A game hunter, a watchdog, a guard, a brave defender and on top of all this a faithful and well-behaved, home-loving dog – the Ainu is a pure breed packed with good qualities. Named after the Ainu tribe that brought the breed to Japan over 3,000 years ago, this Japanese Spitz breed is thought to be the oldest dog breed in the country.
It is muscular and sinewy, but is very fast and has a remarkable sense of direction. It has triangular, erect ears and its small eyes also have a triangular outline. Some Ainu dogs have blue-black spots on their tongues, a feature they share with breeds such as the Chow-chow and the Shar Pei and its tail curls in typical Spitz fashion. Its coat is harsh and straight, and a second coat is shorter and soft. The colours come in sesame, red, black or white, and wolf-grey. The Ainu, or Hokkaido dog as they are also known is a medium-sized breed with a height of 18-22 inches and weight ranging from 45 to 65 pounds.
Always alert and ever watchful, perhaps its most legendary feat is its ability to fight the burly Hokkaido Brown Bear – not as a prey but to protect its owner. The Ainu dog can also withstand extreme cold and heavy snowfalls because of their dual layers of coat. As a household pet, they may be good for children only if they are raised with them from puppyhood. It can live well to about 13 years.