There is an erroneously held belief among some circles that the Kishu Ken should only be shown in, and is most often preferred in, the white coat color. Though the Kishu Ken is most commonly shown in white coat, and most often exhibits a white coat, there is no officially preferred coat color in the Kishu breed.
This article is to help understand coat colors in the Kishu Ken, and how they should appear.
The above coat colors are the 4 accepted colors in the Kishu Ken. Among them, white is by far the most common, and the most common seen in the show ring due to the competitive ability and accessibility of white coated dogs.
The National Kishu Club does not officially prefer one coat color over another, and coat color should be judged to the standard, rather than breeder preference, when in a conformation ring. As a hunting dog first and foremost, no good dog is a bad color, as the saying goes.
White coats are found in around 70% of all Kishu Ken. A white coat does not have to be pure white. A white coat can be anywhere from a snowy-white coat, to a creamy yellow. In Kishu Ken, the layman term for this yellowish color is "yogore-shiro", or literally, "dirty white." It is perfectly acceptable as long as there are no white markings interrupting the body color (pinto.)
All other things equal, white coats that exhibit solid black points (noses, paw pads, nails) are preferred over those that are not. All other things equal, a Kishu that is one uniform color is preferred over those with darker cream ears, or darker cream dorsal stripes to their white coats.
Sesame is a base coat of red with a black hair "gradient" overlay. This black hair needs to be evenly distributed to be a proper sesame, with no obvious patches of missing gradient, unevenness, or fading concentrated in one area. A dog that is approximately 50% covered by this black hair "gradient" is called a "sesame" in layman. A dog that has less density in the black hair gradient is referred to as a "red sesame" in layman. A dog that has more density to the black hair gradient is referred to as a "black sesame" in layman. All of these variants qualify as "sesame."
To be a correct sesame, not only does this black hair overlay have to be even and well-blended, but it must have a strong red pigment as its base, with correct urajiro. Many sesame Kishu are either lacking in red pigment, or have unevenly distributed black hair overlay, which causes them to be faulted in the conformation ring.
Many sesame dogs also have black masks on their muzzle. This is common in puppies, but should fade by a year of age. Some Kishu take much longer to fade, and others do not fade at all. A black mask is a fault on a sesame dog.
Red is a vibrant red coat without significant black hair overlay enough to be called a sesame (or "red sesame".) Many red coated Kishu do not have strong enough red pigment to their coat, which is a fault. A proper red coat should be a brilliant red-orange, that neither appears anemic and yellow, nor too "burnt."
Red coats must show proper urajiro, and must not have a black mask. Poor red pigment, lack of urajiro, and black masks are all common faults in the red Kishu Ken, similar to the sesame Kishu Ken.
Black & Tan Coats
There are very few black and tan coated Kishu Ken remaining, and the coat color is considered extinct by some. The chances that a black and tan will be seen in the conformation ring, or even in the population, are very rare. Additionally, black and tan has some very strict rules to how the color should appear, making it - perhaps - the most difficult color to successfully produce, and show.
A black and tan coat should never be solid black to the roots of the dog, but have a pale undercoat. Additionally, the black of the coat should never be so black it appears blue or purple in the sunlight, but should have a softer, ruddier sheen.
Black and tan dogs must also exhibit urajiro on their points, and have the proper pointed pattern, which includes "eyebrow pips", a pointed pattern on the chest, and down the legs. A black and tan coat should have strong red pigment in the points, outside of the urajiro, and should not exhibit a black mask.
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