Japanese Tosa

Researchers suspect that the Japanese Tosa arose in Japan during the late 1800s. Often called the “Sumo wrestler of the dog world,” the Tosa was bred for ritualized fights with strict rules. While some Tosas still fight today, most Japanese Tosas are beloved family companions and watchdogs that live about 10 to 12 years. In Japan, Tosa dogs are considered a national treasure.

Japanese Tosa”s Size

Japanese Tosas are large dogs. They are usually about 24 inches in height and can weigh between 83 and 200 pounds. Because of their fighting origins, Tosa are grouped by weight as:

  • lightweight
  • middleweight
  • heavyweight.

Japanese Tosa breeders in the US tend to breed their dogs to be bigger and heavier than those bred in Japan.

Tosa Appearance

Tosa dogs have an athletic and stately appearance. Physical characteristics of the Japanese Tosa include:

  • broad sculls
  • dark, small diamond shaped eyes
  • dewlap at neck
  • large heads
  • long, square muzzles
  • long thick tails that tapers to a point
  • powerful jaws
  • short, dense and rough coats
  • small, hanging ears.

Just as breeders can alter the size of their Japanese Tosas, so too can they breed different dogs to come up with various color combinations. While Tosas can be bred to have a range of colors, most breeders of this type of dog prefer red, solid coats. Other possible Tosa colors include:

  • black
  • black and tan
  • brindle
  • fawn
  • multi-colored
  • yellow.

Japanese Tosas only need occasional brushing to keep their coats groomed. However, while they shed only lightly, they do drool, especially when drinking, excited or in warmer conditions.

The Tosa Personality

Contrary to what most people would expect from a dog bred for fighting, the Japanese Tosa is very calm, patient and quiet. Tosas were actually bred to be quiet dogs because the rules of Japanese dog fighting do not allow fighting dogs to make any sounds during a fight.

Aside from being on the quieter side, the Tosa is very intelligent, loyal and protective over his human family. Japanese Tosas work hard to please their masters and are skilled at picking up subtle changes in the human voice. They are also highly trainable and respond well to friendly and consistent teaching methods.

In keeping with their fighting history, Japanese Tosas are brave and fearless. While very affectionate with their human families, they are more reserved with strangers. Both males and females can be excellent companions and watchdogs.

Tosas and Children

Surprisingly, Japanese Tosas are usually very good with children. They tend to be accepting of children”s unpredictable ways and do not snap or bite, even when in pain.

Even though Tosas have shown remarkable patience with children, most respected dog trainers recommend that these dogs never be left alone with younger children because of the Tosa”s massive size and strength. Should conflict arise, it wouldn”t take long for an angry Tosa to cause a weaker child serious injury.

Japanese Tosas and Other Dogs

Fighting with other dogs is in the Tosa”s genes. This is why Japanese Tosas are usually very aggressive towards dogs and other animals. The following are some characteristic ways in which Tosas relate to other dogs. Tosas:

  • are anxious to fight when challenged by an aggressive dog
  • don”t along well in a home with other dogs of the same size, sex and temperament.
  • get along well with other dogs when they are raised together with other dogs from puppyhood
  • will win nearly all fights they get into due to their size, strength and high pain tolerance.

Managing the Japanese Tosa

While the Japanese Tosa is a loving and loyal dog, because of its size, strength and fighting history, it is not recommended for those who have never owned dogs before. Tosas need strong and assertive owners who are able to keep a strong, intelligent dog under control. Exercise is important for maintaining a well-behaved Tosa. Daily walks lessen the risk of behavior problems. Japanese Tosas enjoy both walking and jogging with their human companions.

Japanese Tosa Fights

The Tosa fights of Japan are nothing like the bloody and inhumane illegal dog US. In Tosa fights, endurance is valued, and dogs who try for quick and easy victories are considered poor fighters.

During Japanese Tosa fights, dogs do not kill one another. Much like Sumo wrestling, each dog tries to bring the other to the floor and hold him down. In a Japanese Tosa fight, a dog will automatically lose if he:

  • backs away by three steps or more
  • growls
  • turns his back
  • whines.

Fighting Tosas receive points for their wins and are ranked in a hierarchy. Champions are awarded the rank of Yokozuna, the same title bestowed on human Sumo wrestler champions.


Dog Breed Info Center (2008). Tosa. Retrieved January 24, 2008, from the DogBreedInfo.com Web site: http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/tosa.htm.

The Bulldog Information Library (2007). Tosa-Inu, Tosa-Ken??? Retrieved January 24, 2008, from the BulldogInformation.com Web site: http://www.bulldoginformation.com/Tosa-inu.html.