The "True" Story of the Fur Bearing Koi

Roy F. Dvorak


Many years ago, about the time that George Washington was crossing the Delaware river, there lived the master nishikigoi Koi breeder in the mountains near Kumonryu Japan. He had a very long name that no one could remember or even pronounce. The children of the mountain called him Koo Haku for the bright orange spot that he had on his forehead. The orange spot was a birthmark. When he was born, he was not breathing. He was the first born son, and his father was desperate to have a son. Upon seeing that he was not breathing, the father grabbed the first thing he saw, which was a large Koi, and struck the son on the forehead in an attempt to get him to breath. The effort was successful, but the impact of the fish left a permanent orange mark on the boy who was destined to become a legend.


Koo grew up to be a very intelligent and very knowledgeable about fish and especially Koi. He invented many things for both people and Koi. He designed the first Koi pond out of a rice paddy, with a down flow filter of water lilies, where he raised beautiful Koi. But Koo went one step further in raising Koi, he also ate them. For him Koi was a delicacy, but for the people of the Bekko village, this was heresy - one did not eat the beautiful fish. Because of his intelligence, Koo Haku also thumbed his nose at the people of the village and the century old customs. One year at the annual Show Sanke, where the people of the Bekko village give thanks for their health, the Koi, and what the mountains provide for living, Koo Haku refused to participate in the events. This was the "fin that sunk the golden fish". The elders of the Bekko village expelled Koo Haku and told him never come back.

Koo was resourceful and managed to steal some Koi eggs and water lily seeds and coffee seeds before he left the village and Japan. He boarded a boat and sailed to the new country, America. George Washington had crossed the Delaware by this time but exactly when and where Koo landed on the North American continent is still a mystery and still up for discussion in the Koi trade journals. His Koi eggs survived but the boat trip took its toll on Koo through the loss of his hair. Koo traveled east across this new land in an attempt to find a home similar to his old Bekko village in Japan. He finally came upon the Rocky Mountains and came to find a place in the mountains that was identical to his old Bekko village.

His first task was to build a house and then build a pond where the eggs could hatch and grow into the beautiful Koi that he knew in Japan. With his great intelligence, Koo was successful at every task that he started. He planted the water lily seeds and cultivated the eggs and within a few weeks, Koo had Koi. He also planted the coffee seeds and grew many, many coffee trees. But he had a problem and that was a cold head from his hair loss. The rabbit furs were not sufficient to keep his head warm in the winter. Late one spring, Koo traveled many miles south with many pounds of coffee beans to Santa Fe, New Mexico where he traded the coffee for hair tonic with every barber in the Santa Fe area. The Spanish people, and a few fur traders from back east, loved the coffee since it did not keep them awake at night, and Koo was able to obtain all the hair tonic he wished. It was here that Koo Haku met with the fur trader Zak Ura.

{} After spending a week in Santa Fe, Koo traveled north to his ponds and coffee trees into what is now the mountains of Colorado. When he got back, Koo studied all of the ingredients of the hair tonics and was able to mix some together and with his knowledge of the native plants, he created his own hair tonic. He applied the tonic to his head and his hair began to grow. By the fall of the year, Koo had a full head of hair to keep his head warm during the winter. Throughout the winter, Koo processed his coffee that everyone in Santa Fe liked, and continued to raise his Koi that were now as long as his arm and growing fast and multiplying.

The following spring, Koo headed back to Santa Fe with his coffee beans and this time with some dried Koi to trade for hair tonic. On the way to Santa Fe he found his old acquaintance Zak Ura who had gotten lost hunting. When Koo arrived in Santa Fe, he was given a hero’s welcome since he had gotten Zak Ura. The people were amazed to see Koo with a full head of hair. He traded the coffee beans for his hair tonic. The people of Santa Fe wanted to know what he called the coffee since everyone enjoyed it. In a display of disdain for his old Bakke village and the Show Sanke, he called it "Sanke" coffee. The person who asked the question misinterpreted Koo’s response and told the town that Koo brought more Sanka coffee (so the story goes according to a Mr. Valdez).

{} With supplies in hand, Koo headed back north to his ponds and coffee trees. When he arrived back, he immediately proceeded to make his special hair tonic. Only this time, he made enough so that he would not have to travel back to Santa Fe the following spring. He made many gallons of his hair tonic. He stored the hair tonic in the shed across the Koi pond. While walking across the foot bridge, the weight of Koo and the hair tonic was too much for the small foot bridge. A section of the bridge collapsed, dumping Koo Haku and the hair tonic into his Koi pond. He thought little of this loss and proceeded to fix the bridge and neglected to rescue the hair tonic that was leaking into his pond. He enjoyed the summer raising and eating his Koi and growing his coffee. Late one summer day, Koo went to get a nice Koi for dinner and in his excitement he yelled "aka - muji" so loud that it was heard in the valley to the east. His Koi had started growing hair. Within a few weeks, Koo had fur bearing Koi instead of the brightly colored orange and white and red and blue.

Koo Haku became very disgusted with the fur bearing Koi and released them into the stream. He did keep a few Koi that were not "infected" with the hair tonic. No one knows what happened to Koo Haku. Rumor has it that he went into genetics and tried to cross breed antelopes and jack rabbits, but that is another story. Back in his native Japan, the people of Bakke village realized many years after expelling him, what a great person they lost so they named a Koi after him - kohaku (so the story goes). In the Rocky Mountains, if you are lucky, you may see one of the ancestors of Koo’s fur bearing Koi.

Most of the fur bearing Koi have migrated to the colder waters of Canada and the high mountain streams where their fur keeps them warm in the cold winter months. They avoid the warm waters of the southern climates since the fur makes them "sweat" too much.

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