According to the hypothesis about the origins of Japanese dogs, the first dogs entered the Japanese archipelago from southern or northern continental Asia. These dogs eventually spread throughout Japan. Then, other dogs were brought over via the Korean Peninsula, and crossbreeding occurred with the original dogs. The resulted offspring can be assumed to be the ancestors of most of the Japanese breeds that exist today.
Japanese indigenous breeds, mainly used by hunters, were protected as local breeds and were not used in crossbreeding with foreign breeds, and their genetic integrity was preserved. In 1920s, amid the growing national interest and pride in things Japanese, the Ministry of Education gave several Japanese dog breeds official recognition as "National Monuments" (Protected Species): the Shikoku received this designation in 1937.
The Shikoku is the rarest of Japanese breeds, also known as Kochi-ken. This is a medium-sized hunting spitz, closely related to Hokkaido, Akita, and Shiba. The names come from Kochi, the main city in the Kochi district on Shikoku, and Shikoku, the smallest of Japan's four main islands. There were three varieties of this breed: Awa, Hongawa and Hata-all named after the areas where they were bred. Among them, the Hongawa maintained the highest degree of purity, because the area was not easily accessible from anywhere.
According to the breed standard, the outer coat is harsh and straight, while the undercoat is soft and dense. The hair on the tail is long. Accepted colors in this breed include: sesame (equal mixture of white and black hairs.); black sesame (more black than white hairs); and red sesame (ground color of hair red, mixture with black hairs). The ideal height at the shoulders should be between 46 and 52 cm.
Wolf-like in appearance, the Shikoku has been valued for its toughness, agility, and endurance. It does look fierce, almost wild. Its stride is smooth and swift like a wolf's, and its superb ability to leap makes it well suited to running through mountains and hills. Alert and energetic, this enthusiastic hunter is also docile and very loyal to his master. The breed is very rare outside Japan.
- FCI-Standard # 319
- Yuichi Tanabe, Professor Emeritus, Gifu University. Phylogenetic studies of dogs with emphasis on Japanese and Asian breeds
- Michiko Chiba, Lucy North. Japanese Dogs: Akita, Shiba, and Other Breeds