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Developing The Sanke

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  • Developing The Sanke

    I came across an old interview of Isematsu Takano, who was breeding koi in Niigata in 1917 at the age of 19. He descibed the initial development of the Sanke. A breeder named Heitaro Sato is said to have first developed Sanke, but it was not intentional. In fact, he was embarassed by them as indicating that his Kohaku had inferior blood. So, the Sanke were not simply culled, but buried. Mokubei Sato saw some and liked them. He insisted on buying the parents, which he did for 60 yen. Hethen sold the parents to Gunnokichi Aoki for 70 yen.

    These parent fish looked like Kohaku, but threw Sanshoku. But, the sumi was not the sumi of today. It was greenish blue. Takano described them as having markings like a Goshiki: "His Taisho Sanshoku had blue markings which were more beautiful than today's Taisho Sanshoku. They were like candles with flower patterns." Then a male parent died, and as was the custom of the time, the remaining parents were deemed incapable of producing anything worthwhile. They were sold to Eizaburo Hoshino for 210 yen.

    Surprisingly to breeders of the day, Hoshino added not another Kohaku to the parent group, but a Shiro Bekko. His koi became popular and the modern Sanke line was born.

    I've found this slice of history interesting, and wanted to share it. It tells something about how preconceptions limit possibilities, and different views of beauty. Today Shiro Bekko is a cull from Sanke breeding, but truly was a parent of Sanke. But, it was not a cross of Shiro Bekko with any Kohaku. She was a Kohaku that threw greenish blue flower patterns among her young. It also lets us know that we have missed out on something. Takano, who was 88 years old when interviewed, says introducing Shiro Bekko degraded the original Sanshoku and that the greenish blue sumi of the original has never re-appeared. Perhaps this wishing for the beauty forever lost is just an old man's wish for what never really was. But, perhaps not. It may have been superior in its unique way. Just not what we think of as Sanke today. If only the millions of culls could be grown to see what could be that one rare new variety, but it cannot be.
  • #2

    Very interesting Mike, maybe our koi breeders and experts can add some more information about the "greenish blue" sumi

    Best Regards,

    Alex Gibbs


    • #3


      That'd be nice. I'm curious whether Sanke breeders ever see some throwbacks to that old maternal line type of sumi. But, in young fish it might look like bad sumi or a bad Goshiki/Goromo and get culled.


      • #4


        Hi Mike,

        Yes, Sanke spawns contain everything,... except Sankes. By this I mean they are mostly throwbacks and every color under the rainbow - including the greenish sumi you mention, that sumi though is more like the old style Showa sumi, and sits on the Koi's body in the same fashion. There are very few true Sankes in a group of 200,000 fry.

        Best Wishes,

        Brady Brandwood


        • #5

          Healthy Culls!

          Question: When breeding Kohaku are the offspring typically white, red and red & white?

          I'm guessing they are in the oldest lines, with all shades of red trending toward yellowish orange; and all shades of white trending toward yellowish tones. But, rarely any other colors unless Sanke is in the bloodline, as with some of the Momotaro line, then I'm suspecting a high percentage of kawari. (How high, I'm not able to even guess.) And, I'd guess the rate of saleable Kohaku declines further if from a line crossed back to magoi within 4-5 generations.

          I am also suspecting that the older lines of Sanke were not so problematical, despite being less genetically refined compared to Kohaku, but that the re-introduction of magoi genes to obtain size and conformation has greatly reduced the success rate.

          If I'm basically right, then it highlights the sacrifice of quick volume sales to create the quality jumbo koi of today.


          • #6



            This is something i am hoping to be able to find out more about in the summer. I have no desire to be a breeder but have the utmost respect for the amount of effort that goes into producing high class koi and would love to learn more.

            There was an awful lot of culling of larger fish being undertaken in November at Momotaro, when you consider the number of 'instant' rejects that there must have been the mind boggles.

            When you see some of the truly amazing koi that are there, and at shows etc, they really are all one in many millions koi.
            Mark Gardner


            • #7

              One In A Million

              Yep. But from what I've read of Momotaro, I'd take some of their culls. ... Goodness, a "little" 30" kohaku is O.K. by my standards.


              • #8

                kohaku babies


                re: your question on kohaku babies. when they are nose hair size they are yellow. they get up around an inch or so and they are varying shades

                of orange. at this stage you can make the all white ones go away. the all orange ones may suprise you by forming a pattern at a later date. on the last cull, you'll be looking for some neat patterns you saw earlier and they've changed and are not the same! now you have a select few that have white noses and good patterns and then you can select from them , those which show quality. whew! don't leave a whole lot!
                Dick Benbow


                • #9

                  kohaku genes

                  Dick: The kohaku fry you describe, were they from an old line of kohaku or one of the newer lines with magoi blood recently bred in?


                  • #10

                    Off post a little, but the photo below shows a kohaku cull with green sumi (not sure if it shows in the photo too well?).

                    Interesting point, is that around 10% of fry from this spawning showed a little sumi somewhere. The parents were from a well know breeder and I have found shimmies emerging on kohaku purchased from this breeder in the past. :?: umm.



                    • #11

                      kohaku blood line


                      Re: your question about blood line of the kohaku babies.

                      Daddy was hasegawa, mommy was from Ogata! I think from my exposure to the trade that most of the major players swap new lines of blood in ALL THE TIME so it's hard to say this is Manzo or that is such and such. The reason I used a hasegawa male was I saw were Sakai -isawa picked one up to cross in with thiers. there are differences in the basic dominant bloodlines that you can get an idea of what's happening. for example, sensuke bloodline the color crosses anywhere across an individual scale where it wants as opposed to some other bloodlines that fill the entire scale with color. once you get used to what your couple can do with three- 4 yrs experience, it helps to pick out sooner those candidates that will make it. in raising these things food and space is vital so each year you benefit from the learning curve.
                      Dick Benbow


                      • #12

                        Green Sumi

                        Maurice: That's neat. Gives an idea of what the old guy might have meant. It is a bit like the green on a variety of tiger barb sold for aquaria in U.S. under a lot of different names, except not as strong and not irridescent. I can imagine that it might make for an interesting koi if deeper in tone against shiro.

                        Dick: I don't believe Hasegawa has introduced the newer magoi blood kohaku to his line, but I expect Ogata would have. No personal knowledge on either front. Do you get many offspring that show odd colors, or just the white & orangey colors like you descibe?


                        • #13

                          I don't get any odd colored babies. they all seem to be red and white with nothing else. some go all white and they get culled. nothing exciting. My understanding is that in koi ( goldfish another genetic matter) that about the tenth generation to the same color variety and it works out all the odd balls that are dissimilar.
                          Dick Benbow


                          • #14

                            Since no odd colored fry, I'd expect the parent fish are not from a strain recently bred back to magoi. That surprises me some, since there is such a big emphasis on size. This does not directly relate to the theme of this thread, so I'll start another.


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