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Breed History

The Kai Ken, also known as the Kai Dog and Tora Inu (Tiger Dog), is a native Japanese spitz-type dog. The breed's unique brindle coat sets it apart from the other Nihon Ken. The Kai is a medium sized breed in Japan; they are larger than the Shiba Inu, but smaller than the Akita Inu.

The Kai Ken is an intelligent, athletic, and alert dog with a strong desire to hunt. Kai Ken are known for their loyalty and usually bond strongly with one specific person. Like most Nihon Ken the Kai is an independent thinker. The breed's loyalty and cleanliness can make them a wonderful companion to the appropriate owner. We consider the breed to be one of the best partners an outdoorsy person can have.

The breed is said to be the only native Japanese dog breed (aka Nihon Ken) that is not predisposed to dog aggression. They are primitive in nature and appearance, and are a bit more vocal than the other Nihon Ken breeds. The breed can be territorial, and make reasonable watch dogs, but are not by nature guard dogs or protection dogs. Kai Ken are great with people and animals provided they receive the proper socialization. They have shown the ability to be quick learners, with some active in Japan as search and rescue dogs. The Kai is also used by the Japanese government to hunt or "run off" dangerous or nuisance wild life.

The Kai Ken originated in the mountainous region of Yamanashi (formally know as Kai) where the breed is well known for their hunting prowess which was believed to be second to none. Traditionally used to hunt Kamoshika, their versatility allowed them to be used to hunt many types of game, including pheasant, wild boar, and bear. The Kai Ken is said to carry more of the genetic make up of the original dogs brought to Japan by the Jomon people, and due to Yamanashi's mountainous isolation, the Kai Ken has stayed relatively pure in it's bloodlines. The breed is rare even in their native country.

The Kai Ken Aigokai (Kai Ken Protection Society or Kai Ken Preservation Society) was established in 1931, and the first Tenrankai (exhibition) was held in April the following year.

Please feel free to call us at 575.323.1524 or email us at info@yamabushikennel.org with questions or join The Nihon Ken Forum to learn more about the six native Japanese breeds. To learn more about the Kai Ken, breeding, training, health, or genetics please visit our links page.