The Japanese Hokkaido Ken is a member of the 6 Nihon Ken breeds originating from Japan. It is medium sized, spitz-type, developed in the Northern Japanese prefecture of Hokkaido. Originally used to hunt bear, boar, and deer, and to be a guardian of the home for the Ainu people. The Hokkaido Ken was declared a ‘National Living Monument’ in 1937 by the Japanese government. The breed is suffering a decline in its native country, and it is still very uncommon outside of Japan.

Although a pedigree breed, the UK Kennel Club do not currently recognize the Hokkaido Ken due to the very small population within the United Kingdom. They are recognized by the FCI (Fédération cynologique international).


The Hokkaido Ken is a sturdy, well-built dog capable of great endurance and stamina. The breed has a thick double coat, capable of protecting them from the harsh winters of Hokkaido. The coat comes in red, white, black and tan, brindle, black, and sesame. They have smaller ears and a denser coat than the 5 other Nihon Ken due to the environment they originate from. They have a curled or sickle tail. Adults stand anything between 45-51cm, weigh between 13-21kg and typically live for 12-15 years. The Hokkaido will blow its coat twice a year.


The Hokkaido Ken is more docile than the other Nihon ken breeds, but not generally recommended for first time dog owners. They are highly attached to their family, are known for their intense loyalty, and can be wary of strangers. They are very intelligent which makes them very receptive to training. The Hokkaido Ken possess a strong will, and courage, and has maintained much of their prey drive, meaning living with smaller animals may not be appropriate. They are excellent guard dogs and good with children if socialized properly.


The Hokkaido is relatively healthy, apart from a high rate of Collie Eye Anomaly. This is a hereditary condition that can cause impaired vision or blindness. It affects around 1/3rd of all Hokkaido Ken. Other conditions that have been noted in the breed are skin allergies, seizures, PICA, and heart murmurs.

For more information on the Hokkaido Ken, and in-depth information regarding health issues within the breed, please visit our sister site, the Nihon Ken Network.

If you have photos of your Hokkaido Ken that you would be happy for us to feature here, please send us an email with your photos:! Photos need to be of good quality, taken outdoors, preferably without people in them. We would love to feature your dogs!