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BREED HISTORY

   The Tosa Inu, the formidable fighting dog of Japan, is an animal of

 

legendary courage, intelligence and amazing presence. It has been described

 

as the Sumo Wrestler of the Canine World and is considered a National

 

Treasure in Japan. The sight of a Tosa Inu arrayed in full ceremonial

 

fighting regalia and traditionally brought into the fighting arena by two

 

handlers, makes an impressive and unforgettable impact.

 

 

 

Dog-Fighting has been a popular sport in Japan since ancient times. Like

 

Sumo-wrestling, it was an elaborate, ceremonial affair, a sport conducted

 

mainly by the Samurais, and the fighters, especially the winners, were feted

 

and accorded much prestige.

 

The dogs were bred specifically to enhance their fighting qualities and

 

puppies were jealously guarded and were not made commonly available.

Originally the native, wolf-like breed called Nihon Inu, which were also

 

used to hunt wild boars, were pitted against each other in dog-fights.

 

However, after Japan opened her doors to the Western Powers in the

 

Nineteenth Century, the Westerners brought many of their dog-breeds to

 

Japan and these were soon enough entered into contests against the Nihon

 

Inu. The Nihon Inu, being far smaller in size as compared to the Western

 

breeds, could not hold out its own against the new competitors and, in fact,

 

began losing encounter after encounter. This was an affront to Samurai

 

pride and so, to redress it, they decided to develop a larger, stronger dog by

 

breeding the Nihon Inu with certain, selected Western Dogs. This breeding

 

program was carried out on the Island of Shikoku in the town of Kochi in

 

Tosa District, a region specifically renowned for its interest in dog-fighting.
 


The breeders of Shikoku started off with the Bulldog and the Bull Terrier

 

as these dogs had proved the most tenacious in the contests. The Mastiff

 

was introduced for size and the Great Dane for both size and agility.

 

Pointers, both English and German, were introduced for their sound,

 

obedient characters and well-developed olfactory senses. Somewhere along

 

the way the bloodlines of Saint Bernards and Bloodhounds were also added.

 

 

 

The dog that resulted was the Tosa Inu. It exceeded all expectations and

 

proved so formidable in the bouts, fighting with a silent, unyielding ferocity

 

and dispatching its opponents with an almost insulting ease, that its fame

 

soon spread beyond the Tosa district, and breeders in other parts of Japan

 

began taking notice.

 

However, even more than before, the dogs were jealousy guarded and very

 

selectively bred so as to maintain the ferocious fighting qualities. It was not

 

easy to acquire them, let alone manage them, and so they never acquired

 

popularity as pets. They remained almost exclusively in the hands of the

 

people involved in the dog-fighting contests. Amidst the food-shortages and

 

other hardships of the Second World War years, the breed almost became

 

extinct. It was revived in the post-war years with Tosa Inus brought from

 

Korea and Taiwan (previously sold by the Japanese to the breeders there).

 

The numbers have greatly increased since, and, while it is still not a very

 

commonly seen dog in Japan, the breed has acquired a following overseas,

 

especially in the United States, where they were first brought over by

 

Japanese Immigrants and later became popular after the actor Jack Pallance

 

took an interest in them and began breeding them on his Ranch.
 

 

The Tosa Inus in the United States, however, since they are only bred for

 

Show qualities, are inferior to the Japanese Tosa Inus.

 

 

 

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