Going along a coast road beside beautiful blue sea and sky, I reached Katsurahama. At Tosa token center here in Katsurahama park, we can see Tosa fighting dogs. Do you know Tosa-Inu? What do you imagine about them?
Tosa-Inu is Japanese cultural icon. They have big body and are brave. Perhaps you may have felt frightened of them. But the real ones are gentle.
Soon after I enter the center, I meet very pretty puppies. They are quite obedient and they seldom bark. Even when children pull their tails and play with them roughly, they don’t get angry.
His name is Joe, derived from Ashitano Joe. (With his keeper) He is a two-month old male and is at a playful age. The Tosa-Inu are raised up with their true brothers and sisters. Actually, Tosa-Inu is a little shy and if they are separated, they’ll miss each other. By growing up together they learn many important things as a dog.
Since ancient time, people have kept dogs to fight in many places all over the world. In Japan, it called Inuawase (犬合わせ) and there remain some documents of Kamakura era. In Kochi, Lord of Tosa, Yamanouchi Kazutoyo recommend dog fighting of Sikoku-Inu (四国犬) to encourage Samurai’s motivation.
In the Edo era, one Tosajin(土佐人) mixed Shikoku-Inu with a Bulldog. Since then, Tosa-inu were made by hybrization of Shikoku-Inu with Bulldogs (1872), Mastiffs (1874), German Pointers (1876) and Great Danes (1924), all of which were used to improve the breed by sequential mating. According to some accounts, St.Bernards and Bull Terriers were also involved, but it is not known in what years they were used. Now they are officially recognized as a Japanese Dog by JKC.
“Kochi’s people tried to make the strongest dog in the world” Mr. Takashi Hirose, who is President of Tosa Token center says. “There were two types of people in Kochi: patient people who made a Long-tailed cock, and people who think outside the box who made Tosa-Inu.” They inherit many good points. Loyalty and intelligence from Japanese dogs. Braveness and calmness are from Mastiff. And their optimism is from Bulldog. So they are very expressive. “When they are happy, they show a happy face. When they get angry, they show an angry face.” During World War Ⅱ, Tosa-Inu disappeared from Kochi by the command from military. But some people evacuated such Tosa-Inu to Aomori prefecture, and they returned in 1924. Now, about 350 tosa-Inu live in Kochi. In Japan many people regard them as fighting dog but on the other hands, in foreign countries, people keeping them as a companion or as a guard dog. Actually, only males are selected to become fighter dogs . It demands three things:
- Good physique
- Good pedigree
Fighter dogs are trained well to fight only in the ring. They fight under strict rules with their master’s instructions. The dogs and their masters are united by strong trust and affection. They have stretchable resilient skin, to prevent the teeth sticking in their skin when they are bitten. The rules for Tosa dog fighting are not simply the dog that bites is the winner and the dog that is bitten is the loser. The dog that howls or runs away is the loser. Victory is given to the dog that does not lose its fighting spirit to the end of the match. The dog who loses notices that he has lost when he leaves the ring first and sees that his master is sad. The dog who wins notices that his has won from his master and the people around him seem happy. In this match, Shokiryu barked during the match and Hibiki won. The younger dogs learn the rules like this.
“To tell the truth, I don’t know if it is necessary or not to fight Tosa-Inu ” Mr. Hirose said. “Tosa-Inu are great dogs and their existence is already wonderful. But when one dog thought he is stronger than other dogs, then he become arrogant and takes haughty attitude like man. But when they notice that there are other strong dogs, they become modest and begin to have depth as a dog.”
Now Tosa fighting dogs are facing a difficult era. People have many entertainments, and the life styles have changed. In old Kochi, people had strong classism and to have a strong dog was a source of pride and status for men. The purpose of dogs also changed. In old times, people had dogs for hunting or as guards. But now most of them have become pets. The Tosa Fighting Dog Festival in Katsurahama is held a few times a year. In 2011, the festival of March and June was postponed because of the earthquake of East Japan. The next festival is going to be held in September. About fifty Tosa-Inu from around West Japan are going to come to Katsurahama with their masters.
The history of Tosa-Inu was much deeper than I imagined. And I felt as if they are fighter who shouldered a history like Sumo wrestlers. Since meeting them I have been totally fascinated by their uniqueness. July 2011 in Katsurahama