Tosa Inu

Tosa Inu Breed description: Character & Co

Tosa Inu


The Tosa or Tosa Inu is a former Japanese fighting dog. Completely different from western fighting dogs, it did not bite his opponents, but wrestled them to the ground. It is rarely found over here and unfortunately it is considered a list dog in many regions.

The origin of the Tosa Inu

The breed probably originated in Japan during the 19th century. "Tosa" is a region that was ruled by an independent prince at the time.

"Inu" is beside "Ken" a Japanese word for dog. Translated, the name means "dog from Tosa". The exact evolution of the breed is not clear. Breed researchers assume that the pointy local Shikoku Ken was crossed with brawny western breeds. Genetic studies showed a relationship with the Mastiff, Bulldog, Great Dane and even the St. Bernard.

The intention was quite clearly to breed a Japanese fighting dog. Peculiarly, the Japanese answer to Western fighting dogs fights was to fight like a sumo wrestler. Instead of angrily biting each other with bared teeth, these dogs wrestled each other down. Biting led to the immediate disqualification of the dog.

Today the dog is still kept in Japan as a guard dog of larger estates. The Tosa Inu breeding is done there with greatest care and finest selection.

The breed characteristics of the Tosa Inu

The Mastiff heritage is still clearly visible in the Tosa today. Nevertheless, the Tosa Inu appears finer and more delicate than most comparable western breeds.

In Japan it is known for its fearlessness and a very moderate temperament. The Europeans discovered the Tosa because it was suitable as a replacement for dog breeds that had fallen into disrepute. Dubious owners imported almost all dogs that were somehow considered dangerous or suitable as status symbols. No wonder that this dog soon ended up on the lists. But their nature is actually very friendly towards humans.

  1. Japanese fighting dog
  2. bred for wrestling and not as a biter
  3. today often guard dog
  4. FCI Standard No. 260,Group 2, Section 2: Molossoids, 2.1 Great Dane dogs
Banner: Shutterstock / acceptphoto
Tosa Inu puppy sitting on a table in a park, small brown dog, fighting dog, list dog, japanese dog breed that is aggressive, brown dog with floppy ears five Tosa Inu fighting dog puppies lying in the meadow, brown small dog with dark muzzle and floppy ears, Japanese list dogs two adult big Tosa Inu dogs, big brown dog which is on the list, Japanese fighting dog with dark muzzle, dog with short coat Tosa Inu puppy standing on a meadow, small fighting dog, list dog, Tosa Inu japanese dog breed
Alternate Name Japanese Tosa, Tosa
Origin Japan
Life expectancy 10 - 12 years
Care requirements low-maintenance
Activity level average
FCI group Molossian type
AKC group not recognised
KC group not recognised

The typical characteristics of the Tosa Inu

A Tosa Inu won't get upset too quickly! It is considered to be very calm and only in extreme situation it can be quick-tempered. Towards humans they are completely peaceful, if you haven't trained them to act otherwise in any way. The dog only became conspicuous because of the keeping by already mentioned bad dog owners.

At the same time it belongs to the lovably quiet to stoic Molossiods. You can train them or better said, show them their limits again and again. The dog is docile and obedient. With clear guidelines it will soon find its place and keep it. Due to its rarity in our areas there are few reliable statements about their suitability as a family dog to be made. In Japan it lives very closely with its humans and shows no problems doing so.

If you want to buy a dog like this, you should already have experience with stubborn characters. Apart from all this, keeping a Tosa will be a real adventure and you would be one of the few owners of this breed! The Molossians are generally said to have a very sociable nature. Because of the attachment to house and ground you can leave such a dog alone for a longer time. Provided that you have a big house and a garden or a plot of land which they can guard.

  • calm to stoic temperament
  • aggressive only when trained to do so
  • needs to be shown its place and limits
  • is regarded as very friendly towards people
muscular dog breed that counts as fighting dog in Japan, listed dog, brown big dog Tosa Inu with many muscles, male dog that is very strong, big brown dog breed, fighting dog from Japan

Breeding, acquisition and keeping of the Tosa Inu

If you want to buy a Tosa Inu, you can look at one of the few breeders. The VDH registers all breeders who offer animals with pedigree and papers. Please never buy a Tosa Inu puppy from dubious sources. The purchase price starts at 800 Euros for a healthy puppy with papers.

In animal protection this dog is rather rare to find, but you can try it anyway. At "Molosser in Not" you might find a Tosa or a comparable dog type with a little luck.

If you live in Germany and would like to keep a Tosa Inu, you have to ask your community whether it is subject to conditions.

In Switzerland, the breeding, importation and keeping of the Tosa Inu are prohibited in the cantons of Geneva and Valais. In Fribourg, Schaffhausen, Thurgau and Ticino you have to get permission to keep the Tosa Inu.

In Austria the Tosa is on the breed list in Vienna, Lower Austria and Vorarlberg. However, keeping the Tosa is possible with a special permit, a "dog handler's license" or a character test.

  • Puppies from the breeder for 800+ Euros
  • list dog in parts of D, A and CH
japanese attack dog tosa inu

Most often you can see this dog in the reddish brown colouring. But the Tosa is also available in cream, black and brindle. The head with the impressive wrinkles is inherited from the Mastiff. However, eyes and wrinkles hang down in a less extreme way. Their facial expression is present and expressive.

It can have white markings on the chest or belly. Muzzle and ears and the end of the medium-long tail can be dark. The Tosa stands on stable legs and has a strong but not overly muscular build. All in all it is a beautiful and harmonious dog, which would deserve a more positive attention.

  • strong without being overly muscular
  • mostly with red-brown fur
  • more rarely cream, black or brindle
  • harmonic appearance

Size, weight and life expectancy of the Tosa Inu

There is very little statistical data on the Tosa. According to the breeding standard, males should reach a withers height of at least 60 cm. In bitches 55 cm are desirable. The weight should be somewhere between 30 and 50 kg.

With good care and species-appropriate nutrition the Tosa can reach an age of up to 12 years.

Fur length short
Fur flat coated
Ear shape Triangle
Tail lang
Anatomy muscular, massive, strong
Size ♀ 62 - 82 cm
Weight ♀ 36 - 61 kg
Size ♂ 62 - 82 cm
Weight ♂ 36 - 61 kg
Suitable For -


Tosa Inu puppy standing on a meadow, small fighting dog, list dog, Tosa Inu japanese dog breed
muscular dog breed that counts as fighting dog in Japan, listed dog, brown big dog
Tosa Inu with many muscles, male dog that is very strong, big brown dog breed, fighting dog from Japan

Sources and relevant links


Accessed on 06.04.2023


Accessed on 06.04.2023

Hans Räber (2014). Enzyklopädie der Rassehunde, Band 1. Franckh-Kosmos Verlags-Gmbh & Company KG.


Accessed on 06.04.2023

Dr. Dieter Fleig (2011). Kampfhunde... wie sie wirklich sind! Kynos Verlag.

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