The Hokkaido Ken is one of the six Nihon Ken (Japanese dogs), originating from Japan. A medium spitz-type breed that originated from the northern island of Hokkaido, they were often referred to as Ainu Ken after the original indigenous Ainu people of Japan. It is thought that the Hokkaido carry genes from older type dogs that arrived in Japan due to their geological isolation. The Ainu people used them to hunt bear and deer, and as a guardian of the home, for which the breed is still used today. The breed became recognised as a ‘National Living Monument’ by the Japanese Government in 1937.


Originally the breed is made up of several bloodlines names after Ainu villages where they originated. The Chitose, Biratori, Atsuma, and Yuwamizawa were the most famous. Today, only the Chitose line remains, along with a mix of the other lines.

The Hokkaido Ken is recognised by the Nihon Ken Hozonkai (Japan), and Fédération Cynologique International (FCI, Europe), as well as having various breed clubs to support the breed. The Hokkaido Ken is not currently recognised by the United Kingdom Kennel Club. However the first breed club association for the Nihon Ken has been launched, The Association Of Nihon Ken [UK], in a bid to eventually get the breed on the UK Kennel Club import register.