Tosa Inu

This "Japanese mastiff," full of fighting spirit, is a true meeting of East and West. It is also famous for the sumo wrestler garb that was created especially for this breed.


Also known as the Tosa Inu, the Tosa Token, the Tosa Ken, the Japanese Tosa or the Japanese Mastiff, this breed takes its name from the Tosa region on the island of Shikoku, in the Kochi Prefecture. It is one of the greatest of all fighting dogs, bred to defeat every kind of canine opponent.

In their efforts to create the ultimate fighting machine, Japanese breeders crossed their local fighting dog, the Nihon Inu, with imported Bull Terriers, bulldogs (in 1872), mastiffs (in 1874), pointers (in 1876) and Great Danes (in 1924). The result was an imposing giant of a dog that was prepared to fight to the death in complete silence, fearlessly attacking its opponent without hesitation. National Champions were formally dressed in ceremonial aprons, these traditional costumes sometimes being valued at over $30,000.

This formidable breed was developed because the breeders of local fighting dogs were consistently losing out to the various imported breeds. By combining the indigenous dogs with the foreign ones, they were able to call the new, improved dog their own, while at the same time gaining the advantages of the introduced blood.

When it has not been engaged in brutal pit contests, the massive Tosa Inu — weighing up to 200 lb (90 kg) — has proved to be a highly effective house guard. This is not surprising. Looking like a cross between a mastiff and a Great Dane, with a short, hard coat and a muscle-bound body, a single glance from this stately animal would be enough to send most burglars scuttling for cover.

The Tosa Inu is rare in Japan and outside that country is little-known, there being no more than a handful of breeders in Germany and the United States. In some countries it is a banned breed.


Quite dignified, the large, powerful Tosa Inu has a wide skull with a steep, moderately long muzzle; well-developed cheek muscles; dewlaps on the throat and neck; a big black nose; relatively small, thinly fleshed drop ears hanging onto the cheeks; and a tapered hanging tail. The short, hard, close-lying coat is colored red, brown, or black, with a few small white markings permissible.


Patient, yet fearless and willing to fight, this dog also makes a friendly, loyal companion.

Care and Exercise

Daily care includes brushing the coat and working the dog on a lead for as long as possible.

Puppies and Training

Care must be taken in raising the five to ten strong puppies per litter as they tend to fight fiercely with each other as they mature.

Gallery of Tosa Inu