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  • Temperament: Loyal, Agile, Keen
  • Height: 15.5-19.5 inches
  • Weight: 20-40 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12-15 years
  • Group: Foundation Stock Service

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

FCI Standard
Kai Ken standing facing left.
Kai Ken sitting in three-quarter view facing forward.
Kai Ken laying down facing left, head turned forward.
Kai Ken standing facing forward.
Kai Ken sitting facing forward.

About the Kai Ken

Kai Ken are athletic and intelligent with a strong desire to hunt. The Kai is an independent thinker and can form a strong bond with their family. They are excellent swimmers and climbers and have been known to climb trees and swim rivers in pursuit of game. Kai have a distinct brindle coat that comes in three colors: Black Brindle (Kuro-Tora), Brindle (Chu-Tora), and Red Brindle (Aka-Tora). Red brindle is the rarest of the coat colors. The distinct coloring and brindle pattern enabled the dog to blend in to the mountainous forests in which it hunted, camouflaging it against prey and predators in ancient times. The amount of brindle will vary from dog to dog as well as the brindle pattern. Most puppies are born completely black and their brindle will emerge as they age and will continue to change for around the first five years of their life. In the home, the Kai Ken requires basic canine care. They can be kept in an apartment setting provided they receive regular exercise in the form of leashed walks. Being a naturally clean breed, bathing should be limited to only when dirty. Brushing is recommended, especially during twice-a-year coat blowing.


Club Contact Details

Club:Kai Ken Society of America
Name: Stacey Pestel, Communications Officer
Address: 1808 Penfield Ct S, Columbus, OH 43227
Phone: 614-313-8456

National Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.
Kai Ken puppy.

Find a Puppy: Kai Ken

AKC Marketplace | PuppyFinder

AKC Marketplace is the only site to exclusively list 100% AKC puppies from AKC-Registered litters and the breeders who have cared for and raised these puppies are required to follow rules and regulations established by the AKC.



TheKai Ken should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Kai Ken are a breed known to self-regulate their food intake, so it is not unusual to see variability in the quantity of food consumed.Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.


Kai Ken have a medium-length double coat. They are a naturally clean dog that only requires the occasional bath.  Being a double-coated breed, they do lose their undercoat twice a year. During this time, additional bathing and brushing will help remove the thick undercoat. When not shedding their undercoat, occasional brushing will keep their coat in good condition. Their nails should be trimmed regularly with a nail clipper or grinder to avoid overgrowth, splitting, and cracking. Their ears should be checked regularly to avoid a buildup of wax and debris, which can result in infection. Teeth should be brushed regularly.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Occasional Bath/Brush




The Kai Ken is a moderately active breed. They require daily exercise and mental stimulation. Options for exercise include play time in the (preferably fenced) backyard or walks several times a day. Exercise can also come in the form of indoor activities such as hide-and-seek, chasing a ball rolled along the floor, or learning new tricks. Kai Ken can be good apartment dogs if their exercise needs are met. If the Kai does not get the proper amount of exercise, they can become destructive inside the home.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity


Kai Ken can make excellent companions if given the attention, training, and exercise they need. Kai Ken are often considered to be soft dogs when it comes to training, and positive training methods should be used. Early training is encouraged to establish a solid foundation and also offer socialization. Due to the strong desire to hunt, it is not recommended that Kai Ken be allowed off leash in unfenced areas.


May be Stubborn
Eager to Please


Reserved with Strangers


Kai Ken are an overall healthy breed, and responsible breeders screen their stock for health conditions such as allergies, luxating patella, and seizures. Those wishing to own a Kai Ken can work with a responsible breeder to gain the education they need to know about specific health concerns within the breed. Good breeders utilize genetic testing of their breeding stock to reduce the likelihood of disease in their puppies.


Recommended Health Tests From Parent Club

  • Patellas
  • Hips
Kai Ken standing facing forward.
Kai Ken
Kai Ken
Kai Ken
Kai Ken
Kai Ken


The Kai Ken is one of the six native Japanese breeds. The breed was discovered in 1929 in the mountainous regions of Kai province near Mount Fuji. In 1931, the Kai Ken Aigokai was formed and is the oldest and largest Kai Ken registry. Due to the breed’s hunting prowess and agility, it was traditionally used to hunt a wide range of game from pheasants to bear.

The Kai was recognized in 1934 by the Japanese Kennel Club. Because of the language barrier, there is very limited information on the breed, but it is believed that the first Kai Kens were brought to the United States in the 1950s by US servicemen in the military. A pair was also sent to Salt Lake City. It is not known what happened to these dogs or if there are any surviving offspring. The next known arrival of the breed was in 1990 when a four-year-old male was brought over and, shortly after that, three females puppies. In 1991, six more puppies were brought over and in the following year, one more male puppy was imported. These dogs made up the genetic pool for all the American bred Kai Ken; they are the foundation of the Kai we have today.

There were originally two types of Kai Kens from two great foundation studs. KAIKURO willed the “shishi-inu-gata” type which is a thicker, stockier dog with a more bear-type face. DAIRO, famed for his deer hunting, is credited for the thinner, longer bodies with foxier faces called the “shika-inu-gata” type. Each dog gave strength, speed, agility and quick thinking to its descendants as evidenced in the breed today. Currently in Japan, the Kai is regarded very highly by the Japanese people, they do not distinguish the two types anymore, and no one type is preferred over the other. The Japanese describe the Kai as a trustworthy guardian, extremely devoted to his master, and they say a Kai will lay down its life to protect its master. They are very loved and protected in their native country and is considered a natural treasure in Japan.

Did You Know?

The Kai Ken has been assigned the Working Group designation.
The Kai has been given the nickname of Tora dog, meaning tiger in Japanese, because of the brindle color.
The Kai was designated a natural treasure in Japan in 1934 and is protected by law.
The Kai Ken has been recorded in the Foundation Stock Service since 1997.
The Kai Ken was approved to compete in AKC Companion Events effective January 1, 2010.

The Breed Standard

Colors & Markings


Description Standard Colors Registration Code
Black Brindle Check Mark For Standard Color 279
Gray Brindle Check Mark For Standard Color 107
Red Brindle Check Mark For Standard Color 148

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