The Tosa is a very old Japanese breed that has been around since about the 11th century. They originate from Tosa-Wen on the southern Japanese isle of Shikoku. These dogs are known by a couple of different names, include the Tosa Inu and the Japanese Mastiff. Originally bred as guard and fighting dogs, this breed is now considered a national treasure. The Tosa was further developed in the 19th century and was bred with several European breeds including the Bulldog and Mastiff. World War II almost wiped out the entire breed, but luckily a few of them were hidden away on the island of Hokkaido and survived until the war was over. The Tosa is slowly being reestablished but they are not yet recognized by the AKC. They are recorded in the Foundation Stock Service, which is a preliminary step to AKC recognition. The purpose of this service is to keep track of records and information on dogs that are either rare or still being developed.
The Tosa is a very large and powerful breed. These dogs stand at about 22 to 24 inches tall at the withers, though they can be taller. They typically weigh between 100 and 200 pounds. Tosas bred in Japan are usually larger than dogs bred in Europe and the United States. This breed has a large and broad head and a strong neck with a well pronounced dewlap. The strong muzzle is long and squared with an abrupt stop. The large nose is black and the eyes are small and dark brown in color. The ears are high set and somewhat small in relation to the rest of the head. They are thin and hang down close to the dog’s cheeks. Tosas have a thick tail that tapers to a point and reaches the hock. The Tosa’s coat is short and dense, with a hard texture. It may be either solid, brindled, or multi-colored and the colors include red, fawn, yellow, black, apricot, black and tan, or black and brindle. The coat often features a black mask and there may also be white markings on the chest or feet. This dog is easy to groom. These dogs are light shedders and will need occasional brushing to remove dead hair. These dogs are also know to drool, but not as often as other mastiff breeds.
Although they were developed as a fighting and guard breed, the Tosa is not an aggressive and dangerous breed unless they are raised to be that way. These dogs are very loyal to their owners and will be protective of them. These dogs are also known to be very quiet, rarely barking, since Japanese dog fighting rules often called for silence. It is very important that the owner of this dog establish themselves as a strong pack leader early on. These powerful dogs need to be well obedience trained early on in order to keep them under control. These dogs are not for everyone. They need an owner that understands how to be a strong pack leader. This means being able to be naturally authoritative while at the same time issuing commands in a firm and consistent manner. Tosas are sensitive to tone of voice and they will pay close attention to commands. Make sure not to be too harsh with corrections and discipline. These dogs will also need to be well socialized while they are still young. This is a process that should involve taking them out to expose them to new people, places, and situations. Doing this will ensure that when they grow up they are well adjusted and that their protective nature doesn’t turn into aggression. A well trained and socialized Tosa will be both docile and affectionate with their owner. These dogs don’t typically do well with other animals in the household since they are likely to fight if all of them aren’t well socialized and introduced early on.
The Tosa is not a breed that is recommended for apartment life simply because of their large size. It is possible, but they have to be taken out for lots of exercise every day. These dogs usually like to stay close to their owners and will not like being left outside or alone all day. This breed needs to be taken out every day for a long walk or jog. This will keep them happy and healthy, and they will be much less likely to display behavior problems.
Tosas are relatively healthy, but there are a few issues to be aware of. Hip dysplasia is often an issue, especially in larger breeds and it can affect their mobility later on in life. Large breeds like this are also prone to bloat and gastric torsion. This is a serious condition that requires immediate veterinary attention. Bloat happens when the dog takes too much air into the stomach as they eat. The stomach then inflates and can twist, cutting off blood flow and air supply. The best way to avoid this is by feeding the dog small meals from an elevated dish to slow down their eating. A healthy Tosa lives about 10 to 12 years.
Overall the Tosa is a breed that was created as a fighting and guard dog, but they can be raised as a companion breed. They need to be properly obedience trained and socialized, therefore they need an owner that has experience doing this and can be a strong pack leader.