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.
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
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
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!