NIPPO: Hunting and the Nihon Ken

Every year NIPPO holds its 'Ryounou Kenkyuukai' which roughly translates to 'Hunting Ability Study Group'. It's aim is to maintain awareness of, and test the hunting instinct in today's Nihon Ken. This year's test was held in Tsukuba, Ibaragi prefecture, which while a few hundred kilometers from my house is still closer than usual. I had been requested from quite a while back to enter Baron. The reason for this was so that discussion could be held regarding the correct temperament for the Nihon Ken.

Being a hunting breed, temperament and hunting ability is a very important aspect of preservation. This is something that was recognized from the earliest days of the breeds. However, individual opinion regarding interpretation of the standard, and the correct temperament, continues.

My opinion is that to correctly understand the best temperament, and the standard, you need to experience hunting with them. You don't want a shy dog, nor do you want a dog that is too bold. With the one you will not catch anything, and with the other you will also not catch anything (or have too many injuries). You want balance. You want an intelligent dog too, no idiots who do not learn from their experiences. You don't want a people or dog aggressive dog either, as you often hunt with friends, their dogs, or near houses. You also don't need a dog that is ridiculously friendly, as that can lead to dogs running off toward people/places that they shouldn't which can lead to accidents.

Anyway, the current temperament that is selected for is all too often of the dog aggressive nature, as an aggressive dog in the ring often looks powerful. But in my opinion (and the others who asked me to enter Baron), this is not what should be rewarded in the ring. You need energy, you need awareness, presence, all these things, but not aggression. Anyway, Baron is a terrible example of the Kishu in conformation (poor pigment, head shape/type, coat etc), but he's a great hunter and companion with great structure.

There were 33 dogs entered, 8 Shiba, 1 Hokkaido, 9 Shikoku, 15 Kishu.
I took notes on all the dogs entered, and was plenty surprised at the number of dogs which displayed potential against the boar (small boars around 20kg). However this percentage is probably not a good example of the total hunting ability remaining in the breeds since this is a penned test, and the people bringing their dogs are probably more into and aware of hunting than your average NIPPO member. Of the total, 20 dogs were seeing boar for the first time, while the other 13 had some sort of experience, either hunting or in the pen.

Of the 8 Shiba, I would give high marks to 2 first time females. They gave good chase and were very vocal. One other Shiba showed some promise, but ran after one charge and was done. One more also showed interest, but was far too careful and did not bark at all. Of the other four, 2 ran immediately and only wanted out, and the other 2 were completely oblivious to the boar (with one of them getting charged because of it, and then running for the hills).

The lone Hokkaido was a brindle which had a lot of drive, energy, and good reaction, but did not bark at all.

Of the 8 Shikoku with no experience (including Masa), only 2 showed poor/no interest. The other 6 showed varying degrees of interest/ability. One female in particular was excellent, and two of the males as well. It's always very interesting to see a dog's switch turn on as hunting instinct that has lain dormant all their lives kicks in. One of my good friends' adult males saw boar for the first time, and while completely pedestrian at first, all of a sudden he switched on and did very well during the latter half of his 5 minute test.

Of the 7 Kishu with no experience, there was 1 dog that was absent. There was only one dog that I thought had very low potential. The others ranged from mediocre to excellent. One yushoku male in particular was fantastic. Another notable entry was a white female who got caught out and bitten by the boar, but regained confidence after a moment and then went on to work the boar very well. This to me is a great sign, a dog that bounces back quickly, and learns from its experience.

The remaining Shikoku and Kishu all had some sort of experience, and they all worked the boar to varying degrees. A couple were a bit too low energy and did not work the boar close enough to stop it in a real mountain environment, but a few were quite outstanding. Baron was actually registered at the middle of the male adults, but they moved him to the last dog since I was quite certain he was just going to catch the boar and it would be over in seconds. And that's what happened.

I generally don't enter Baron in boar dog tournaments or training because I already know he hunts. There's no real purpose, and there's always the chance of injury. I agreed this time so that there could be a discussion around temperament, a bit of an obedience demonstration, and I'd requested a large boar. Unfortunately they only use 2 small boars so I almost felt like not putting Baron in the ring. He went right, searching for the boar, swung left, then found the boar in the back middle area, sized it up for a split second, caught its right ear, and it was over. Probably took around 20 seconds in total. We separated them, and that was the end of the day.

I took Baron, Masa, and my two 6 month old girls with me. Masa did poorly by the way. He looked, let out a few barks, but no real drive, and not enough interest. That was disappointing, but not unexpected. The two girls I was able to get in the ring after the event was done. They showed awareness, and barked a bit, and that was enough for me. Just wanted them to see a live boar.

Shigeru Katoさん(@katothewalrus)が投稿した動画 -


  1. After reading this post , I felt I could add my two cents regarding Nihon Ken temperament. Kenzo (one of Baron's son) is my third Nihon Ken and the most intense one. His prey drive is off the charts. I often feel guilty because I don't take him hunting (I'm not a hunter)Taking him out hiking and on adventures just does not seem to feed that hunting drive as much as I think it should. When out and about the little guy is insanely focused on every squirrel, bird or deer near bye. So much so, I'm surprised I still have shoulders attached. This doesn't mean after getting bit by a big hog might change that but have a funny feeling he is a lot like his dad. We recently got a Thai Ridgeback which are also known for their prey drive. I have to tell you though, it is no comparison. Seeing the two just re assures me that Kenzo is a hole different kind of dog. That brings me to my thought. Having a hunting dog that comes from a good hunting line is a lot of work :) Kenzo is an awesome dog but a lot of work. Would not change his temperament for anything though :)

    1. I know what you mean. These hunting dogs are a lot of work, but I'm not complaining (most of the time anyway).

    2. Kenzo's cousins, Fionna and Cúchulainn, are similar to Kenzo in the ways you describe. I'very come to really like their temperaments, even if they are a lot of work as companions, especially after seeing a Kishu not from hunting lines. The little boy I imported from Japan has a great personality and he loves people and he still recovers from spooks, but not as quickly as the hunting line and hunting dogs I have been exposed to. It's also a bit bizarre to me that he seems to have so little prey drive. The absence of trying to chase moving objects seems strange, lol. He'said also just a very handler-soft dog, whereas Kenzo'so cousins are rather "hard."

      I get what you'really saying about hiking, too. Hiking is a fun exercise for us, but Fionna never looks fulfilled until she's returned with a snake or a rodent. She is an excellent rather, though, and we're going to start nutria removal as soon as I have time to train.

  2. Oh this is fantastic. Would this be a goid way to get my dog into hunting? I have a shikoku and he's got a lot of prey drive. California has some nasty boar infestations. So it'd be great if I could do this with him.

    1. You should talk to Corina about talking to Gen who hunts with his Kishu in the San Diego area. He knows the legalities and the private land to hunt on.


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