Koi Varieties - Ki Utsuri

Today’s ‘Koi Varieties’ blog is the first in a trio of blog posts about the Utsuri varieties – the Ki Utsuri, Hi Utsuri and Shiro Utsuri. Starting the trio is the oldest Utsuri variety – the Ki Utsuri.


Ki Utsuri koi from breeder Maruhiro

A Ki Utsuri (KEE oot-SOO-ree) koi is a black koi with a yellow pattern overlaid giving it a checkerboard or a bumblebee-like appearance. It was the very first Utsuri variety to be both created and established but is now the rarest of the 3 Utsuri types due to the difficulty breeding them compared to the Shiro and Hi Utsuri koi.



Utsurimono (oot-SOO-ree-MOH-noh), usually shortened to Utsuri, are a subvariety of koi who have a deep sumi (black) base colour with another, contrasting and bright accent colour overlaid on top of the black. The first Utsurimono had a yellow accent colour and were first bred in the late 19th Century. These first Utsuri koi were simply called Utsurimono koi which translates as ‘reflection’ and refers to the brightness of the accent pattern in contrast with the deep sumi colouration. Within time, however, the name was shortened to Utsuri and once the hi (red) version had been bred, the prefixes Ki or Hi (or later, Shiro) were added to indicate the Utsuri subvariety.



The Ki Utsuri koi were first bred in the 1890s from a pairing of a Magoi koi (a black wild carp) and a Ki Bekko koi (a lemon-yellow koi with a sumi pattern) to create the black koi with a ki (yellow) pattern. Unfortunately, the pairing resulted in very few good Ki Utsuri koi and pairings of two Ki Utsuri koi had even less success. It was not until 1921 when an Asagi (a grey-blue koi with reticulated scales and a red pattern, line bred from the Magoi carp) was bred to the Ki Bekko that the Ki Utsuri variety was successfully established with consistent, good quality results.

Gin Rin Ki Utsuri from breeder Aokiya

However, within a few years the Hi Utsuri, an Utsuri with red colouration, had also been developed and rapidly overtook the Ki Utsuri in popularity due to it being an easier variety to breed which resulted in more Hi Utsuri koi being available. This meant that the Ki Utsuri became incredibly rare for the next 7 decades until the 1990s when Maruyo and Otsuka Koi Farms both agreed to revitalise the variety before they went extinct. The two koi farms bred thousands of Ki Utsuri over the next few years and imported them all over the world, taking them to koi shows and reintroducing them to the hobby. Their hard work has paid off and the Ki Utsuri is familiar to many koi keepers and certainly far from extinct!





Pongoi (Best Quality) Ki Utsuri Koi


Firstly, the foundation of all three types of Utsuri is the sumi base colouration and it is very important that this be as close to perfection as possible. Firstly, the colour itself should be a deep, dark black with a consistent shade all over the body. There should be no imperfections or differences in the shade within each visible section of sumi or across different sumi sections. The kiwa (edges) of the sumi should be crisp and clean with no bleeding of the colour. Since the sumi is such an eye-catching colour against the contrast of the ki, the kiwa should be perfect to give a clear definition of where the sumi ends and the ki begins. Finally, there should be no individual scales with sumi in amongst a section of ki or vice versa as these are seen as imperfections for this variety of koi.


Kin Ki Utsuri koi from breeder Yamazaki (this is the metallic version of the Ki Utsuri)

In addition to this, the actual pattern of the sumi should also be judged. Firstly, the sumi should be balanced across the body of the fish, from the head to the tail of the koi and from right to left. An Utsuri with sumi only on the left-hand side of the body, for example, would be a very poor Utsuri koi. In addition, the sumi should extend below the lateral line of the fish and wrap all the way around the body of the fish rather than just being visible on the top of the body.


On the head, there should at least be some sumi pattern, but the best Utsuri koi will have a V-shaped or lightning shaped pattern from their mouth to the top of their head which is called a menware (MEHN-war-REY) pattern. Also, the fins should display a motoguro (MOH-toe-GOO-row) pattern which is where the base of the fins display a sumi colouration while the tips of the fins have a different colouration, in the case of a Ki Utsuri, this other colour should be the ki.


As with the sumi, the ki colour should be a clean and consistent colour with the same shade of yellow over the whole body. The colour itself should be as bright as possible and contrast dramatically with the sumi especially at the crisp and clean kiwa of the ki. Ideally, the colour should be a bright sunshine yellow with very little red tinge however a more orange colour is acceptable in the Gin Rin version of the Ki Utsuri. Overall, each colour should aim to cover around 50% of the body of the koi with a maximum of 60% coverage in one colour so that one colour is not overpowering the other.



Ki Utsuri koi are a fantastic fish to add to your collection! Their bright yellow colour is very eye-catching but also quite different to many other varieties of koi and is one of the more rare colours in the koi keeping hobby making this fish stand out in any pond.



Click here to view our currently available Ki Utsuri koi:



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