The Japanese Tosa Dog Breed and Why They Are Banned

Updated on August 9, 2019
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He also trains dogs, mostly large breeds and those that suffer from aggression problems.

The Japanese Tosa is among the breeds of dog unfairly suffering from BSL (breed specific legislation) and is banned in places like England, Ireland, Australia, and many other countries. Did it make the Dangerous Dog list by killing and attacking other dogs? No. This great dog just has a history.

An adult Japanese Tosa sleeping.
An adult Japanese Tosa sleeping. | Source

History of the Tosa Dog

The Japanese in the Tosa region (on the island of Shikoku) had a medium-sized dog that they wanted to develop into a sumo-type wrestler. About 150 years ago, they started crossing their local breed with Mastiffs, St. Bernards, Great Danes, and Bull Terriers.

The dog that they produced was large and beautiful. Before World War II, there were thousands of Tosa breeders in Japan.

The dogfighters in Japan did not want a normal type of fighting dog. They wanted a dog that would fight in a sumo-style, wrestling, and they developed this breed for that purpose.

The dogs are large, thick, and strong—just like what every sumo wrestler wants to be.

Even a Tosa puppy has the build to handle himself in a Sumo match.
Even a Tosa puppy has the build to handle himself in a Sumo match. | Source

What Are Tosa Like?

In Japan, Tosas only weigh between 35 and 60 kilograms, while outside of Japan, breeders have selected them so that they weigh up to about 100 kilograms. They have short coats, reddish, blocky heads, and a thick, muscular neck. Although they do not drool as much as some big dogs, they do drool.

The Tosa is a sensitive and quiet dog. They are usually quiet, but when they do bark, it is impressive, and they make good guard dogs because of their size and appearance.

Like many big or giant dogs, they only live about 10 years.

The Tosa was developed for sumo type wrestling.
The Tosa was developed for sumo type wrestling. | Source

Are Tosa Expensive?

Any time you consider getting a large dog, of course, the expenses will be that much more. Breeders spend a lot to produce the puppies and will charge more than they do for tiny dogs. When you do get your dog home he will eat more, will require a strong outdoor kennel or good fencing around your yard, and if he does have any health problems (like hip dysplasia or bloat) the expenses will be high.

Tosa is a rare breed and will be expensive to purchase and maintain. If you are not able to cover these expenses then this is not a good dog to search for.


Finding and Training a Tosa

If you are interested in finding and owning one of these dogs, Tosa breeders usually recommend they only be purchased by a person with experience handling dogs. I think this is mostly due to their weight and strength. If a small dog does not behave, you can probably lift it up into your arms and avoid problems. This is not possible with a Tosa.

There are a lot of other things you need to think about before searching for a Tosa puppy. The first thing to find out is if the Tosa is banned where you live. (They are banned in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and many other countries.) Even if the Tosa is legal in your country, be sure to find out if your landlord will even let you have a dog like this. If you do not look into this thoroughly, you may end up losing your home.

If you are successful, you need to socialize your dog when still a puppy. Reinforce the bite inhibition lessons he learned from his mother. Start obedience training early when your dog is still young and continue lessons to reinforce your position with your Tosa.

The Japanese Tosa should be exercised daily but they are not a dog that should be taken to a dog park. If your Tosa is attacked by another dog they are difficult to control, and since they have such a high pain tolerance they usually have no trouble fighting other dogs.

If your Tosa is attacked and defends himself, however, he will most likely be blamed and put on a dangerous dog list or euthanized by local animal control.

Below is a startling display of what can happen when you allow two Tosa to wrestle outside of the ring.

Does the dog possess Buddha spirit? Mu.
Does the dog possess Buddha spirit? Mu. | Source

Do some people still use these dogs for fighting? Yes. Does that mean all these dogs are bad and should be kept out of so many countries? No. If you want a Japanese Tosa, no one should stop you.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Dr Mark

Should the Tosa be banned?

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    • profile image

      Maynard G Krebs 

      6 weeks ago

      I saw a Tosa fight in South Korea in the 70's, back then the only fought TO THE DEATH. My friend owned the Tosa, I'm 6ft 5in tall and this dog absolutely LOVED ME!, he had to be 160 lbs!, he could easily put both paws on my shoulders and hug me. I watched him fight ONCE, and that scared me, i never went near him again. He absolutely tore the other dog to shreds in about 4 minutes. They had to use high-pressure hoses and fire to stop him, even after the other dog was dead. I never want to see that again ........EVER.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      7 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      The "one bad apple" syndrome. If one Tosa has a bad owner, they will all be blamed.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 

      7 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      Nice, Dr Mark. I've seen these magnificent creatures. It does make me sad that certain breeds do get banned simply because some owners are not responsible... or downright mean. Thanks for sharing.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      7 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Not much of a fight! It was like two Newfies, just having fun and pushing each other around.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Yes I did watch the video. Reminded me of two dogs having a good time together. My Newfs play like this with just a little less mouthing.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      7 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Thanks Suhail! As I mentioned to Nettlemere, I am not really looking for one, but I am really disappointed that this great dog is on the Dangerous Dog list for so many countries.

      Thank you for stopping by.

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      7 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Tosa Inus, Fila Brasilieros, Boerbols, Cane Corsos, Pressa Canarios, Bully Kuttas, Kangals, dogo Argentinos - some very impressive and massive dog breeds that their humans should really be proud of keeping.

      Since I am a fan of livestock guardian dogs (LGDs), I do have a tendency to read a lot about large dog breeds.

      I am of the staunch belief that Tosa Inus and other breeds should not be subjected to BSL.

      Nice hub. Voted up!

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      7 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Thanks for the vote, torrilyn. I appreciate you taking the time to come by and comment.

      Nettlemere, I would not want either since I have too many people come into my yard. They do look imposing, don't they?

    • Nettlemere profile image


      7 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Those are really powerful dogs! I wouldn't want to be in charge of one I have to admit, but they are handsome.

    • wetnosedogs profile image


      7 years ago from Alabama

      Dr. Mark,

      Okay, I know dogs fight like that, but were those dogs fighting or roughhouse playing - like my daughter's boxers? Anyway, interesting video and that is a spectacular looking dog.

      Yes, I am done with the 10/10 challenge. Glad you stop by to read my hubs, even if you don't comment all the time. What you do have to say is always interesting, though.

    • torrilynn profile image


      7 years ago

      DrMark1961, i never knew that these dogs were bred to wrestle. i find that strange and yet very interesting. i've never even heard of the japanese tosa dog until i came across your hub. they look strong and very powerful. thanks for writing this article. thanks and voted up.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      7 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Yes, I put that video on there just to show what a wrestling breed is like. A lot of dogs fight like that.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting wetnosedogs. Did you finish your 10/10 challenge? I tried to stop by and read all of your hubs but I am not as good about leaving comments (as you are!).

    • wetnosedogs profile image


      7 years ago from Alabama

      No, the Tosa shouldn't be banned.

      The video was interesting and I was expecting more cause of your comment on the bottom of it. But it just reminded me of when my daughter's boxers play - rough housing and no one getting hurt.

      awesome dog.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      7 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Thanks. Did you see the video? They do look powerful.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I enjoy reading about breeds of dogs I've never heard of. Thanks for writing this. The Japanese Tosa looks like very powerful dog. They are very nice looking.


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