Kai Ken

25-55 lbs
Kai Dog, Kai Inu, Tora Inu, Tiger Dog

The Kai Ken was isolated from the rest of the world for a long time due to the makeup of its homeland, an island surrounded by mountains. Once firearms became more widespread – and with it big game hunting – the Kai Ken also became more well-known. A ferocious hunter, this dog breed has been said to climb trees in an effort to get his prey. It is a brave dog who was not always a companion dog; however, once it came to the United States, many families adopted it as a family pet. 

The Kai Ken was not recognized officially in Japan until 1934, and it is a rare dog breed even now. The United Kennel Club recognized the dog breed in 1997, but the American Kennel Club still does not recognize the dog.

purpose Purpose
history Date of Origin
ancient times
ancestry Ancestry
wild mountain dog

Kai Ken Health

Sketch of Kai Ken
Average Size
Male Kai Ken size stats
Height: 18-22 inches Weight: 25-55 lbs
Female Kai Ken size stats
Height: 17-20 inches Weight: 25-55 lbs
Major Concerns
  • Usually A Very Healthy Breed
Minor Concerns
  • Usually A Very Healthy Breed
Occasional Tests
  • Blood Test
  • Eye Examination
  • Physical Examination

Kai Ken Breed History

The original Kai Ken, often referred to as the “Tiger” dog, descended from hunting dogs native to the mountain province of Kai, an island in Honshu. For many years, the Kai Ken was isolated to the area because Honshu is encircled by mountains. Even today the Kai Ken is a rare dog breed. These dogs have been known to swim after prey or climb a tree in order to get to its prey. The first Kai Ken dogs were thought to be brought to the United States in the 1950’s by service men who had served in Japan. These canines were taken to Salt Lake City, but it is unknown what happened to them. In 1990, a four year old male was brought over and shortly after three females arrived. In 1991, six more puppies were brought over. In 1992 one more male puppy was imported. These Kai made up the genetic pool for all the American bred Kai Ken.

Kai Ken Breed Appearance

The Kai Ken is a sturdy, medium-sized dog with a wedge-shaped head and a tapered muzzle. He has strong white teeth which meet in a scissors bite. Triangular ears are often thought to seem disproportionate to the rest of the dog. He has muscular shoulders and thighs and the sturdy legs are quite powerful. This agile breed has a thick tail “carried like a sickle.” The Kai Ken has a double coat; its outer coat is of medium to long length and is rough. The undercoat is thick, soft and dense. The Kai Ken is usually brindle in color, but the puppies are typically born with black coats. As the Kai Ken matures, his coat will be brown with stripes (brindle).

Appearance of Kai Ken
Eye Color Possibilities
brown Kai Ken eyes
Nose Color Possibilities
black Kai Ken nose
Coat Color Possibilities
black Kai Ken coat
brindle Kai Ken coat
Coat Length
Short Medium Long
Coat Density
coat density
Sparse Normal Dense
Coat Texture
coat texture
Kai Ken straight coat texture
Straight Wiry Wavy Curly Corded

Kai Ken Breed Maintenance

The Kai Ken requires only minimal coat care. He needs brushing only occasionally; the most important thing is making sure that there is no matting in his undercoat. It is recommended that he be bathed only occasionally as well. He may benefit from a dry shampoo along with occasional brushing. Their double coat sheds at least twice a year; you may need to strip his coat in order to help remove the old coat so that he will remain looking healthy.

The Kai Ken is highly energetic, so it is a good idea to give him as much exercise as possible. The Kai Ken enjoys long walks with his master; he also loves play time of any sort. Owners should focus on playing games that give this inquisitive dog the mental stimulation he craves. It is important that your dog be kept on a leash; he will run if he is not kept restrained beside you. This canine can be happy in an apartment if he has a huge wooded area provided to run in so that he gets adequate exercise every day; however, most experts do not recommend that the Kai Ken live in an apartment unless the owner is prepared to devote at least an hour daily to free play. This breed is known to be very clean and virtually odor-free.

Although Kai Kens are generally healthy, accidents can happen in an instant. Is your pup covered? Head over to our breakdown of the best pet insurance plans to find the "pawfect" match for your mutt.

Brushes for Kai Ken
Pin Brush
Pin Brush
Nail Clipper
Nail Clipper
Brushing Frequency
fur daily fur weekly fur monthly
Kai Ken requires weekly brushing
Daily Weekly Monthly

Kai Ken Temperament

The Kai Ken is a natural hunter. He is also a superior guard dog, keeping a watchful eye over his family at all times. He is usually reserved, even suspicious of strangers. This trait makes him a superior watch dog. When he is with people he knows, he is often quite friendly.  This affectionate dog is extremely devoted to its family and requires a fair amount of love and attention from their owner in order to be happy.

However, the Kai Ken is often likely to attach himself to one member of the family. For all his watchfulness and protective nature, he is rarely aggressive. He can be stubborn and rather dominant; in this case, dog training should begin at an early age.

The Kai Ken dog breed is good with other dogs and children, although it is recommended that the Kai Ken be socialized a good bit as a puppy in order to prepare him for dealing with other animals and children in the future. He is very alert and attentive. They will do best kept as inside house dogs. The Kai is a great dog for housebreaking. Sometimes they are housetrained within a matter of days.
Activity Level
low activity medium activity high activity
Low Medium High
Rec. Walk Mileage Per Week
12 miles
walk mileage
Minutes of Activity Per Day
70 minutes
activity minutes

Kai Ken Food Consumption

Cups Per Day
2.5 cups
cup per day cost cup per day cost
Daily Cost
$1.75 - $2.25
food bowls daily cost
Monthly Cost
$52.50 - $67.50
food bag monthly cost

Kai Ken Height & Weight

6 Months
Sketch of Kai Ken at six months
Male Kai Ken size stats at six months
Height: 16.0 inches Weight: 20.0 lbs
Female Kai Ken size stats at six months
Height: 14.0 inches Weight: 20.0 lbs
12 Months
Sketch of Kai Ken at 12 months
Male Kai Ken size stats at 12 months
Height: 17.5 inches Weight: 26.5 lbs
Female Kai Ken size stats at 12 months
Height: 16.0 inches Weight: 26.5 lbs
18 Months
Sketch of Kai Ken at 18 months
Male Kai Ken size stats at 18 months
Height: 20.0 inches Weight: 40.0 lbs
Female Kai Ken size stats at 18 months
Height: 18.5 inches Weight: 40.0 lbs

Top Kai Ken Breeders

Check out who made our list for the most reputable Kai Ken breeders of 2024.
Top Kai Ken breeder Mijikai Kennel
Mijikai Kennel
Yale, Michigan
Top Kai Ken breeder Hello kennel
Hello kennel
Sycamore, Illinois
Top Kai Ken breeder O'iKon Nihon Ken
O'iKon Nihon Ken
Timberlake, North Carolina
Top Kai Ken breeder Suteishii Kennels
Suteishii Kennels
New Albany, Ohio
Top Kai Ken breeder Apricity Kennel
Apricity Kennel
Mclean, Virginia
Top Kai Ken breeder Kaiju Kennels
Kaiju Kennels
Buena Park, California

Kai Ken Owner Experiences

14 Years
3 People
Jerry Notes from our life with Jerry 2008 After a lot of thought the family decided to get a pet dog. They wanted a pound dog, and went to the locally famous ARC refuge center. The family picked out a mutt, but later found that it is a now rare Japanese hunting dog, called a Kai, or tiger dog. The dog’s name is equally unlikely - Jerry. Jerry is gentle with children and friends while inside; but turns into a near feral beast when being walked. He is quite intelligent; he’s already stolen and hidden various food items, after getting to them by opening doors and drawers. 2009 - The Beast “Holmes, the hound!” This quote from the Hound of The Baskervilles is the first thing I think of when imagining a pack of Japanese Yamanashi Kai dogs. By dumb luck we are the proud owners of one of these rare and beguiling beasts. In March 2008 I buckled to the wishes of wife and daughter, agreeing to get a dog. The agreement was on one one condition; it must come from an animal shelter. The best known was the British-run ARC. Through their excellent homepage we were confident of finding the right candidate for our condo. Our black "mixed breed" is named Jerry. He seemed smart; by himself he wouldn’t enter the tatami room, and can understand commands in Japanese and English; at home indoors - at night he gets up on a chair to sleep; a basket case of separation anxiety - has to be in the same room we were in, otherwise would pee on the floor; and untrainable - always pulling on the leash despite our best efforts. What we found next was unexpected, full of wonder and astonishment. From a chance conversation with coworker, we found we had an extremely rare pure bread kai dog, or Tiger dog as they are sometimes called. A hunting dog such beloved that the Japanese government made the breed a national treasure in 1934. It is considered to be the most ancient, and purest dog breed in Japan. A dog of primitive nature and wild origins. With their long legs, they are the only tree-climbing dogs. They are now rare as that kind of deer, bear and wild boar hunting has ceased in Japan. After reading about kai dogs’ personality we were able to reconcile Jerry’s Jekyll & Hyde personality. Inside the condo Jerry is calm, smart, loving; but outside he’s a force unto himself, always heavily sniffing, viciously pulling on the leash, on the hunt for any small thing that moves. We dare not let it off the leash for it would kill other small dogs. That literature still didn’t prepare us for what happened next. After making a cake, Sadako went to pick up Asia at school. Upon returning they found both the cake and the heavy Anchor-Hocking cake pan missing. They later found the cake pan 2 rooms away, inside the bathroom with its door closed. The door can only be pulled closed. Jerry had hidden the evidence and somehow closed the door. We got smart and whenever we leave food on the counter we push it as far away from the edge as possible. Jerry was no longer able to get to food on the counter. However, we didn’t expect Jerry to use Asia’s small stool that one day it had been left next to the counter. More food gone. The last episode found a slight sprinkling of shredded garbage on the kitchen floor. Where did it come from. The garbage can was still upright, lid on & in its position. After examining the evidence I realized it was a food wrapper I’d thrown away the night before; but the garbage can was not knocked over. It was still exactly where it usually is, with the lid on. Jerry had depressed the pedal to open the lid, take out only what he wanted, and leave the garbage can standing where it was. We didn’t teach him; he watched us and learned. This is why Jerry is in the Friends section of our url. He’s not our pet so much as an independent free spirit; a force of nature; or at least a dog with the mind of a laboratory primate. April 2010 Jerry had stolen food and hidden the evidence before. The most famous case was the home made bread and heavy bread pan. This month for the second time he stole from the kitchen counter. He took a sandwich, ate it, and buried the sandwich's hot peppers in the couch. Jerry is always looking & begging for food. Besides 2 small bowls of dog food, morning and late afternoon, we only give him 1 dog snack after coming home from leaving him alone for a long period of time. 2016 14 year old Jerry is sick. He was misdiagnosed with hypothyroidism [甲状腺機能低下症]. It seems he's sick from deteriorating teeth & gums. He'll have surgery soon. Sunday 27 Nov 2016 Our dog, Jerry is gone. He died of a heart attack at 8:10 a.m. on Sunday 27 Nov. We are very happy that we could all be together when his time came. His age was not known, but he was probably between 14½ & 16 years old. We loved him for 8½ years, and he loved us back. It was a beautiful & loving friendship. He will be missed.
2 years, 9 months ago
10 Years
2 People
I love my Kai Ken. Found him in a pound as a puppy. Wish I knew more about where he came from
6 years, 7 months ago
5 Years
Catch treats
Learn a new trick
I have only knowingly met one Kai Ken in my life, but she is an absolutely incredible dog. I got to know Baku over the course of a weekend where I got to walk her several times each day and feed her dinner. She was a less-than-enthusiastic greeter: she'd lay on the couch and just gaze at me when I walked in. After asking her, "Do you want to go on a walk?" She'd get hyped about the stroll, would lazily stretch off of the couch, and give me a tail wagging greeting. Because of her early docile nature, getting her leashed up and headed out is an easy task. Once she's outside she's fantastic. For the most part she ignores other people or dogs on the stroll (barring one time where she startled me with very loud barking), she keeps up pace fantastically, and does not hunt for ground scores or excessively attempt to stop to sniff things. We tend to stroll together for an hour each time, so we spend a good deal of time exploring Greenpoint or Williamsburg and, since she's in such a central location, we are fortunate to pass through several parks while doing so. This is where Baku's wildly playful side comes out. She has zero interest in playing with sticks, but she loves to be chased. All I have to do is stomp on the ground and she tears in circles around me. She's blindingly fast, easily instigated, and will romp until she tumbles, get back up, and keep on romping. Then, as soon as it all started, she'll get right back into her focused, steady strolling. She's something of an anomaly in this behavior. It does seem that Baku is friendly, however, because she shows a particular lack of interest in attempting to interact with people or other dogs, I tend to loosely keep her away from potential interactions. On one occasion, after a long stroll on a hot day, Baku did get possessive of her space while sitting on the couch and mildly snapped at me when I tried to pat her on the head prior to my departure. Since that unique moment, I have been aware that she has this nature in her, but I have never seen her express any similar sentiment since that time. Overall, Baku is one of my favorite dogs to walk: very sweet, calm, well trained, and surprisingly silly.
6 years, 6 months ago
4 Years
6 People
House & Yard
Tug a war
Play wrestle
I got her and she has changed my life I love her with all my heart and don't know what I would do without her. She has protected me from many things such as strangers coming to my house to bears on my porch.
5 years, 11 months ago
18 Months
3 People
I don't know if she is one kai ken but she sure looks like it.
3 years, 11 months ago
13 Years
6 People
House & Yard
I love her a lot she very protective of our house she’s mean to people she doesn’t know. She doesn’t like other dogs but she’s only mindful if I make her she’s have 1 puppy her first heat that 8 her 2 she’s she not having anymore her oldest pup is 1years old and her 2 litter is 5 month they have to dads Pitbull ,and Hound her 1st puppy sure the same father as her pitbull baby today
3 years, 5 months ago
Book me a walkiee?
Sketch of smiling australian shepherd