AKC Dog Breeds: Kai Ken

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Foundation Stock Service® Breed
Height: 17-22 inches   Weight: 25-55 pounds  Color: brindle

The Kai Ken, also called the Tora Inu or Tiger Dog, is a breed of dog that hails from Japan where it is a national treasure and has been bred for centuries. It is an extremely rare dog even in its native land and is related to the Spitz dog type. The Kai was wild and was living in the mountains in the province of Kai. The Province of Kai is located on an island which is called Honshu which is now known as the Prefecture of Yaminashi. The Kai were geographically isolated by mountains and is therefore believed to be the purest of all Japanese breeds. Traditional writings describe the Kai as a natural hunter and Kai's have been known to swim and climb trees in pursuit of game. They were first used by the hunters for tracking deer and wild boars. The Kai was recognized in 1934 by the Japanese Kennel Club. Because of the language barrier there is very limited information on the Kai dog.  The Kai was designated a "Natural Treasure" in Japan in 1934 and is protected by law. It is believed that the first Kai's were brought to the United States in the 1950's.

General Appearance
The Kai Ken is a medium sized dog with a wedge shaped head and prick ears. Males are typically 18 to 22 inches at the shoulder, while the females are slightly smaller, 17 to 20 inches at the shoulder. The tail may be curled over the back, or carried in a sickle position. Limbs should be strong and hocks should be well developed reflecting the dogs’ history of mountain life. The coat is of harsh texture, medium length, and black or brindle in color. Puppies are born black and fuzzy and develop their brindle markings as they grow and will continue to brindle up to 5 years. Its coat could be red or black at the "background". The red is the Aka-tora, the black is the Kuro-tora and between them, the Chu-tora. There was originally two types of Kai's. There are two great foundation studs given credit for these distinct characteristics found in today's Kai dogs. KAIKURO willed the "shishi-inu-gata" type which is a thicker, stockier dog with a more bear type face. DAIRO famed for his deer hunting, is credited for the thinner longer bodies with foxier faces called the "shika-inu-gata" type. Each dog gave strength, speed, agility and quick thinking to its descendants as evidenced in the breed today. Currently in Japan, they do not distinguish the two types anymore and no one type is preferred over the other.

The Kai is highly intelligent and learns quickly. They seem to learn as fast as the other Japanese breeds if not faster. They are not as independent and are more willing to please their companions. In Japan the Kai is regarded very highly by the Japanese people. The Japanese describe the Kai as a trustworthy guardian and extremely devoted to his master. The Japanese have high respect and admiration for this breed. They say a Kai will lay down its life to protect its master. The Kai breed is extremely devoted, affectionate, and loyal. The Kai is reserved with strangers and is a trustworthy guardian. They do will with children and dogs they have been raised with. Due to their high prey drive they are not recommended for homes with non-canine pets. They typically form a close attachment to one family member. They are naturally calm, quiet, and clean indoors. Kai's are not recommended for first time or inexperienced dog owners. The Kai is exceedingly dominant and headstrong. Early, ongoing, and intense socialization and obedience is an absolute must. They will resent and not respond to harsh or heavy-handed methods. Training must be done with firmness, fairness, patience, and consistency.


Kais are very clean and have very little doggie odor. Kai's require weekly brushing to keep the coat free of matting. Bathing should be done as needed. It is important to regularly clean the ears and nails should be trimmed on a routine basis.

Health Problems and Life Expectancy
Due to the rarity of this breed there are no known health issues. The Kai has a life expectancy of 12-15 years.

Activity Level
The Kai breed is not recommended for city or apartment living. They require an inordinate amount of physical exercise and mental stimulation. The Kai does best in a rural setting with ample room to safely roam, hunt, and run. It is advisable to never trust your Kai off lead unless in a fenced yard.


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Kai Ken profile in dog encyclopedia
Kai Ken dog profile on dog encyclopedia