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Kai Ken
A Kai Ken
Other namesKai
Common nicknamesTora Dog
Height Males 50–56 cm (20–22 in)
Females 45–51 cm (18–20 in)
Weight 11–25 kg (25–55 lb)
Coat Double coat of medium length
Color Black brindle, red brindle and brindle.
Kennel club standards
Japan Kennel Club standard
Fédération Cynologique Internationale standard
Dog (domestic dog)

The Kai Ken (甲斐犬, Kai-ken, Kai-inu[1], also called the Tora Inu or Tiger Dog) is a breed of dog native to the Kai region, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan,[2] where it is a national monument. It is a rare dog even in its native land and is one of the six native Japanese dog breeds protected by the Nihon Ken Hozonkai.[3]


Stuffed specimen of Kai Ken named "Kai-kuro-go" at the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo, Japan
Kai Ken puppy

The Kai Ken is a medium-sized dog with a wedge shaped head and prick ears. Males are typically 18 to 22 inches at the shoulder, while the females are slightly smaller, 17 to 20 inches at the shoulder. The tail may be curled over the back, or carried in a sickle position. Limbs should be strong and hocks should be well developed reflecting the dogs’ history of mountain life. The coat is of harsh texture, medium length, and comes in various shades of brindle ("tiger" stripes). There are three main recognized shades of brindle: the Aka-tora (red), Chu-tora (middle), and Kuro-tora (black).[4] Puppies are born a solid color, and their brindle markings develop as they age, sometimes taking as long as five years before fully showing.


Kuro-tora Kai Ken
Chu-tora Kai Ken

The Kai Ken is intelligent, agile, alert and brave. They are natural hunters and make good watch dogs, being reserved with strangers but loyal to their families. They are friendly, often good with children and are not usually aggressive towards other dogs. Many love to swim, and have been known to cross rivers and climb trees while chasing their prey.[5]


The Kai Ken was split off from the Nihon Ken (Japanese Dog) landrace during the creation of the Nihon Ken Hozonkai (NIPPO) and named after Kai Province in Yamanashi Prefecture where the breed is said to have originated.

Being an agile and effortless climber, the Kai Ken was used to hunt in steep mountainous terrain in Yamanashi where's its primary quarry was the Japanese serow (Kamoshika), deer, wild boar, and occasionally bear.

After the creation of NIPPO in 1928, the Kai Ken was designated a national monument in Japan in 1933. In 1931 the Kai Ken Aigokai Archived 2017-04-05 at the Wayback Machine (KKA) was formed and became the primary Preservation Society for the breed in Japan and still is today.

In popular culture

See also


  1. ^ "甲斐犬".
  2. ^ "Kai". JKC (in Japanese). Retrieved 2023-07-25.
  3. ^ "Kai Inu (Kaiken)". Nihon Ken Hozonkai (in Japanese). Retrieved 2023-07-25.
  4. ^ "Kai Ken Dog Breed Information". American Kennel Club. Retrieved 2022-02-16.
  5. ^ "Kai Ken - Canada's Guide to Dogs". Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  6. ^ "Yamanashi Prefecture". 2023-04-13. Retrieved 2023-05-16.