About Hokkaido Ken

History of The Ainu Dog

The Hokkaido is one of the oldest of the six native Japanese spitz  breeds. They are said to have originated from medium-sized Japanese dogs  that accompanied the Ainu people from Honshu (the main island of Japan)  to Hokkaido during the Kamakura era in the 1140s, when exchanges were  developing between Hokkaido and the Tohoku District. Over time, the Ainu  people and their dogs adapted to survive the severely cold winter  climate and rugged landscape. The dogs were revered by the Ainu people  for their devout loyalty, bravery, and large game hunting ability. The  Ainu were bear and deer hunters by culture, and their livelihood  depended on their renowned bear dogs.
The Hokkaido was classified as a Living Natural Monument by the  government of Japan in 1937. There are two main breed registries, the  Hokkaido Ken Hozonkai (Hokkaido Dog Preservation Society) and the  Hokkaido Ken Kyokai (Hokkaido Dog Association). Almost no Hokkaido are  registered outside of these two clubs. 


The Hokkaido in North America


Hokusei Kashinoki is the first Hokkaido  breeder in North America and founder of the HANA project. In 2015, a  litter of 6 puppies from Genko (black and tan import Japan) and Yezo  (brindle import Japan/Canada) were born. The breed is newly AKC Foundation Stock Service eligable since early 2016, and is a member of the Working Group. The Hokkaido Association of North America has adopted the Dokenho standard, but AKC is officially using the FCI standard which is also acceptable. http://www.fci.be/Nomenclature/Standards/261g05-en.pdf

Living With Hokkaido

The  Hokkaido Ken, or Ainu dog, is one of the 6 native Japanese spitz  breeds. It is a very old breed that has been isolated historically to  Hokkaido Island. The breed is not common within Japan, and about 20 are  in North America. They are very similar to the Shiba Inu, with a few key  differences. They are only slightly larger than Shibas, the males more  so, and tend to be more stout. My females top out around 30-35lbs. They  really do look like a sturdy version of a Shiba. They are notably  affectionate and demonstrative towards people, wanting little more than  to spend time with their humans. They are moderate to high energy, and  do not do well in apartments or confined away from people. They require  moderate socialization to other animals and new situations throughout  their lives, not unlike Shibas. Health issues documented so far are  seizures, CEA and blindness, hip dysplasia, and missing teeth. The  primary breed preservation society in Japan is the Hokkaido Ken  Hozonkai. The Hokkaido Association of North America www.hokkaidoken.com  is the founding club here

Some Thoughts on the Future of Hokkaido

 My  goal as a Hokkaido breeder and breed founder in the US, is to preserve  the breed ideal as handed down to us from those in Japan, while not  breeding myself into a corner chasing a type "ideal" at the expense of  genetic diversity, health and temperament. So that I may achieve this  goal, I need to have enough numbers to breed from, and NOT limit  breedings to only the most ideal specimens. The very head of the  Hokkaido Preservation Society in Japan even relayed this while I was  there when asked what they would like to see from the American Hokkaido  club: Breed more Hokkaido! As I don't like to physically keep more than a  handful of dogs at any one time, I do place most of them into  cooperative breeding homes on co-ownerships and work together with their  co-owners to establish the breed here. I believe that many of the  Hokkaido here have traits that would be beneficial to the overall  genepool, which is why I do not easily eliminate one of these dogs from  breeding based on type faults like color, and tend to place them where  they may fully develop and remain intact, in cooperative homes.

What  I would like, is for breed fanciers here to keep some perspective and  support each other. By that I mean, not every breeding program is in the  same place as someone else's. What's good for you, may not work for  someone else. Please don't "cull" breeding dogs because they have a weak  expression, are not white, or are on the smaller end of the spectrum.  Please don't automatically cull even if they are genetically affected by  CEA though not blind. Do NOT publicly snub your peers who do have dogs  you think lack good type or don't conform to what you think they should  be doing. Please, for the sake of the breed, don't drink the kool aid  about health testing time lines where you end up wasting their most  fertile years, believing that show wins guarantee quality, or using  those blasted "good breeder" charts to chastise one another. This breed  will fail here if fanciers lose sight of the larger goals of improving  diversity, becoming islands unto themselves and refusing to climb down  off of a moral high horse. I don't want things like this to undermine my  efforts of expanding the breed. Breed preservation for a very rare  breed like the Hokkaido is not going to follow a black and white  formula!