The Kishu Ken Standard
Per NIPPO, Japanese dogs were standardized in 1934 as "small", "medium" or "large" in type. The Kishu Ken is one of four of the breeds that is shown in the "medium" sized category along with the Shikoku Ken, Kai Ken, and Hokkaido Ken. The breed name, "Kishu Ken" is used over the name "Kishu Inu" due to grammar practices: "Kishu" (紀州) is read using the "on" pronunciation of the kanji, so "Ken" should be used as the "on" pronunciation of the kanji "犬." However, it should be noted "Kishu Inu" and "Kishu dog" (or, simply, "Kishu") are used interchangeably outside of Japan when speaking about the same breed.
The following standard has been written in the AKC template as an example proposal. We encourage visitors view recognized standards posted in the sources.
Right: illustrated standard, courtesy of the Nihon Ken Hozonkai
Kishu Ken Standard Proposition (First Draft)
I. General Appearance. The Kishu Ken is a large game hunting dog used in the densely forested mountains of the Kii peninsula. They are spirited, alert, and rustic in appearance, with compact, but well-developed muscles. Kishu Ken are most often white-coated and medium-sized, with erect ears, a tail held over the back, and a keen expression.
II. Size, Proportion, Substance. Height is 20.5 inches for males and 19 inches for females. A deviation of 1.5 inches in either direction for both sexes is permitted. Proportions should be very slightly longer than tall, at a ratio of 10:11. Males should appear more square than females. A Kishu Ken is well-muscled with moderate bone and substance.*
* Kishu Ken are to be shown fit, never with excess weight. Ribs and hips may be especially visible on young dogs or dogs in summer coat (lacking undercoat.) Because there should not be excess weight, ribs and hips may be easily felt on judge exam even if they are not visible, even on dogs in good condition. Musculature of the Kishu Ken is important.
- Expression is confident and intense.
- Eyes are somewhat triangular and very dark in color. The bottom line of the eye is nearly straight and angled slightly upward from the muzzle to the outer eye. The top line of the eye is like the rounded top of a triangle.
- Ears are erect. The inner line of the ear is straight. The outer line is somewhat rounded. The ears are inclined slightly forward from the back of the skull. Hanging or dropped ears which are not related to injuries are a disqualification.
- Skull is broad, with a wide forehead.
- Stop may be abrupt or shallow, with a slight furrow to the brow.
- Muzzle is straight and firm. The shape should resemble a thick wedge to the cheeks.
- Nose is black. Flesh colored noses are permitted in white dogs.
- Lips are tight and straight.
- Bite is strong and substantial and comes together in a scissor. Kishu Ken have a full set of teeth that may be somewhat large for their size. Extreme malocclusion is a disqualification.
IV. Neck, Topline and Body
- Neck is thick and muscular.
- Topline is straight from the back of the shoulder to the tail, and strong.
- Body is athletic and muscular.
- Chest has an ovular shape and should drop to no less than 45% of the total dog height.
- Ribs are well sprung.
- Underline is slightly tucked up from the chest to the loin.
- Loins are strong.
- Tail is moderately thick and powerful. It is carried over the back in a sickle or a curl that should not lie directly on the back. Hanging tails that cannot curl over the back and bobtails are a disqualification.
- Angulation is moderate.
- Shoulders are moderately sloping, and have well-developed muscle.
- Upper Arm meets the shoulder at a moderate angle.
- Elbows are held close to the body.
- Legs are spaced at the same width as the body, are straight, and parallel.
- Pasterns are strong, set at a moderate angle.
- Feet and toes are tight, with strong grip.
- Pads are thick and flexible.
- Nails are dark in color. Light nails permitted.
- Angulation is moderate, to match the front.
- Legs are strong, well-muscled, spaced the same width as the waist or lower back, and straight.
- Upper Thigh is well-developed, and somewhat long.
- Stifle is strong.
- Second Thigh is slightly shorter than the upper thigh.
- Hocks are tough, strong, and should not appear to turn significantly in or out.
- Dewclaws are permitted ('wolf claw') but may be removed.
VII. Coat. The guard hair is hard and coarse and should stand when the Kishu has a dense undercoat. Undercoats are soft and dense when fully grown for the season. Kishu have full seasonal sheds which diminish the undercoat. The tail hair is longer than the body but stands the same. During this time it is not required that dogs be groomed to have healthy sheds. The coat is rustic and natural. Trimming is not permitted. Product is not permitted.
VIII. Color. Kishu have a number of acceptable coat colors.
On all but White coats the undersides are clearly paler than the body color especially on the chest, the cheeks, and the underside of the tail (“urajiro”). Pinto markings (white markings that interrupt the body color by reaching up over the shoulder of a dog or form a collar) are faulted. Black masks that interfere with the expression of the required urajiro markings are not desired.
IX. Gait. The Kishu is a sharp and nimble dog. The gait is elastic and light.
X. Temperament. Bold and dignified, but affable in nature. The Kishu is exceptionally alert, noble, and a keen observer who appears ready for a challenge but is amenable when approached and faithful to their handler. Shyness is faulted. Handler-targeted aggression of any kind is a disqualification.*
Traditionally, the Kishu Ken is described in three words by the original Nihon Ken Hozonkai standard for the breed. Kan'i is daring. The Kishu Ken courage and spirit. The Kishu Ken is always appears on their toes and ready for a challenge. They appear confident and self-assured. Ryosei is a good-natured disposition. The dog is deeply devoted and never overly aggressive with its handler. Soboku is simplicity. The Kishu Ken is a rustic dog and natural dog in both temperament and appearance; a Natural Monument. These three words are in the very first sentence of the Japanese Kishu Ken standard established by NIPPO. Kishu Ken can further be described in the phrase subarashii yaseimi or having a "wonderful wildness" to their character.
- “Kishu - FCI Standard.” Fédération Cynologique Internationale, 10 Feb. 2017, www.fci.be/en/nomenclature/KISHU-318.html.
- “日本犬標準.” 公益社団法人 日本犬保存会, www.nihonken-hozonkai.or.jp/standard/. [Japanese Language]
- "Subarashii Yaseimi": Knight, J. (2006). Waiting for wolves in Japan: an anthropological study of people-wildlife relations (p. 210-211). Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
- Final Illustrations From: Kishū Ken. 誠文堂新光社, 1978. [Japanese Language] [Amazon.com link for purchase]
- Tabby Hanabi (Fig. 1 - Kishu photographed at the 2013 NIPPO Grand National)
- Alexis Amerosa of Boomlay Shiba Inu (Fig. 2, 4 - Kishu photographed at various NIPPO Grand Nationals)
- C.J. Hammond (Fig. 3, 6 - Kishu photographed in the USA)
- Coat color graphic: Black & Tan coloration donated thanks to "Kukku" the Shikoku by Katie Greene, to help illustrate.