Kai Ken

The Kai Ken is one of the six native Japanese breeds. The other dog breeds, collectively known as the Nihon Ken, include the Shiba Inu and Akita Ken. The Kai Ken, which also goes by other names such as the Tiger dog and the Tora Inu. The Kai Ken is a healthy, medium-sized dog characterized by brindles ranging from black to red. Unlike other dogs, the Kai Ken does not have non-brindled coats.


The male Kai Ken will typically be 18 to 22 inches in height at the shoulder, with female kai kens being slightly smaller. Traditionally, the Kai Ken was used to hunt a wide range of wildlife in the mountains of Japan, the Kai Ken is considered a rare breed even in Japan.

The Kai is superbly intelligent and is a quick and eager learner. They are able to learn as fast as the other Japanese breeds forming the Nihon Ken, if not faster. They are not as independent-minded as a husky, however, they are always willing to please the family members. The lovers of this dog breed in Japan describe Kai Ken as a trustworthy guardian and fully committed to his proud mom or poppa.

The History of The Kai Ken Puppy

The Kai Ken is a native Japanese dog breed. The ancient breed in the Mount Fuji regions of Kai province in 1929. In 1931, the oldest, and definitely the largest Kai Ken Registry was formed. It is known as the Kai Ken Aigokai. The dog’s good hunting prowess and agility meant it became the primary focus to hunt a wide range of small game like pheasants, as well as hunt larger game such as bears.

The Japanese Kennel Club recognized this rare dog in 1934. Unlike other dogs, there is very limited information on the breed, but it is believed that the first Kai Kens were shipped over to the United States in the 1950s by US servicemen who had served in Japan. Later, A pair of these Kai Ken dog were sent over to Salt Lake City.

A four-year-old male and three females puppies, excellent dog breeds still at a young age, made their way to the Continental United States in 1991. Six other individual dogs followed. In the following year, a male early age puppy was imported. These are the dogs that made up the genetic pool for all subsequent American bred Kai Ken.


There were originally two types of Kai Kens from two great foundation studs. The first is the KAIKURO. It is a thicker, stockier Kai Ken dog with a face that strongly resembles that of a bear.

The second type, the DAIRO, is best known for its deer hunting. It is characterized by thinner, longer bodies and faces strongly resembling foxes. Each of these foundational dogs passed down strength, speed, agility with a quick wit to its progeny as can be witnessed in the breed today.

Currently, the Japanese people highly regard the Kai, they do not distinguish the two types anymore, and no one type is preferred over the other. They describe it as a breed that is extremely loyal to its family members, a trustworthy guardian, and it will lay down its own life to protect its master. They are very loved and protected in their native country and is considered a natural treasure in Japan.

Currently, the American Kennel Club has the Kai Ken listed in the Foundation Stock Service group of dogs.

More about this Rare Breed

Kai Ken’s are medium-sized dog. The males of the breed come in at 17 to 20 inches at the shoulder and falling within a weight range of about 30 to 40 lb. Kai Ken’s females tend to smaller than the males. You can expect to have a long life with them as they live for 12-15 years.

Kai Ken dog breed is athletic and witty, which is then spiced with a strong prey drive. The Tora dog is an independent thinker that can form a strong bond with their family and other animals. They are excellent at handling water and have been known to climb trees and ford across rivers in pursuit of game.

These friendly dogs have individually distinct brindle coats that can come out in three colours: Aka-Tora (red brindle), the Kuro Tora (Black Brindle),  and the Chu-Tora (brindle). Red brindle is typically the rarest of the brindle colours. The distinct brindle pattern and colouring allowed the dog to meld into the montane forests in which it went in search of prey. The brindle camouflaged it against both predator and prey.

The density, as well as the pattern of the brindle, will vary between individuals of the breed. Black is the default colour right from birth, but then their brindle will emerge as they grow. This brindling will continue to move around for the first five years.

Kai Kens will have the same basic canine care needs as every other breed out there. Even though they are high-energy hunting dogs, they can be successfully kept in an apartment setting provided they receive regular exercise in the form of leashed walks. The Kai Ken is a naturally clean breed. They will only need bathing when dirty. As a breed that undergoes shedding, brushing is recommended. This is especially important during their twice-a-year coat blowing.

Caring for the Kai Ken Tiger Dog

The Kai Ken should do well on high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or prepared at home with your vet’s supervision and advice, a good dog supplement is also suggested. The diet given to the dog should be appropriate to the developmental stage of the dog. Treats are an important training aid. You should, however, limit how much you give if you want to avoid doggie obesity.

Kai Ken dogs can self-regulate their food intake. Do not be shocked to see the quantity of food the dog will be consuming varying over time. You should ways check with your vet if you have concerns about how much weight your dog is currently lugging around.

Always have clean and fresh water available for your dogs at all times. Also, check for dog food recalls before settling in a brand for your kai ken dogs.

Grooming The Kai Ken

Kai Ken is a naturally clean breed that spots a medium-length double coat. This means they will only require the occasional bath. As a double-coated breed, expect to deal with a lot of shedding of their undercoat twice a year. When the shedding is happening, additional bathing, grooming, and brushing will help deal with the thick shedding undercoat.

Occasional brushing will help keep their superb coat in excellent condition, that’s when they are not shedding their undercoat. The dog’s nails should be trimmed regularly to avoid cracking, splitting or overgrowth. Their ears are an area of concern. They should be paid attention to regularly, to arrest a buildup of wax and debris that can result in ear infections.


The Kai Ken is a high to moderately active breed that can be high-energy in certain cases. They will require regular physical stimulation. They require daily exercise interspersed by a lot of mental stimulation. Options for exercise include playtime in a backyard or regular walks during the day.

If you are not in a position to take them on regular walks or visits to the dog park, indoor activities can also be of great help. These include games such as hide-and-seek, ball chasing across the floor, or learning obedience or new tricks. The Kai Ken doesn’t need to have lush forest property to prosper. They can be great apartment dogs, especially if their exercise needs are met.

If the dog breed does not get enough exercise, they can exhibit destructive behaviour inside the home.


The Kai Ken do make amazing companions when given space, attention, obedience, and exercise they need. The Kai Ken will be considered to be soft dogs when it comes to training. Positive reinforcement during training will get you a long way with this dog.

Early training is recommended to help establish a great foundation with the family, and also promote socialization. Due to the strong desire to hunt, it is advisable that Kai Ken should not be allowed off-leash in an unfenced area. Their obedience makes them great dogs to try dog sports with.


Generally, Kai Ken is a very healthy breed, and responsible breeders screen their stock for health conditions such as luxating patella, allergies, and seizures. If getting your Kai Ken from local shelters, you will need a professional to provide veterinary advice when you bring one into your home. Even better is taking the dog to a vet for proper veterinary guidance as it can be different from many breeds.

Those wishing to own a Kai Ken can work with a responsible breeder to learn what they should know about specific health concerns that affect this breed. There are breeders who utilize the genetic testing of their breeding stock so as to reduce the likelihood of disease in their puppies.


The Kai Kens are generally great dogs to have around the home. They are a skilled hunter capable of vigorous exercise. They excel in obedience training, especially where positive reinforcement is in plenty. Kai Kens are great with children, but the children have to be well-behaved.

They are also great around other pets, especially with socialization. The only thing you will have to watch out for is their high prey drive, which may manifest with smaller pets such as a Burmese cat.

North American Kai Ken Association

About NAKA

As a website devote to dogs, Ruff Hero aims to maintain information while providing the most value to people interested about the Kai Ken breed. We will continue to add more information and resources so please keep coming back.

The North American Kai Association is a non profit organization established on July 11, 2001 to promote the responsible ownership and breeding of the Kai. It was created to inform and educate the public about this wonderful and unique breed. Open to anyone who wishes to learn, keep their Kai Ken healthy, share, support, help protect, and strive to maintain the beauty and nature of the Kai. They work to preserve and maintain the natural characteristics of this breed by encouraging members to participate in a variety of canine activities including but not limited to agility, companion, conformation, and obedience.