The Hokkaido (北海道犬 Hokkaido inu) is a breed of dog. Other names for the breed include Ainu-ken, Seta, and Shita. In Japan, its name is sometimes shortened to Do-ken. The Hokkaido is native to the prefecture of the same name in Japan.
The breed is medium in size, and has small, triangular, upright ears. The small eyes have a rising triangular outline. The Hokkaido has a coat of long, stiff fur, and a second, shorter coat of soft fur. Colors include red, white, black, tiger, sesame, and wolf-gray. Males are typically 50 cm tall, and females a few centimeters shorter, with body masses in the 20 kg range.
The breed is known for faithfulness to its owner, bravery, and the ability to withstand the cold, among other traits. It has an innate sense of direction and can therefore return to its master no matter how great the distance. This breed has the unusual capability of fighting against the Hokkaido Brown Bear, or Higuma to protect its master. The way in which the Ainu Dog accomplishes this is to scurry up the bear's back and sink its upper and lower incisors full force into the dorsal flesh of the bear's neck until the bear retires. Despite its long history as a working breed, the Ainu Dog ideally combines the roles of family pet and hunter. This breed should not be allowed to run free around other animals. They are good with children if they are raised with them from puppyhood. This dog is not recommended for apartment life. It is moderately active indoors and will do best with a large yard.
The Hokkaido is thought to have its roots in the Matagi-ken, a breed brought by the Ainu people from the Tohoku region in the Jomon-era. The later Yayoi people brought a different breed to the Tohoku, but the isolation of Hokkaido led to its line of Jomon dog having the least influence from the Yayoi.
In 1869, the English zoologist Thomas W. Blankiston gave the breed the name Hokkaido.
The breed was useful in the search for survivors of an Army expedition that was caught in heavy snow crossing the Hakkoda Mountains of Aomori Prefecture in 1902.
In 1937, the Ministry of Education designated the breed a natural monument, and officially named it Hokkaido inu.