JAPANESE TOSA-INU GENERAL INFORMATION
How Difficult can getting a Tosa be?
First we find ourselves with the fact that the Tosa is a dog from Japan (a National Treasure) that has a long history involving Imperial Dynasties and great historical figures all interwoven into Japanese heritage. Culturally this dog also holds an important place in and out of the military field in the Orient. We find that this dog is not very well known even in Japan, and adding to it's mystic are;the secretive practices of the breeders who organize themselves in groups of 30 to 40. The groups are guided by a designated leader, who manages and conditions the animals and is responsible for all decisions concerning the dogs. Anything relevant to these animals has to be consulted and approved by the leader of the group. When one belongs to such a group, one relinquishes all authority over his own;particular dogs, however, you will be allowed to attend the tournaments where your dog is competing.
An interesting detail to be considered upon investigation into acquiring a Japanese import, is that; although they (the Japanese Tosa aficionados) might grant you the favor of finding a purchasable Tosa, remember they are not selling Tosa dogs because of economical hardship, it is because you have the desire to acquire a puppy of that breed and have contacted the Japanese Tosa men for the arrangement of such a transaction.
The Japanese Tosa breeder does not guarantee dogs to anyone. They may assist in choosing a healthy dog for you, but there is no guarantee against genetic problems or anything else, you take the risk when you decide to to make the purchase. When requiring a guarantee in the purchase of a Tosa, please keep in mind that this may make the Tosa breeder feel that he is compromising his good faith. This can cause them to refuse to help you get a Tosa because in all reality they usually breed for themselves and not for the general public.
A Japanese friend of mine wanted to get a video from his group taken while these were in attendance at an important Tosa match but the leader explained that the delivery of such a video was absolutely prohibited. Since the Tosa belongs to a world of secrecy, an enigma to society, those who raise these dogs do not tell anyone that they possess them and refuse to give any details especially if that person is a stranger. The only way to contact such an association is through contacts, friends, relatives and/or members.
The language is another important factor. It is necessary to employ the services of a translator who is able to mediate all conversations during the time required to negotiate the purchase of a Tosa. Once contact has been made with a Tosa breeder, he will choose the dog for you. A favor that is performed for the fortunate parties involved. You will not find in Japan, magazines or ads selling Tosas or for that matter, a website speaking of this breed in general. Those linked to the sale of Tosas are not found in Japan. It's not a remarkable feat to obtain a Tosa in the United States, Europe or another country, but remember, they will not have the quality and characteristics of the original Tosa of Japan. Many people who breed Tosas sometimes find themselves with a difficult situation: a limited gene pool, causing them to cross within the same family tree and resulting in the production of Tosas of poor and degenerated quality.
To obtain the information telling you where to locate all the Tosa breeders in Japan and then contacting them is a challenging process that can take various years before you get the opportunity to obtain a Tosa. The challenge and the pursuit of the Tosa is a driving force, that upon fulfillment, will make all ;sacrifices well worth the while, for such a dog will become a jewel in your hands, a tribute to the sheer magnificence of the Tosa.
If you have it in mind to import a show quality Tosa it's best that you wake up from that dream, because of the fact that these dogs are not bred for that purpose and are used, in Japan, exclusively for fighting. A good Tosa for the Japanese is one that has a good head, a powerful neck, excellent wrestling ability and the potential to become an intelligent fighter. With that purpose in mind, a career is forged to guide the dog to Yokozuna (champion) status or Gran Yokozuna (Grand Champion) ranking, the maximum position attainable in Tosa tournaments. The Tosa has been designed as a Japanese breed with powerful balancing ability in it's posterior, allowing great movement and dexterity, contrary to the show standard. With conformation structure and show quality in mind, an exhibitor's criterion would not allow for the dog in question to become a good fighter in the ring.
The below e-mail has been received from people that live in Japan who were not able to contact any breeder there. Those letters validate the contents of the above article.
Emails From Japan
Here are some emails that we received from Japan in 2006 from persons interested in acquiring dogs of this race but were unable to find Tosa Breeders. These emails validate our research published in a article on our Web site under the link "How Difficult can getting a Tosa be?". where we expose the danger of extinction of this breed of dog.
Is it realistically possible to ask you to choose a tosa male puppy from your kennel for me and bring it to Japan?
Your dogs are so great and you know their puppies...
I am very interested in getting a Tosa. I currently live in Japan now and can not find one. The people at the pet stores say that the only way to find is if I contact the Japanese mafia! If it is possible to purchase this dog, where and when can I do this. My husband and I are both military veterinary technicians, so caring for this type of dog is not a problem.
Thank you I await your response.
I enjoyed your website on the internet.
My husband is in the U.S. Navy and we are currently stationed in Misawa Japan. I have been an Arabian horse and Australian Shepard breeder for over 25 years. I am in the process of bringing one of our dogs over here, but my two females are pregnant and cannot travel. This is the first time in my life I have ever been without a dog, and I am truly unhappy!!
I have looked at various pet shops, but the condition of the puppies is very sad. I started looking for ways to possibly buy a puppy or dog here in Japan and found the Tosa sites. What a truly amazing and beautiful, athletic dog.
If you can provide any further information on contacting or locating breeders, I would appreciate it.
Thank you in advance.
Misawa Air Base
Perspective of Japanese fighting breeder and a foreign Breeder
Everything involving to the practice of Tosa fighting in Japan is completely adverse to what we dog lovers know about competing among other races around the world. Our dog shows and competitions, which are our passion, focus mostly on obedience, conformance and elegance. We must understand that this race was created with a purpose, a purpose that still bears strong in the mind of the Japanese people. Our opinions are insignificant and will never change the beliefs of those who see the Tosa as a part of their heritage.
In our first trip to Japan we were very disappointed to see a lot of dogs with deformities. We returned home without purchasing any Tosas. That was one of the first lessons we had to learn. People who breed the Tosa Inu in Japan do so for different reasons that we do. We had to change our state of mind in order to really appreciate the authenticity of the dogs in order to obtain one. On our next trip we had a broader perspective and tried to identify with the mentality of a Tosa breeder of Japan and think less like a foreign breeder. That way we did not face any conflicts due to difference of opinions and were successful in acquiring our Tosa Inu.
Who are the people that usually own Tosa-Inu in Japan
The interest in the Tosas has not been all lost in Japan or other countries, but not any person can own or maintain a Tosa. They require special attention and responsibility as they are a large powerful dog that has the potential, like most other dogs, to kill or maim and are also naturally inclined to fight other dogs when they mature.
The Tosa male can never be neutered in Japan. A neutered dog looses 50% of his personality, agility, character and bravery. No two adult Tosas should typically be kept together; even male or female combinations are not very safe. Special strong enclosures are built to the standards of wild animals and are typically required to house and keep the Tosas in Japan with space, like a yard or kennel enclosures.
Fighting Tosas professionally requires membership fees, travel, time, training and a car. All of which are fairly out of reach from the common dog owner in Japan. Therefore although the Tosa is still popular it takes a certain type of person both physically, mentally and economically able to really embrace the fighting Tosa. Although the Tosa is popular, it is not a dog that can become vogue with the masses as it simply requires prerequisites for responsible ownership.
We were very surprised during our March 2010 trip to Japan. We visited several Tosa kennels in Kochi and found that, due to economic hardship, many of them had gone out of business. All that was left was a lot of empty cages. In many surviving kennels that had before been the home of beautiful and outstanding specimens now only have one or two less than desirable quality dogs.
The following is a summary of an article published in a magazine from Spain in which Mr. Hirose, current President of the Tosa Ken Center, is interviewed by Augusto Casquet.
Today's Tosa Inu
The purpose of this article is to provide fascinating first hand facts about the Tosa. Mr. Hirose is a descendent of several generations of Tosa breeders. His grandmother, after the second world War, used Tosas to protect her cattle because of theft due to widespread hunger. Mr. Hirose has dedicated his life to the production of Tosas for tournaments celebrated all over Japan. He lives and works in Kochi, capitol of the prefecture of the same name,( called Tosa, in ancient times). His family is recognized as an important component by the Imperial family of Japan due to the cultural importance of preserving the Tosa. A cadre of knowledge, Mr. Hirose answered some of our questions when we encountered him at the airport of Madrid- Barajas. Some of these, without a doubt, would address issues which we desired to learn more about, showcasing this enigmatic breed of fighting dog unique in all the world.
What does a Tosa represent in Japan and what is it's relationship with Japanese Culture?
Fighting dogs in Japan were first seen about two hundred years ago in the hands of noble Samurai warriors. When these returned home from battle, different from the other townsfolk, who were merchants, artisans and service providers,the soldiers had to wait for another war to be declared to be gainfully employed.Many times in their waiting, they turned to fighting amongst themselves. Looking with disdain upon this practice, a very powerful Samurai Warlord encouraged his men to engage in dog fighting instead. This made the Tosa very popular and that same Samurai chief known by the name of CHOZ-O-GABE; went on to establish the rules for dog fighting.But, when TOKU OAWA, the famous "EDO ELA" defeated CHOZ-O-GABE and rose to power, he wanted to eliminate CHOZ-O-GABE's people. Matters became worse when a change to the Samurai code was in place, making for a very difficult transition. These factors lead to the encouragement of dogfighting to appease the frustrated; soldiers and; to the development of the Tosa as a superior fighter.
Did it seem strange that we should express an interest in the Tosa to the point of contacting you?
No, because there are now many people outside Japan interested in the Tosa. In the beginning I could not understand why people would ask about Tosas and more Tosas, but, when I began to attend International Expositions outside Japan, I met people who would say only good things about Tosas. Many years ago in Japan, I had seen and liked Tosas, but I could not understand their greatness, probably because they were common in my family. I grew up surrounded by them. I had often thought of other dog breeds but, after traveling all over the world, I have not found anything similar to a Tosa, not in style, temperament or strength. I now realize that there is nothing like a Tosa. To even find a similar dog in all the world is something that is in fact impossible!
What about the Tosas in the United States?
We believe that there are between 80 to 100 Tosas in North America. It all began when Jack Palace, an American actor, traveled to Kochi, Japan, to film a television program for the ABC Network. Upon seeing a Tosa for the very first time, he immediately began to search for Tosas asking the then Governor of Kochi, what he had to do to obtain a Tosa puppy. Not having Tosas available, the governor approached the Hirose family which eventually provided Palace with two puppies, one off which, the female, was named Ms. Kochi. Palace returned to his ranch with the puppies and successfully bred Tosas for approximately six years until his divorce, when most of the dogs were then sold. Getting back to Tosas in general; Mr. Hirose has indicated that if you see an American dog magazine there are Tosas from Korea and Taiwan, not from Japan, and sometimes the quality is questionable. I'm not saying these are not full bred Tosas because they do have pedigrees, simply that the quality is not there. In America there is a mixture of dogs of poor quality and others of excellent quality. Unfortunately the American Kennel Club does not recognize the Japanese Tosa-Inu and there isn't a forum of national magnitude which could provide the much needed exposure highlighting the virtues of the breed. We would like for Americans to see the real Tosa by way of a Japanese Tosa-Ken fighting dog and be assured that they have access to an authentic Japanese breed standard.
What would you tell me about the different bloodlines in Japan?
First, you have to know how we produce Tosas from the start. In Japan there was a breed called the Shikoku-Inu which was originally from the area known as the prefecture of Kochi. We're used to calling this dog, of Shikoku, Tosa. However, this led to confusion, because there were two types of Tosas, one like the Shiba-Inu in type, the other, the Tosa of which we presently speak (a fighting Mastiff). So we changed the name of the Shikoku-Inu which is the name of an island. This Shikoku-Inu we crossed with Mastiffs, Great Danes, Bull Dogs among others, thus arriving at today's Tosa. The Tosa bloodlines in Japan are different, because as we said before, he was a Shikoku, a fox like creature, long and without many angles in the face. That is why upon seeing pictures of Tosas, you can appreciate different kinds of faces, but they are all correct and belong to the Tosa. The Tosa we have introduced and you are familiar with, is an improved product from only 80 years ago. That is why there are still some very young lines and consequently you can observe different pictures of Tosas, yet they are all the same breed.
Was it difficult to find a Tosa for us?
Yes, it was quite difficult, because in the Kochi prefecture there are only 350 Tosas, which is not a lot. When a foreigner wants a Tosa, they tell us its for exhibitions, but because Tosas are bred for the purpose of fighting, it takes time to obtain a dog that meets the requirements of the show standard, which include: good temperament, free of any disease or skin lesions that is why we waited for two years.
What type of care does a Tosa require?
When the Old English Mastiff experts went to Kochi they saw the excellent bone structure of the Tosa and they were very impressed, and this good result was due to excellent balance of calcium in the bone. An important factor to understand here is that the calcium levels of water in Japan are deficient compared to Europe's. Taking this into consideration, the Tosa was originally produced through the Shikoku-Inu and the Mastiff (an English Breed). That is why we had to administer to our dogs extra amounts of vitamins, calcium and minerals to their diet, and thus, provide good bone development. On the other hand, it is possible that some Tosas may have problems with their legs because of their large body. Some of the largest Tosas can weigh 105 Kg. And although it's a lot, many of them have excellent bone structure, not unlike an English Mastiff. This is why we have to be very careful especially between the ages of two and nine months, a period in which the dog grows rapidly. As you may know, the hind quarters sometimes grow faster than the front until the animal develops completely and in this process your dog may a begin to look like a Fila. You should look at your dog every week to check that the head is growing proportionally, if not, then a change in diet might be required. In reference to diets, there is not much difference in the manner of caring for similar dogs like Fila, Mastiff and other large and long breeds because the Tosa was originally developed from Mastiffs such as these.
What would you tell Tosa breeders in Spain, USA and the World?
Hirose says: "I have certain fears about the Tosa outside Japan. In the United States and Europe, many people see the possibilities and appreciate the qualities of the Tosa as a companion and guard dog, all while remembering it's history as a fighting dog. But believe me when the Tosa stops being a fighter, its facial expression will change, and I don't know if people would like a Tosa without the expression of having been a fighter. Between the ages of eight months to a year, many Tosas will simulate combat and they don't attack as if it were a game, understand? That is why upon preventing your pup from playing in this manner, and placing him in a crate or cage at home, you are depriving it of the opportunity to practice this simulation-ritual. The pup's expression will cease to develop if not allowed to socially interact in this manner with other puppies. I do not know how a Tosa will develop outside of Japan, without a companion, It's character would probably change to that of a companion dog. I hope to see within the next ten to twelve years, the changes made to the breed. This, of course, depends on the breedings and choices that the fanciers will make. I encourage to always strive to breed the best possible Tosa and obtain some really good dogs outside of Japan.
The story of how we discovered the Tosa-Inu; Mr. Perozo relates the following...
We had owned many commonly known breeds of dogs, but, I felt disappointed when ;seeing that some men had ruined a variety of breeds making crosses without the slightest knowledge of what they were doing. On the other hand, I must admit that there were some knowledgeable people who made valuable contributions to the development of breeds. There were once many good breeds in my country, but, some were ruined, like the ones I once owned, namely the Rotweilers and German Shepherds, among others. In the light of this my grandfather, who was a great source of inspiration, told me that when you decide to get something, make sure to try to get the best possible. This principle in point has been in my heart for years and for which we then decided to import from the best kennels in Europe and the United States, this gave us the opportunity to have some very good dogs. We would take our dogs around the neighborhood, park or veterinarian and many people would marvel at the quality of our dogs.But, when approached by others who claimed to have the same breed of dog,something would always bother me, the fact that many of the dogs were actually degenerated in type or of mixed heritage. Upon observation, their inferior conformation and structure was clearly due to poor breeding. This was cause for our change in attitude. Upon seeing so many flaws in other breeds due to excessive inbreeding, it was then that we decided to put into practice my grandfather's advice, and began searching for the best breed in the world, but, without success. We had no way of seeing a real Tosa.Sometime later after much searching, we logged into the Internet and found valuable information and pictures on the Tosa. Today it all seems like a joke, but when I got home to my wife with a two month old female and told her the amount I had paid, she started to cry, her exact words were: "Are you crazy? What if it should die? We would lose all that money! Only then did I think of the money I had spent. I was so mesmerized by the breed that I hadn't thought about the investment. So for about six months the female puppy never left our house. Afterwards we were able to get better quality Tosas and the rest is history.
THE RANKING OF A TOSA IN JAPAN
Before we list the Tosa ranking in Japan today it is important to realize that the Tosas fight in Regional Tournaments but rankings are bestowed upon them by the National Tosa-ken Spread Association. Also, the rankings are not permanent as long as the Tosa is actively fighting.
A Tosa is judged by how long his fights last, the quality of his opponents, and his exhibition of courage, and stamina. The longer a fight endures, the more he is honored. The fight is more highly respected if both animals fight stronger for longer without kill. This is contradictory to fights staged in the United States, where a dog is more highly revered for quick win & kill. Therefore, a Tosa with many quick wins will not be ranked as high as one with only a few wins of bouts that lasted the duration.
A Tosa can earn a title but must either retire with it or maintain it. Retirement is self explanatory. A Tosa may lose a fight or two and maintain his title if the fight are good and long lasting. He may not lose many, however, before his ranking will be dropped. Contrary, if a Tosa wins too many matches too quickly, he will be forced to compete versus higher ranking dog. The Tosa who wins the longest lasting bout of the tournament will be that tournament champion. Whichever dog fights closest to the full 30 minutes wins the match. If both dogs are still combating at the 30 minutes time limit the bout will be declare a draw and neither dog is entitled to the little contested for.
LIST OF THE RANKINGS AND THEIR VAGUE ENGLISH EQUIVALENT1
1. As of October 1994 (pages mentioned refer to the National Tosa-Ken Spread Association Stud Book)
Amateur Boxer Novice
Pro-Boxer 4 Rounder
Some experience of fighting
Dog rising in the ranks
Pro-Boxer 10 rounder
Heavyweight: 1st National Japan CH. TENJOUZAN (p718 top)
1001st National Japan CH. 2nd BUNGOBANA
Middleweight; 1st National Japan CH. KOTETSU
1056th National Japan CH. ISOGAHAMA
That Particular Tournament's Champion
It doesn't matter what weight class, the dog which fights the closest to the thirty minutes time limit and wins his match.
1st Tournament CH. RAIDEN & 168th Tournament CH. KINJO
National Japan Grand Champion
Can be won only in a dog's life. He must be ranked higher than YOKOZUNA and chosen by judges. If a dog successfully challenges for SENSHUKEN he qualifies to challenge for MEIKEN YOKOZUNA. If he loses that challenge, that's it! A dog may fight once each day of tournament (Tournaments are two day events.) He may fight in only two tournaments in a one year for a maximum of four fights a year.
Heavyweight: 1st National Japan GR.CH. TOYOKUNI (p719)
196th National Japan GR.CH. 8th SHOURIKI
Middleweight: 1st National Japan GR.CH. IWATEDEN
185th National Japan GR.CH. SHIROKINJO
Lightweight: 1st National Japan GR.CH. BISHAMON
43rd National Japan GR.CH. GINJIRO
Warrior Grand Champion
He must have three fights as a SENSHUKEN with a record no worse than TWO WINS and ONE DRAW. This honor has been achieved by only thirty two dogs of the almost four hundred fifty NATIONAL JAPAN GRAND CHAMPIONS!
Best Fighting Technique
Judges decide which dog has the best fighting technique of all the dogs that fought in the Tournament.
1st Gaifu Taisho. TENRYUSHIBUKI
80th Gaifu Taisho. SHIN KUNSHO
These rankings are bestowed upon the Tosa by a panel of judges based on the Tosas fighting accomplishments. And all rankings in Japan (Except WARRIOR GRAND CHAMPION) are issued numbers by the National Tosa-Ken Spread Association JUDGES PANEL.
Usually, Tosas fight not only within their weight classes but also within their rankings. If a dog does well or poorly, the Tosas are usually matched up to equal dogs by these judges but a Tosa owner can request his dog enter a ranking class above what he is ranked in the hopes of getting his noticed and moved up. If a Tosa is entered, a lower ranking class than what he is considered, he will loses his higher ranking and must earn it all over again - This is rarely if ever done. LAST BUT NOT LEAST LET US CLEAR THE AIR ONCE AND FOR ALL, FEMALES HAVE NEVER FOUGHT AND NEVER WILL FIGHT IN A TOURNAMENT IN JAPAN.