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 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. As of August 2019, there are approximately 51 Hokkaido in North America with 7 known litters born to date. Annual registrations in Japan have dropped to 200-300 dogs.
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
Currently there are 4 dedicated Hokkaido breeders in the US: HK (Hokusei Kashinoki), Apricity, Tin Town, and Kaiju Kennels, although Kaiju is still working on producing their first litter.
Hokkaido kind of fall in between Akita and Shiba for size, temperament and looks, with a few key differences. They are slightly larger than Shibas, the males more so, and tend to be more stout with very thick double coats in more muted tones. My females top out around 35lbs. Mine love outside time with me, exploring, romping with their dog friends, and anything else I like too.
They are notably affectionate and demonstrative towards their people, wanting little more than to spend time with their humans, in close contact. They are moderate to high energy, especially as young dogs, and do not do well in apartments without outdoor running time, or confined away from people.
They require moderate socialization to other animals and new situations throughout their lives, not unlike Shiba. They have a strong unrelenting desire to please the humans in their lives, but do still have small flares of willfulness if they feel they are being treated unfairly.
Health issues documented so far include seizures, CEA, cataracts, hip dysplasia, and missing teeth. The primary breed preservation society in Japan is the Hokkaido Ken Hozonkai. The Hokkaido Association of North America https://www.hokkaidoken.org is the founding club.
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!