Inouomono (Dog Shooting)

by Edward McEwen
with permission of the Journal of the Society of Archer-Antiquaries
Vol. 42, 2000 p. 4

Copyright Reserved


The illustration above has been taken from a triptych depicting one of the sporting competitions of old Japan, inuoumono. It is from an Ukio-e woodblock print by Chikanobu, dated circa 1890. In this form of horse archery, which was codified during the Muromachi period (1333-1568), a set number of archers with blunt tipped arrows shot at (usually) white dogs.

Two circles of rope, one within the other were laid down. The inner circle was laid with sand of one colour and the outer ring formed by the rope was laid with sand of a different colour. This outer ring was for the waiting archers. At a given signal an archer entered the inner circle and broke into a gallop (the ring must have been of considerable size to allow this). A dog was then released and the archer tried to hit it. Points were allowed according to where the dog was hit.

This sport can only have been practised by wealthy samurai and perhaps even then only at special festivals or demonstrations for there were (typically) one hundred and fifty dogs released in ten rounds with fifteen dogs to each round. Presumably, because of the blunted arrows, the intention was not to kill the dogs but even with light bows the dogs must have suffered. Some parts of a dog's anatomy were a forbidden target but even with the consummate skill of a devoted Japanese archer there must have been severe wounding at times and even the occasional fatality. The sport had a number of periods of popularity and even as late as the Meiji Period (1868-1912) it was still being practised for it is recorded that in 1879 Ulysses S. Grant, former President of the U.S.A., in the company of the then Emperor of Japan, on the 25th of August attended a demonstration of inuoumono.

Inuoumono is sometimes recorded as Inu ou mono zu by§bu. There is a beautiful screen in the Tokyo National Museum which depicts this sport and its spectators in colour on a gold background. Some details can be seen in Japan-A History in Art, by Bradley Smith, 1964, pp. 161-3. Copyright in Japan by Gemini, Inc.

Up-dated 09 January, 2001