Kai Ken

Type: Hunting Dog

Height: 17.5 - 23 inches. Males: 18.5 to 23 inches; Females: 17.5 - 20 inches.

Weight: 25 - 40 lbs.

Life Span: 11 -13 years.

Litter Size: Average 3 puppies.

Country of Origin: Japan

Activity: High

Watch-dog: High. They love to perch in high places to see what's going on.

Guard-dog: High

Description: The Kai Ken, also known as the Tora (Tiger) Dog, is a courageous, trustworthy breed with a close resemblance to the Shiba Inu. The Kai, a medium sized sturdy dog, was once used for hunting deer and wild boar. They have the potential to be powerful, and has often been praised as a "scarred glory". Kai Kens have a broad head with large prick ears, uncropped. They have a thick double coat that is very useful in the winter, soft underneath and harsh on the outside. They come in a variety of brindles, including black brindle, red brindle, or dark brindle. This is possibly why they are called the Tiger Dog. Kai Kens are spirited, brave and strong. Due to their strong prey drive, they are not suited well around other, smaller pets. They do, however, do very well with other dogs, as they are pack hunters. They are clean, calm and quiet. They are gentle and devoted to family, but wary with strangers. Headstrong and a leader, the Kai Ken is best suited for one person. Known for their ability to climb trees, the Kai Ken is a great choice for an owner in need of a warrior.

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Other Names: Tora Inu (Tiger Dog), Kai tora-ken, Kai-ken

Colors: Black brindle, red brindle and dark brindle, or red.

Coat: Kai Kens have a double coat. The undercoat is soft and dense, while the outer coat is short to medium length, harsh, and straight.

Temperament: Kai Kens are a more one-person dog. They are courageous and brave as hunters, and will be loyal to their owners. They have a strong prey drive, and will hunt small animals. They do well with other dogs, however, due to their pack instincts. They are quite headstrong and willful. They are devoted and loyal to family, getting along well with children. Kai Kens like to keep an eye on whatever is going on, and sometimes find a high place to lookout from. They can be timid of strangers, and due to their wild background need to be socialized early on. They are easily housebroken, intelligent, and have a strong will. Training is necessary, as they are quite headstrong.

With Children: Yes, very good with children, although they should not be teased.

With Pets: Yes, as long as the Kai is raised with them and around other pets. They have a strong prey drive, but will do well if socialized with other pets.

Special Skills: Hunting, climbing trees and swimming to get to prey, and a family pet.

Care and Training: Kai Kens need regular exercise on a leash, taking walks or runs. They can also be given a job to do such as herding to satisfy their exercise. They should be brushed weekly to keep their fur mat free and clean. Bathe them as necessary, depending on how dirty they are. Their ears should be checked routinely for wax build up, infection or dirt. Their nails should also be trimmed regularly. Kai Kens shed once or twice a year, making grooming at these times needed. Kai Kens should be trained from puppyhood, as they are very willful. They are the least responsive of the Japanese breeds, and the most wild. They should be socialized from puppyhood, getting them used to new sights and sounds.

Learning Rate: High. Kais are very intelligent, and will sometimes even play

Special Needs: Exercise, fenced yard, leash, socialization and training.

Living Environment: Kai Kens need adequate space to roam and exercise, meaning a house with a yard or urban environment with a fence. They will run away if given the chance, and should be fenced and leashed when outside of the fence or house. Kai Kens actually do very well as housedogs. The best owner for this breed would be a dog-experienced individual living in a suburban or rural environment.

Health Issues: There are none known. Due to isolation during the breed's development, the breed has kept pure and healthy.

History: The Kai Ken originated with several other variations of his type: the Shika Inu, meaning "medium-sized dog". Shika Inus contain several breeds of Japanese dogs, including the Kai, Kishu, and Shikoku. Other breeds similar to the Kai are the Ainu and Shiba Inu, from which this breed could have descended or been an ancestor. The Kai Ken was originally used as a wild boar or deer hunter's assistant, called a matagi, in the province of Kai, on the island of Honshu in Japan. Matagi greatly appreciated their hunting dogs, and would speak highly of their courage and spirit. It was said that one of these Shika Inus "would not concede a step before danger." They were once used as fisherman's helpers, hunter's aides, and as watch and herding dogs. All of the breeds in this category, however, have been used more often as households pets these days. In the beginning of the Kai's days, they were thought to be too rough for a household pet, being more wild than his cousins. But the Kai has been bred down to have a more comfortable temperament, although they are still the least responsive of all the Shika Inus. Kai Kens are thought to have existed since medieval times in the Yamanashi Prefecture mountains. The breed stayed pure because of isolation over the years. In 1934, the Kai Ken was designated a National Monument, thanks in part to a breeder named Mr. Haruo Isogai. Mr. Isogai is also classified and categorized all of the Japanese breeds in the 1930s, and helped distinguish the Kai Ken from the other Shika Inus. In 1934 the breed was recognized by the Japanese Kennel Club. Some Kai Kens were imported into the U.S. in the 1950s, and spread from there. Still rare today, the Kai Ken is considered a "national treasure" in Japan.

First Registered by the AKC: FSS (Foundation Stock Service - not yet eligible for the AKC)

AKC Group: FSS

Registries: JKC, UKC, FCI