Other names: Kai, Tora Inu, Tiger Dog
This stripy tiger of a Japanese dog is literally a national monument, celebrated and protected as one of the six Japanese breeds known collectively as Nihon Ken. Wedge-shaped in every direction and covered with a layer of fiery brindle, the Kai Ken’s affable expression completes the ‘easy on the eye’ package. Personality-wise, you can expect the same: reserved, yet pleasant, thawing with familiarity to become a warm and loyal colleague, whether that work is the trial of everyday life or hunting deer, boar, and bears in the mountains, her preferred habitat.
Key facts about the Kai Ken
Origins and history
The Kai Ken was little known outside of the mountain province of Kai on the main island of Japan until the 1930s when she was discovered, categorised, celebrated, and finally entered into the annals of the Japanese Kennel Club. For this reason, today’s Kai Ken is thought to be among the purest of breeds. They were introduced to America by returning soldiers in the 1950s, but are today rarely seen outside of Japan, the United States, and the realm of the cartoon, in which they frequently appear.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 5 - Spitz and primitive types
Section 5 : Asian Spitz and related breeds
Physical characteristics of the Kai Ken
Female : Between 17 and 19 in
Male : Between 19 and 21 in
Female : Between 33 and 44 lb
Male : Between 33 and 44 lb
Black brindle, red brindle and brindle, though it may take a while to come through on a puppy born "plain".
Type of coat
Harsh and straight with a soft, dense undercoat.
Whatever it is about the appearance of Japanese dogs that lends them to being illustrated in drawings, this pooch has it in spades. Perhaps it is the economic use and re-use of one key shape across her front end: a wedge-shaped beak, head, eyes, and ears, casually offset by a fluffy Basil Brush tail that curls around to meet her back. Those eyes are certainly part of it too, despite their mysterious darkness. The outer corners turn up with charm, while more to the point her brows are expressive, almost human. Fluffy tiger-dog that she is, with those black and flame stripes, all this teddy-bear adorability comes with a sense of strength and athleticism because she is, after all, a mountain dog.
Good to know
It can be very hard to get hold of one of these dogs in the UK and potential families may need to undergo a lengthy import process that isn’t always kind on the dog (think: quarantine).
She is faithful although she may perhaps save her affections for one key member of the family.
The Kai Ken loves to play and it is important that her intellectual and physical faculties are engaged on a daily basis.
She is a very active, alert, dog.
She is highly intelligent and quick to learn.
She is a natural hunter and, with the correct training, can achieve hunting prowess of legendary standing.
Fearful / wary of strangers
The Kai Ken is reserved among strangers in social situations, and vigilant while on guard.
Like many primitive dogs, she is very independent.
Behaviour of the Kai Ken
She is not too bad when left on her own for a while – if indeed you can bring yourself to leave her.
Easy to train / obedience
She has a strong temperament, such that is can sometimes be difficult to get her to cooperate. If you can find a rapport, however, she can be trained to excellent results.
She has a loud bark but will rarely use it inappropriately.