Language of Koi | Shiro Utsuri

Published on August 13, 2009

Here is an impressive group of Shiro Utsuri. Shiro Utsuri are black and white koi. The black appears as bands around the body. Black on some portion of the head and motoguro on pectoral fins is desirable.
Here is an impressive group of Shiro Utsuri. Shiro Utsuri are black and white koi. The black appears as bands around the body. Black on some portion of the head and motoguro on pectoral fins is desirable.

They say that you start with Kohaku and end with Kohaku. While this may be true to some, Shiro Utsuri koi is the other two-color species that many koi keepers are starting to place in their top lists. Grand Champions traditionally have been selected from the Gosanke class – Kohaku, Sanke and Showa; now Shiro Utsuri are strong contenders for this prestigest award.

Good Shiro Utsuri are hard to find. They are one of my favorite varieties because of the changes that happen to them over time. They are more difficult than Kohaku in the respect that Kohaku have all their color generally up at a young age, Shiro Utsuri take many years to develop, and sometimes the changes are drastic. This is why they are a great type to encourage your customers to have in their pond.

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When selecting a Shiro Utsuri, it is important to keep in mind that it is a black-based koi. This means that the sumi will generally rise up on the koi in areas you may or may not want it. I generally do not recommend a Shiro Utsuri with a lot of sumi at a young age, because as it grows and matures the sumi generally will increase and to may become too much and be too dark. For the sumi that is up, look for “inky” black somewhere in the sumi. If it is charcoal or grey and there is no jet black in it, I usually pass on it.

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 I usually look for a young Shiro Utsuri (2 to 3 years old) that is mostly white and has black in the eyes or base of fins. Call me crazy, but this is my trick on selecting them after speaking with a well-known breeder about them. Lots of our customers have been very successful at koi shows picking their Shiro Utsuri this way.

I will say, in Japan in October, all the pretty patterned Shiro Utsuri sell right away, the understated ones, the ones you want are there for the taking, at a good price. This is only one aspect of selecting good Shiro Utsuri.

Skin, is another thing to look for in good Shiro Utsuri. The skin should be bright white, the head is nice if it has no yellowing, but can be yellow if the koi is female. Female Shiro Utsuri will usually whiten up if they have a yellow head when young; males seem to develop yellow.

If the skin has no luster, the koi will look flat.

sumi koi
Here is the same koi taken two years apart. Notice the sumi has come up and the body conformation has greatly improved.

In a good Shiro Utsuri, the sumi will stand over the shiroji (white skin) and give more of a 3D effect. This you cannot tell from pictures, you have to see the koi in person to see this.

As with all koi, look for good body conformation and bone structure, and with a little bit of luck, and great water quality, you can develop a great Shiro Utsuri.

Side Note – Hi Utsuri and Ki Utsuri

What kind of customers do you have? If you have a collector or someone who is not interested in entering koi shows, the Hi Utsuri has become very popular. The Hi Utsuri pattern looks like a red koi with bands of black. One more Utsuri is the Ki Utsuri.

This koi is a little harder to find. It is a black and yellow koi. Traditionally neither of these koi when at koi shows, but are impressive to have in a pond.

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