Mystery Dog of Japan.
Scientific name: Canis lupus hodophilax, given by C. J. Temminck in 1839.
Variant names: Hondo wolf, Honshu wolf, Japanese wolf, Nihon okami.
Physical description: Like the gray wolf but smaller. Length, 2 feet 9 inches. Ash-gray or beige color. Short ears. Shoulder height, 14 inches. Short legs. Black tail tip.
Distribution: Nara Prefecture and the Chichibu-Tama National Park in Saitama Prefecture, Honshu, Japan.
Significant sightings: On October 14, 1996, Hiroshi Yagi took nineteen photographs of a specimen at close range in the Chichibu District. High school principal Satoshi Nishida snapped ten photos of a female wolf on July 8, 1997, in central Kyushu.
Present status: The Japanese wolf was the smallest known wolf. It disappeared as Japan's deer population, its traditional prey, dwindled in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, perhaps aided by an epidemic of canine distemper. The last confirmed specimen of Japanese wolf was killed near Washikaguchi, Nara Prefecture, in January 1905. In 1970, a Dr. Yoshinori classed it as a distinct species, but this identification has not been accepted. PP'ossible explanations:
(1) Feral Domestic dogs (Canis familiaris).
(2) Descendants of pre-1905 Japanese wolf (Canis lupus hodophilax) x domestic dog hybrids. The wolf probably figured in the creation of such Japanese breeds as the shikoku, kai, and the shiba inu.
Sources: Y. Imaizumi, "Systematic Status of the Extinct Japanese Wolf, Canis hodophilax," Journal ofthe Mammalogical Society of Japan 5 (1970): 62-66; "A Japanese Wolf Has Survived?" Sankei Shimbun, January 7, 1997; Karl Shuker, "Shame about the Shamanu," Fortean Times, no. 107 (February 1998): 15.
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