In case of Hokkaido ken, the situation in Japan itself has become quite unfavourable over the years - the breed and its new generations are facing the sustainability issue, the count of newborn puppies is rapidly decreasing. The Japanese blog ran by Shigeru Kato nihonken.blogspot.com has published an overview of puppies (not only Hokkaido, but also Kishu, Shikoku and Kai) born in Japan between 1993 and present day. Hokkaido has decreased in those numbers over the period by 80% (counting only numbers from DOKENHO stud book: 1993 = 1389 registered puppies, 2018 = 242 registered puppies).
Why are puppies not born?
The answer is simple and difficult in the same time - reproduction is easy, responsible breeding is however difficult. Who wants to bring new generations to this world in a really responsible way, must pay the price (time, money, knowledge, care). Less and less people
Hokkaido being a middle size breed is a bit more demanding in terms of space and food comparing to their smaller cousins - e.g. Shiba inu. In Japan, the generation of experienced and devoted breeders is slowly fading out and the new ones have a different lifestyle. Many own the dog, but live in the cities and have dogs as pets.
Genetics and financial cost
What might be interesting for the general public is that in order for any breed to be evolving properly, outbreeding must be kept in place - that means new breeding couples should not have the same ancestors up to 4. - 6. Generation. That is why it is difficult to continue breeding of rare breeds, so that dogs and their puppies are not related. Import of new blood lines is very costly. Price for importing dogs from Japan might easily get over 4000 EUR.
Except for financial point of view there is another challenge - health. In terms of genetically transmitted diseases, Hokkaido often suffers from CEA (Collie eye anomaly) which might lead to internal eye bleeding in more serious stages. Thus already limited basis of dogs is further decreased by this health criteria - top breeders bear this in mind.
Jana Janečková who breeds Hokkaido ken in Czech Republic talks about possible options on how to revert this trend which is comparable in Japan and also other countries. Mrs. Janečková is the first European breeder who successfully bred 2 CEA negative female puppies in 2017. They came from the connection between “Yuki” Yukiko Howasou and „Goro“ Gorou Hayakita Miura Kensha. In Slovakia there are only a few Hokkaido specimens, none of them has been used in the breeding yet. Situation in Czech Republic is thus a bit advanced. Mrs. Janečková, founder of Amico di Boemia kennel, highlights what steps are required:
“When I had first met with this breed, I knew about many obstacles that could come across breeding of this wonderful dogs, but I decided to intentionally ignore them. If there is anything I really hate, it is a phrase “that cannot be done”. It should be stated that saving the breed in Europe, while the counts of born puppies in the land of origin Japan are dangerously small, is really tough. The way to save this breed is neither fast, nor it is easy, however, I still insist that it is real. A person who decides to follow this path must indeed love this breed from their whole heart. Otherwise they most probably end up sooner or later in a situation when they give up the breeding efforts.
Beginning of Hokkaido breeding
For a better idea about how it was in Czech Republic 8 years ago - in 2012 I bought a little female Kimi (Cora Akuri Jume), and I dreamt about having Hokkaido puppies one day. Well, that is much easier said than done. Back in those days there were around 30 Hokkaido specimens in CR, however, there was no active kennel. So I founded kennel Amico di Boemia and hoped that once I will make my dream come true. In CR there were 4 stud dogs, but the issue was that 3 of them were closely related and I knew I did not want to do the inbreeding. The fourth dog did not have the proper genetics for breeding which was also the case of the vast majority of other Hokkaido dogs in CR.
For mating I took Kimi to Poland - I wanted to mate her with the dog imported by Kate Jablonska from Japan. Three beautiful puppies were born, but after the very complicated delivery I was afraid to have Kimi impregnated again, because the last stage of pregnancy and first days after giving birth were a big nightmare for me. In that time, in 2014, Yuki (Yukiko Howasou) the white female came to our kennel from Japan. One year later, in 2015, white male Goro (Gorou Hayakita Miura Kensha) joined us to become a stud dog for our Yuki. Yuki gave birth to 9 beautiful puppies in 2 litters, but after pyometra and surgery she is not able to give litters anymore.
Moya:new addition in 2020
And so this year a white female Moya (Cukiko Saki Moya Tokugawa Tsunayosi) joined our kennel as a new breeding hope. She is still young and so planning for litters is still a matter of the future. But the breeding situation after 8 years of my efforts to bring Hokkaido ken to the spotlight is much brighter. What do I mean by that? Just to compare - I tried to continue the work of past Hokkaido breeders and proceeded with one female and no adequate stud dog in the entire republic.
The next generation: litter of Rina, Yuki’s daughter
What is the situation in 2020? Rina (Cubomi Chiemi Rina Amico di Boemia), daughter after our Yuki, gave birth to her first litter of 6 puppies in 2019. At this moment we have 1 female (Rina) in her best productive age with CEA N/N free genetics. With perspective and hope to once become a breeding female there is also our young white female Moya with CEA N/N negative, one red female CEA N/N negative and one more red female CEA N/n carrier and one white female CEA N/n carrier. Altogether 3 females CEA N/N negative and 2 females CEA N/n carrier. As for the dogs, Goro is a stud dog at his best productive age with CEA N/n carrier genetics and is a to-be sire of our Moya’s first litter in the future. Then there is one young white male with CEA N/n carrier genetics and the youngest red dog with CEA N/N negative genetics. These dogs are suitable to become sire to our Moya’s litter, owners of the rest of the females will need to travel abroad for breeding or import a dog with appropriate blood line and genetics. Bearing in mind the need of new blood in ČR, this is a must and I believe that all breeders will respect that and approach the task responsibly. It is important to ensure that all females that will be approved for breeding are not mated with one dog (similar situation that was here in the past). If we, breeders, succeed in this task, and I’m very happy that I’m not alone anymore, then we have a wonderful opportunity to help preserve this great breed by adding our big deal of work.
However, it is a long run and litter planning should be done with focus on potential utilization of puppies in further future breeding and not only to cover actual pet production requirements. Each female has limited options in terms of reproduction, it is not a machine determined to deliver babies. We cannot afford to “waste” these limits for litters that will not bring the future breeding potential. In order to reach this goal, Im convinced that we cannot continue without prior understanding the seriousness of the situation and cooperation among breeders and owners of these dogs not only in ČR, but also in Europe.
So, to conclude this, in ČR we, Hokkaido ken breeders, are in a very good situation. From the only one breeding female we were able to put together quite perspective breeding foundation with:
5 females, 3 of them are white, 2 are red (3 of them are CEA N/N negative and 2 are CEA N/n carrier)
3 males, 2 of them are white, 1 is red (1 of them is CEA N/N negative and 2 are CEA N/n carrier)
I wish to all of us, to all Hokkaido ken owners to stay persistent and continue to bring up the future puppies with love and responsibility. At this moment I truly believe that we will make it. All it takes is a big dose of patience and humbleness in breeding, but beautiful dogs of Hokkaido ken dogs are truly worth it.
If all breeding dogs add up to the breed development at least the same way as our Yuki, then we do not need to be afraid of the breed’s future in our country. Yuki currently has 24 grand children, since 2 white dogs were born in January in France. Sire of that litter is Benjiro Hideaki Amico di Boemia, son of our Yuki from her first litter.“
The newest addition to Hokkaido family in Amico di Boemia kennel /CZ/ : female "Moya" Cukiko Saki Moya Tokugawa Tsunayosi
Owner/photo: Jana Janečková