Kai Ken

Other names: Kai, Tora Inu, Tiger Dog


Wamiz's Top Breed

Kai Ken

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

Life expectancy :





Temperament :

Playful Intelligent Hunter

Size :

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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

FCI Group

Group 5 - Spitz and primitive types


Section 5 : Asian Spitz and related breeds

Physical characteristics of the Kai Ken

  • Kai Ken
    Kai Ken

    Adult size

    Female : Between 17 and 19 in

    Male : Between 19 and 21 in


    Female : Between 33 and 44 lb

    Male : Between 33 and 44 lb

    Coat colour

    Type of coat

    Eye colour



    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).


    • 33%


      She is faithful although she may perhaps save her affections for one key member of the family.

    • 100%


      The Kai Ken loves to play and it is important that her intellectual and physical faculties are engaged on a daily basis.

    • 66%


      She is a very active, alert, dog.

    • 100%


      She is highly intelligent and quick to learn.

    • 100%


      She is a natural hunter and, with the correct training, can achieve hunting prowess of legendary standing.

    • 100%

      Fearful / wary of strangers

      The Kai Ken is reserved among strangers in social situations, and vigilant while on guard.

    • 100%


      Like many primitive dogs, she is very independent.

      Behaviour of the Kai Ken

      • 100%

        Tolerates solitude

        She is not too bad when left on her own for a while – if indeed you can bring yourself to leave her.

      • 66%

        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.

      • 66%


        She has a loud bark but will rarely use it inappropriately.

      • 100%

        Tendency to run away

        Her predatory instinct and independence push her to follow tracks without taking into account the reminders of her master. The garden must be well fenced.

      • 66%


        She can be destructive if her needs aren’t met.

      • 100%

        Greedy / Gluttony

        She is a very good eater, which can be useful in training.

      • 100%

        Guard dog

        The Kai Ken makes an excellent watch or guard dog, being watchful and vigilant but also judicious in her use of force.

      • 66%

        First dog

        She could make a very good first dog for your family if you have the patience to educate and socialise her correctly.

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        • 66%

          Kai Ken in a flat

          It is possible to keep a Kai Ken in your flat as long as she gets plenty of outdoor exercise each day.

        • 100%

          Need for exercise / Sporty

          A decent half-an-hour walk or run plus regular constitutional trips will be the minimum your kai ken requires. Additional play and the occasional adventure are also to be encouraged.

        • 66%

          Travelling / easy to transport

          There are no issues to report on this aspect of the Kai Ken’s lifestyle.


          • 66%

            Kai Ken and cats

            A Kai Ken raised with cats should be okay with them in adulthood, but otherwise – beware her hunting instinct.

          • 100%

            Kai Ken and dogs

            She usually gets along with other dogs and, as with most breeds, should be well-socialised from a young age.

          • 100%

            Kai Ken and children

            The Kai Ken is a sensitive and gentle plaything who instinctively understands the needs and limits of her junior human companions.

          • 66%

            Kai Ken and the elderly

            The Kai Ken can make a great companion for an older person who is capable of answering to her daily exercise needs.



            We do not have enough data to set an average price.

            Looking after a dog of this size typically costs between £70 to £110 a month, including food, medical/insurance, and incidental expenses.


            This is a naturally clean dog who requires just the occasional bath in occasion to regular brushing and nail-clipping.


            She sheds her undercoat twice a year, when bathing and brushing will help the process along. 

            Nutrition of the Kai Ken

            Good quality food formulated for active dogs will fill this tiger’s tank.

            Health of the Kai Ken

            Life expectancy

            The lifespan of a Kai Ken is approximately 13 years.

            Strong / robust

            This dog is strong, robust, sturdy, durable - a rock.

            Withstand heat


            Withstand cold

            She is well equipped to withstand harsh climates.

            Tendency to put on weight

            The Kai Ken is adept at regulating her own food intake, which is not to say that her human roommates should leave her to it.

            Common illnesses

            None to speak of.

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