropping in their native Japan and registered litters at an all-time low, the modern genepool of Kishu Ken in general may be more limited than we are aware of. The plight of the yuushoku Kishu Ken may become the same as the plight of Kishu Ken in general, if these trends continue.
How You Can Help
In order to continue producing the most diverse Kishu Ken we can, the breed needs more interest (to create a demand for Kishu Ken, which is tragically lacking) and it needs unrelated imports. Our Kishu Ken population in the USA is particularly flush with these yuushoku dogs. Going forward, focus may be best spent on importing purely white-coated lines from Japan, and importing dogs not related to the Hidaka Yamada sou dogs we see behind our yuushoku Kishu Ken.
If you are interested in a Kishu Ken, please consider importing and joining the National Kishu Club. For more information on importing, visit Japan Dog Export.
If you already own a Kishu Ken and want to help, but are not in the position to import or breed, consider entering your dog in any number of canine sports (conformation, barn hunt, lure coursing, agility, or obedience are all sports Kishu Ken have tried and may excel at), carrying educational information on you such as business cards or flyers, and speaking publicly about the breed at Meet the Breed events. For information on how to join any of these venues, feel free to email the club at our contact page.
If you do not own a Kishu Ken and cannot import or are not in a position to add a Kishu Ken to your home, you can still help the breed by sharing our links and by helping us spread the word.
Kishu Ken centric articles written by club members. If you are a club member who would like to submit an article for the website, please contact us.