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Alternative names
Tosa Inu
Tosa Ken
Tosa Token
Japanese Fighting Dog
Japanese Mastiff
Tosa Fighting Dog
Country of origin
Common nicknames
Classification and breed standards
FCI: Group 2 Section 2 #1
AKC: Guarding
UKC: Guarding Dog Breeds
Not recognized by any major kennel club
This breed of dog is extinct

The Tosa is breed of dog of Japanese origin that is considered rare.


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.[1]

The coat is characterized 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. It is driven not only to scrap with other dogs, but also with cats, as well as with other small animals. 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 centimetres high, which closely resembles the European Spitz. These dogs were crossed with European dog breeds, such as the Bulldog in 1872, Mastiff in 1874, St. Bernard, German Pointer in 1876, Great Dane in 1924, and the Bull Terrier[2]. The aim was to breed a larger, more powerful fighting dog. The heyday of Tosa breeding was between 1924 and 1933, when it was said that there were more than 5,000 Tosa breeders in Japan.

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 Europeans 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 in Europe 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.


  1. ^ Fogle, Bruce, DVM (2000). The New Encyclopedia of the Dog. Doring Kindersley (DK). ISBN 0-7894-6130-7.
  2. ^ Cunliffe, Juliette (2004). The Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. Parragon Publishing. ISBN 0-75258-276-3.
  3. Ostuni, Steve (2003). Japanese Tosa. Allenhurst: Kennel Club Books. ISBN 1593783361

External links

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