The TOSA INU is known more commonly as the Tosa-Ken or Tosa-Token originated in Japan and was bred as a fighting dog.

The Tosa varies considerably in size, with the Japanese-bred dogs tend to be about half the size of those bred outside the country. The Japanese breed generally weighs between 66 and 88 lb (30 to 40 kg), while the non-Japanese breeders have focused on dogs that weight from 197 to 200 lb (89.5 to 90.5 kg) and stnd 24.5 to 25.5 (62 to 65 cm) inches at the withers

The coat is characterised by its short and smooth appearance and is often red, brindle, or fawn. Occasionally it can be a dull black, but this is somewhat rare. Maintenance of the coat is usually minimal.

Befitting of its origins as a fighting dog, the Tosa Inu is not a dog for the novice owner. They are fighters, and will try to dominate any other animal. Do not try and keep Tosa Inu with another large dog breed.. It is also one of the largest breeds and can be extremely difficult to control except by the strongest of both body and will.

This breed originated in the second half of the nineteenth century. The breed started from the native Shikoku-Inu, an indigenous dog weighing about 25 kilograms and standing about 55 centimeters high, which closely resembles the European Spitz. It was the product of the selective breeding of the early Kochi dog with the best of the Western imports, including the Bulldog, Mastiff, Bull Terrier, German Pointer (1876) and the Great Dane. This combined the size and strength of the Western dogs with the courage, loyalty and fighting abilities of the Japanese dogs.

Sumo wrestling
In Japan this breed is also called Sumo Dog. Sumo fighters are Japanese wrestlers who engage in a very unusual style of wrestling that is already over 1,500 years old. The objective of sumo wrestling is always to stay on your feet despite your opponent’s attacks and not to allow your opponent to pin you to the floor or drive you from the ring.

This sumo wrestling is also the basis for the traditional Japanese dog fight. The Tosa is thus a “wrestling dog”, and the fights are carried out according to sumo rules. The winner is the dog that presses its opponent to the ground with its body, knocks it off its feet, and holds it to the ground. Biting and growling dogs are disqualified and are banned from further competition.

Tosa who were successful in the sumo fight received a valuable, beautifully decorated cloth apron with the crowning touch of an elaborately braided, thick hemp rope. What was demanded was not the wild fighter, the mauler, but the physically strong dog, courage paired with skill, patience and stamina.

For foreigners it is hard to comprehend how it is possible to transform a dog breed into a wrestler. This entails going against the dog’s natural instincts, against every normal fighting technique of a dog. It seems a likely supposition that dogs that were unsuitable for such fights were used in “normal” dog fights.

There have been few specimens abroad so far and only initial attempts at breeding. Despite its claimed history, there remains the suspicion that these dogs as a rule also would rather bite than wrestle.

Veterinary Surgeon, London at Blue Cross UK | + posts

A London based Veterinary surgeon, Sanja is also an avid writer and pet advocate.