Image © Sophie Allen

The Shikoku Ken is a medium sized dog in the Nihon Ken family, originating from the Kochi prefecture of Shikoku. It is considered to be the rarest of the Nihon Ken, and was recognised as a National Treasure in 1937. The Shikoku was primarily used to hunt boar and its determination when facing large game made it a prized hunting breed.

The Shikoku was also one of the ancestor breeds to the Tosa Fighting Dog (Tosa Inu). The Shikoku originally held the name of Tosa-Ken, but the name was later changed to avoid confusion between the two breeds.

The Shikoku Ken has a double coat, which comes in red, black and tan, and a range of sesame colours. Cream is considered an undesirable coat colour. Their tails, like other Nihon Ken, are held either sickle (sashi-o) or curled (maki-o).

The Shikoku is an energetic and alert breed, and have a strong will to please once bonded to their owner. They can be standoffish with strangers to the point of being unwilling of a stranger initiating contact. Like other medium sized Nihon Ken, the breed was bred to hunt deer and boar, and retains that courage and drive necessary to hunt today. Their agility was key in tracking prey across the mountainous regions of Shikoku.

Image © Sophie Allen

FCI Breed Standard

Standard for FCI

UTILISATION: Hunting dog, companion.

FCI-CLASSIFICATION: Group 5 Spitz and primitive type. Section 5 Asian Spitz and related breeds.

General Appearance:

A medium-sized dog with well balanced and well developed clean cut muscles. It has pricked ears and a curled or sickle tail. Conformation: strong, well-boned and compact.

Important Proportions:

The ratio of height at withers to length of body is 10:11.

Behaviour / Temperament:

A dog of marked endurance, keen in sense with a naive feeling, energetic and highly alert; an enthusiastic hunter; docile towards his master.


Skull: Forehead broad.
Stop: Shallow, but defined.

Nose: Black.
Muzzle: Rather long, wedge-shaped. Nasal bridge straight.
Lips: Tight.
Jaws/Teeth: Teeth strong, with a scissor bite.
Cheeks: Well developed.
Eyes: Nearly triangular, not too small, and dark brown in colour. The outer corners of the eyes are slightly upturned.
Ears: Small, triangular, slightly inclining forward and firmly pricked.


Thick and powerful.


Withers: High, well developed.
Back: Straight and strong.
Loin: Broad and muscular.
Chest: Deep, ribs well sprung.
Belly: Slightly tucked up.


Set on high, thick and carried over the back vigorously curled or curved like a sickle. The tip nearly reaches the hocks when let down.


Shoulders: Moderately sloping with developed muscles.
Upper arm: Forming a moderate angle with shoulder blade. Elbow: Set close to the body.
Forearm: Straight and clean cut.
Metacarpus (Pastern): Slightly oblique.
Forefeet: Tightly closed with well arched toes. Pads thick and elastic. Nails hard and black or dark in colour.

General appearance: Powerful, with muscles well developed.
Hocks: Moderately angulated and very tough.
Hind Feet: Tightly closed with well arched toes. Pads thick and elastic. Nails hard and black or dark in colour.

Gait / Movement:

Resilient and light. Action is quick and turning is possible.


Hair: Outer coat rather harsh and straight, undercoat soft and dense. The hair on the tail is rather long.

Colour: Sesame (well mixture of black, red and white hairs in whole.), red, black and tan.


Height at withers: Males 52 cm. Females 49 cm. There is a tolerance of + 3 cm.


Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.

  • Lack of sexual dimorphism.
  • Slightly overshot or undershot mouth.
  • Long hair.
  • Shyness.
  • Pinto colour.

Disqualifying Faults:

  • Aggressive or overly shy.
  • Any dog clearly showing physical or behavioural abnormalities shall be disqualified.
  • Extremely overshot or undershot mouth.
  • Ears not pricked.
  • Hanging tail, short tail.
  • Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
  • Only functionally and clinically healthy dogs, with breed typical conformation, should be used for breeding.

NIPPO Breed Standard

The NIPPO standard for the Shikoku Ken is outlined in a single standard for all four of the medium sized Nihon Ken. An excellent translation of the NIPPO standard can be viewed at Kazeshimasou (Shiba Inu Ireland)’s website.

Image © Fédération Cynologique Internationale
Image © Sophie Allen

Shikoku Ken in Media

A Shikoku Ken appears in the NHK drama television series Segodon.

Image © NHK

Two Shikoku Ken named Aka and Ryū appear in Yoshihiro Takahashi’s Shiroi Senshi Yamato. Shikoku also appear as anime only characters in the adaptation of Ginga Densetsu Weed.

Image © Yoshihiro Takahashi