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Koi Varieties - Hi Utsuri

To continue our trio on the three Utsuri varieties of koi, the Ki Utsuri, Hi Utsuri and Shiro Utsuri, today we are looking at the Hi Utsuri koi which is the version of Utsuri with a red accent colour. To read about the other varieties in the Utsuri trio, have a look here:

Hi Utsuri koi from breeder Marusei

Hi Utsuri (hee OOT-soo-REE) koi are a black koi with bright, vibrant red patterns over the body, head, and fins of the fish. They are another koi in the subvariety Utsurimono, often shorten to Utsuri, which covers three varieties of black koi, each with a different accent colour.

The Hi Utsuri was first bred in the late 1910s as a result of breeding a Ki Utsuri (a black koi with yellow accent patterns) and a Kohaku (a white koi with red patterns). This pairing is often used to breed Showa koi (a black fish with red and white markings) which are one of the most popular koi in the hobby and are constantly in high demand. One of the most commonly seen colour patterns in the fry of this pairing is a black fish with only red markings, that is, a Showa koi with no white pattern. These fry would usually be removed as undesirables but in this particular case, the farmer decided to keep them, grow them on and breed them in the hope of creating a new variety.

So, over the next few years, the farmer continued to breed these black and red koi and, in 1924, they were first taken to a koi show in Japan where people were very taken with this new variety. Due to their similarity with the Ki Utsuri which was another new (at the time) koi variety, these red and black fish were named Hi Utsuri, a name which emphasises the strong distinction and contrast between the hi (red) and the sumi (black).

Within only a few years, the popularity and demand for these new Hi Utsuri koi had risen spectacularly and, for a short period of time in the late 1920s, the Hi Utsuri were the most desired and valuable koi variety in Japan, even more so than the Gosanke varieties. Even almost 100 years later, while the demand has decreased a little and been replaced by many other, newer, and more exciting varieties over the years, Hi Utsuri remain a very popular koi. Unfortunately, the main way of breeding Hi Utsuri koi is still the same way as it was 100 years ago, that is as a by-product of Showa breeding, meaning that the numbers of this variety are quite low with no direct way of breeding good quality koi easily.

Hi Utsuri koi from breeder Hirasawa

Pongoi (Best Quality) Hi Utsuri Koi

In general, because of their similarities, the Utsuri varieties are judged the same regardless of which Utsuri type the fish actually is. Firstly, the sumi and the accent colour, in this case, the hi, are judged. Each colour should be a consistent, strong colour over the whole body of the koi with no shade differences or imperfections within the colours such as a single scale of the other colour. The sumi should be a deep, dark jet black while the hi should be a vibrant, fiery red with the two colours providing a distinct contrast. Often, a lighter red, more orange-red is acceptable in this variety as long as the shade is consistent. Between the 2 colours, the kiwa (edges) should be as crisp and clean as possible with a distinct border between the hi and the sumi and no bleeding of colours over the kiwa.

With regards to the actual pattern and positions, each colour should cover between 40% and 60% of the body of the koi with 50% of each being ideal. Any more than 60% or less than 40% of either colour will result in the koi having one colour overpower the other which is not ideal for this variety. As well as these overall distributions, the colours should look balanced over the whole fish, from head to tail and from left to right. So, if you had a Hi Utsuri that had the right side with only hi and the left side with only sumi, while it might look interesting and be appealing to many koi keepers, it wouldn’t actually score very high at shows or be considered a Pongoi Hi Utsuri. This is one of many examples where the judging is very subjective, the nicest koi to you may not always be the most expensive, show-winning koi in the pond!

Kin Hi Utsuri from breeder Maruhiro (this is the metallic version of the Hi Utsuri)

Finally, in addition to the distribution of the two colours, the positions of the sumi pattern should be considered. Since the sumi is the base colour of the koi, it should clearly extend past the lateral line of the fish and appear to ‘wrap’ all of the way around the body of the koi. There should also be a sumi presence on the head, ideally in the shape of a ‘V’ or a lightning strike running from the mouth of the koi to the top of the head which is called a menware pattern. Lastly, the fins of the koi should have a sumi colouration at the base of the fins with a hi colouration on the tips of the fins in a pattern called motoguro.

Of course, these are a lot of guidelines for a koi variety and a fish that satisfies every one of these requirements is a very rare and very valuable fish indeed! Certainly, when judging a Hi Utsuri, or many other types of koi, you should consider which of these requirements you would definitely want to be perfect, and which you would be willing to budge on. Many of the Pongoi Utsuri koi are close to perfection in some of the requirements and are lacking in others leaving the judging to be quite subjective and down to personal choice!

Hi Utsuri are a truly stunning fish with the hi and sumi providing a dramatic contrast that will always draw the eye in any pond. While they may be the least numerous Utsuri variety, they are nevertheless a beautiful fish that is well worth your time considering.

For our current stock of Hi Utsuri koi, click here:

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