• Japanese Tosa Breed
  • Japanese Tosa Dogs
  • Japanese Tosa in the UK
  • Japanese Tosas in the UK
  • Japanese Tosa Dog Breed
  • Japanese Tosas
  • Japanese Tosa in Great Britain
  • Japanese Tosa
  • Japanese Tosas in Great Britain
  • Japanese Tosa Dog
Exercise Level:
Barking Level:
Good with Children:
Good with other pets:
Height: 56 - 66cm M | 56 - 64cm F
Weight: 55 - 77kg M | 40 - 64kg F
Life Expectancy: 10 - 12 Years

Looking for a Japanese Tosa?


The Japanese Tosa was originally bred as a fighting breed in Shikoku, Japan. He goes by the name Tosa Inu, Tosa Ken, or Japanese Mastiff. To create this massive dog breed, a native Japanese fighting dog breed was crossed with Bulldog and Mastiff breeds.

Tosa dogs work well as home guardians because of their protectiveness and devotion to their families. They are not ideal for families with young children because of their massive size. Experienced owners are a good fit for Tosas since these dogs have dominating and stubborn nature.

The Japanese Tosa dog breed is a low-shedding dog that has minimal grooming requirements. He is non-hypoallergenic, so he is not the best choice for dog lovers with allergies. He is a sturdy and healthy canine that can live up to 10–12 years.

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The Japanese Tosa dog breed is also known as Tosa-Inu, Tosa-Ken, and Japanese Mastiff. This large breed of fighting dog has been present in Japan for over 1,000 years, based on written records. His dog fighting history can be traced back to the 14th century.

The Japanese Tosa breed was first developed on the island of Shikoku, Japan, between 1868 and 1912. He was a descendant of a local breed that is called Kochi or Shikoku Inu dog in Japanese. This Japanese dog breed is quite famous on the island for his unrivalled skill in dogfighting.

The Kochi was then crossed with Western breeds, including Bulldogs, German Pointers, Great Danes, and Mastiffs. Some accounts also mentioned that St. Bernards and Bull Terriers were also used in creating the Japanese Tosa breed.

The reason behind using Mastiff and Bulldog breeds to develop the Tosa was to increase his strength and size. The selective breeding of this large fighting dog proved to be a success. It did not take long for the breed to become famous in Japanese dog fighting arenas.

The height of popularity of Tosa fighting dogs happened between 1924 and 1933. It was speculated that there were over 5,000 Japanese Tosa breeders within Japan.

However, during World War II, this large breed was nearly wiped out. The warfare brought famine to the country, and Japanese Tosa breeders have little means to look after these huge fighting dogs.

Fortunately, a small number of Japanese Tosas were hidden away on the island of Hokkaido. These dogs were able to survive the war and increase the nearly extinct Tosa breed population.

Although dogfighting is banned in modern-day Japan, illegal pit fights are still rampant in remote and rural regions. It’s because this illicit activity is highly lucrative. Winning dog fights is enough to fund an entire family's living expenses, as champion fighting dogs can be worth over six figures. Japanese Tosas are still used in illegal dog fights.

Today, this large dog breed is viewed by the Japanese as their country’s National Treasure. Japanese Tosas are revered as ‘Sumo Wrestlers of the Canine World’ and are treated with deep respect and honour in Japan.

In Japanese folklore, young samurais were made to study this tough fighting dog's method to win in arena battles as a part of their training. This way, they will understand the profound meaning of ‘courage in combat.’

Whilst the Japanese Tosa is a virtuous symbol in his native country, this large breed is banned in several countries. These include Norway, Australia, Turkey, Iceland, Malaysia, New Zealand, Cyprus, and Denmark.

In the United Kingdom, this fighting dog is regulated under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. He is banned from the entire council properties by Dublin City Council in Ireland, whilst he is regulated in Trinidad and Tobago. Some states in America also prohibit the ownership of Japanese Tosas.

Because of this, the Tosa dog breed is very rare outside Japan. He is yet to be recognised by the Kennel Club, but he is officially acknowledged as a guardian dog breed by the United Kennel Club in 1998. Then, in 2010, the American Kennel Club added the Tosa into the Working Breed Group.

Why is the Japanese Tosa banned?

The Japanese Tosa is banned in many countries as a dangerous dog breed due to his dog fighting history. He is definitely not a breed for just anyone, but with the right owner, the Tosa will thrive as a loyal and loving canine companion.

What does Tosa mean in Japanese?

The word Tosa in the breed’s name refers to the Tosa Province in Shikoku, Japan, where he was first created. Today, the province is currently called Kochi Prefecture.

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Appearance and Grooming

The Japanese Tosa is a large breed with a muscular and powerful body. The weight of male Japanese Tosas ranges from 54.5–77 kilos (120–170 pounds), and they can grow around 56–66 centimetres (22–26 inches) in height. Female Japanese Tosas weigh approximately 40–63.5 kilos (90–140 pounds) and measure around 56–63.5 centimetres (22–25 inches).

Note that both male and female Japanese Tosas from Japan are smaller in size than those bred in the West. They only weigh 30–40 kilos (66–88 pounds).

The average litter size of this large breed is approximately 6–8 puppies. Japanese Tosa puppies are slow to mature. They will reach adulthood once they are around 4 years of age.

The Japanese Tosa dog breed has a large, broad head with noticeable wrinkles. He has medium-sized drooping ears that are set high on his head. He has small brown eyes and a square-shaped muzzle.

The black, large nose of the Japanese Tosa breed is proportional to his muzzle. His jaws are powerful and his teeth are large. His neck is well-muscled and has a dewlap. He has large bones and huge feet. His long, thick tail is uncut and tapers to the tip.

The Tosa has a short, dense, and coarse coat. This large breed has a black mask on his face, and a distinctive small white spot found on his chest or feet. The most common coat colours of the Tosa are apricot, black, brindle, fawn, and red. Although the breed is a low-shedding dog, he is considered non-hypoallergenic.

The grooming needs of this large breed of dog are minimal. Thus, he is quite low-maintenance and only needs weekly brushing. Bathing him should be done once a month or when he starts to become too dirty or smelly.

Other grooming routines to keep track of are weekly nail trimming and ear cleaning. Aim to brush your Tosa dog's teeth twice or thrice a week, if not every day. Since the breed is prone to drooling, always keep a clean towel to wipe off his slobber.

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Temperament and Intelligence

The Tosa breed is a laid-back but alert dog with a very loyal and protective nature. His massive size and deep bark are enough to keep off intruders.

Thus, he makes an excellent guard dog provided that he is given proper training and socialisation. That said, he can get along with guests so long as a proper introduction is observed.

Because of the Tosa dog’s huge size and unyielding wilfulness, he is not suitable for first-time dog owners. He needs a very experienced handler that can maintain the position as the alpha of the pack. Or else, the Tosa will challenge his authority.

Never allow the dog to take the leader role as it can cause behavioural problems, including aggression.

The Japanese Tosa should start obedience training at an early age to teach him proper manners and keep his stubbornness in check. Since the breed is quite intelligent, he can learn commands quickly with the right approach. The Tosa needs constant training throughout his life to ensure that he stays a well-behaved and calm canine companion.

This large dog breed best fits as the only family pet as he may get into dog fights with other canines. His large physique and predatory behaviour make him incompatible with smaller animals, including cats.

The Japanese Tosa dog breed does well in families with older children. He is not the best choice for families with infants and toddlers as he may accidentally knock them over.

During dog-children interactions, adults should always be present to supervise. Children should be taught beforehand to treat their canine friends with respect and gentleness.

Are Japanese Tosa dangerous?

Japanese Tosas are not naturally dangerous; they can become dangerous dogs if they are poorly socialised or trained. Abusive ownership can also cause them to display aggression.

Note that viciousness towards humans is highly undesirable and uncharacteristic in the breed. For this reason, potential dog owners of the Tosa should assess themselves if they are committed enough to take care of this large breed.

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Nutrition and Feeding

The Japanese Tosa dog breed requires high-quality dog food particularly made for large canines. He is at risk of developing weak legs as he ages due to his large body. So, make sure that his meals have enough nutrients, especially calcium, to keep his bones strong and healthy.

The Japanese Tosa dog that is on a home-made natural diet can thrive well. If you choose this type of diet, mind that it should contain a balanced amount of vitamins and minerals. Preparing home-made dog food can be tricky. Thus, ask help from the vet to create a healthy and balanced meal for your dog.

As a large breed of dog, a fully grown Japanese Tosa's energy requirement is 2500–3000 kCal/day. 6- to 12-month-old Japanese Tosa puppies need 3/4 cup of food a day. Their meals should be divided into 3 smaller portions.

Once Japanese Tosa puppies reach one year of age, they should consume ½ cup of food each day, which must be split into 2 smaller meals. A fully grown Japanese Tosa also needs ½ cup of food every day.

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Health and Exercise

The average lifespan of the Japanese Tosa dog is around 10–12 years. Because of his history as a fighting breed, he is quite hardy and healthy. However, similar to most dog breeds, the Japanese Tosa is predisposed to a few health conditions, including:

Dog Bloat

Dog bloat is a fatal gastrointestinal issue that is common in large and giant dogs. It is characterised by a distended stomach. If your dog shows this symptom, he should be taken to the vet for treatment immediately. Delaying can cause the condition the worsen and become life-threatening.

Elbow Dysplasia and Hip Dysplasia

The Japanese Tosa breed is highly prone to this bone and joint problem, such as Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, because of his large size. This condition can be hereditary, but it is avoidable.

Just make sure to acquire your Japanese Tosa puppy from a reputable breeder whose dogs and litters are health-tested. Limiting your pup's exercise until he becomes a fully grown Japanese Tosa is also a good preventative measure.


This disease in the Japanese Tosa breed occurs when there is a sudden spike of potassium levels in the blood. One way to prevent this health problem is by keeping onions and garlic from your dog’s meals. If he is under medication or supplements, the vet may advise you to stop administering it.

The Japanese Tosa dog is a relatively active breed that requires an hour of daily exercise. He needs regular runs, walks, and playtime to keep him happy and content. He may even enjoy weight pulling. Lack of physical and mental stimulation is one of the factors that can make him aggressive.

Off-lead playtime on the back garden is fine so long as the fence is tall and secure. With that said, monitor your Tosa dog to avoid the risk of him escaping. When he is walking outdoors, he should be on a lead at all times.

Be observant of the dogs that he may encounter. Stir him away from canines who will try to challenge and dominate him.

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Cost of Ownership

Japanese Tosa puppies cost around £1, 400–£2,200. Large breeds require more dog food, so expect to spend approximately £690–£790 for your Tosa dog's food yearly.

Basic supplies such as a dog bed, toy, crate, bowls, and potty pads are essential as they help your Japanese Tosa pup to comfortably settle in his new home. The total cost for buying these items may range from £40–£490.

Vet care expenses for routine check-up sessions will require you to spend £30–£60. Your Japanese Tosa puppy will need vaccine shots to protect him from deadly diseases.

Initial vaccinations cost around £100–150, whilst fees for follow-up and annual boosters are £30–£60. Keep his coat flea- and tick-free by administering treatments, which has a price range of £5–£15. Do not forget worm treatments too, which cost around £10–£15.

Getting the Japanese Tosa insured will require you to pay around £28 monthly for a life cover. Note that since the breed is considered dangerous and banned in the UK, he is commonly excluded from the list of many pet insurance companies.

Japanese Tosa Breed Highlights

  • The Japanese Tosa breed is a calm yet alert and protective family pet.
  • He is an easy-to-groom, low-shedding dog, but not a hypoallergenic one.
  • He thrives better as the only pet in the household.
  • As he has a stubborn nature, the Tosa requires an experienced dog owner.
  • He is moderately active and does not require extensive exercise.

Are you sure the Japanese Tosa is the best breed for you? Take the Pet Breed Selector Quiz to find your perfect breed match.

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The information, including measurements, prices and other estimates, on this page is provided for general reference purposes only.