The Kishu Ken is a medium breed from the Nihon Ken family. It originates from the Mie and Wakayama prefectures, which were formerly known as the Kishu region. This breed was declared a National Treasure in 1934 by the Government, and was bred to hunt deer and boar. The Kishu is still used for hunting in Japan today and is revered for its prowess in the field. They can live in homes as pets, or in kennels as working dogs.

The Kishu Ken can sometimes be mistaken for white Hokkaido Ken, due to their similar appearance, but the Kishu is almost always larger in size. The Kishu Ken is rare outside of its native Japan, and whilst the Japanese people are very proud of the breed’s hunting capabilities it is sadly declining in numbers. This breed is not currently recognised by the UK Kennel Club, but is recognised by the FCI (Fédération Cynologique International).


The Kishu Ken has a double coat, which will moult twice a year and comes in four coat colours: white, sesame, red, and black. White is most common colour seen in the Kishu Ken, due to the famous hunting line that often exhibited white coats for easy visibility when hunting. Pinto can be seen in this breed, but it is undesirable and considered a fault by Kennel Clubs. Their tails can be curved, or sickle, but may also stand up straight, unlike other Nihon Ken breeds. The Kishu is incredibly athletic and powerful; are much leaner and deeper chested than the other Nihon Ken breeds, and have much longer legs. They stand between 46cm-55cm at the withers, weigh between 13kg-27kg and live for 11-15 years.


The Kishu is incredibly intelligent, and loyal to their owner. They will form a strong bond with their owner, making them very receptive to training. They tend to be very headstrong, and make excellent guard dogs. Kishu require a very active lifestyle, are easily capable of taking hikes for long distances, and also make great dogs for scent tracking or agility. They are docile if kept as pets, but still retain their hunting instinct and can be combative with other dogs. They will get on well with small animals if they have been raised with them.


There is limited information regarding the health of the Kishu Ken, however they are known to suffer from entropion, Addisons disease, hypothyroidism, persistent pupillary membranes (PPM), gastrointestinal disorders, and skin allergies.

For more information on the Kishu 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 Kishu 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!