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Kai Ken

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Kai Ken

Form and Function

An ancient and rare breed — not to mention one of six native Japanese breeds — the Kai Ken historically has been used as a hunter of big game, such as deer and wild boar, in the mountainous regions of Japan due to his sturdy build, solid muscling and medium size. Because of his high prey drive, few things can slow the agile and keen Kai Ken’s pursuit, as he will readily swim or climb to reach his end game. With his wedge-shaped head, prick ears, tail curled over the back, and harsh coat in a distinct brindle pattern, the Kai Ken is of true spitz type.


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Breed Traits

Energy Level

3 out of 5

Exercise Requirements

4 out of 5


3 out of 5

Affection Level

3 out of 5

Friendliness To Dogs

4 out of 5

Friendliness To Other Pets

2 out of 5

Friendliness To Strangers

2 out of 5


5 out of 5

Ease of Training

3 out of 5

Grooming Requirements

2 out of 5

Heat Sensitivity

2 out of 5


2 out of 5

Breed Attributes




20 to 55 pounds


18 ½ to 22 inches (male), 17 ½ to 20 inches (female)


Northern (UKC), Foundation Stock Service (AKC)

Area of Origin


Date of Origin


Other Names



An ancient breed that’s still considered rare even in his home country of Japan, the Kai Ken was developed as a big game hunter of deer and wild boar in the province of Kai on the Honshu Island, an area surrounded by mountains and thus geographically isolated. Because such, the breed wasn’t recognized in Japan until 1934. Courageous yet gentle and loyal, the Kai Ken is esteemed as a family companion in the United States. The United Kennel Club recognized the Kai Ken as a member of the Northern Breed Group in 1997, while the American Kennel Club continues to include the Kai Ken in its Foundation Stock Service throughout the breed’s further development.


The Kai Ken is well known as a skilled hunter, devoted companion and trustworthy watchdog. Although the breed is relatively reserved among strangers, he is friendly with his human family and other dogs. The Kai Ken is intelligent, eager to learn and always willing to please his human companion.


The Kai Ken is a naturally clean dog, his double, medium-length coat only requiring occasional brushing and bathing. Keep in mind he’ll blow his coat twice a year, during which time more frequent brushing and bathing is necessary. Other regular maintenance includes nail trimming, ear cleaning and teeth brushing. This moderately active breed also requires daily physical and mental activity, such as free running and playtime in a large fenced yard or being taken on several walks. Indoor activities such as games of hide-and-seek, retrieving balls or learning new tricks also will help keep the Kai Ken entertained. Provided his exercise and attention needs are met, the Kai Ken is loving, gentle family companion.


Major Concerns: N/A

Minor Concerns: N/A

Occasionally Seen: Allergies, luxating patella and seizures

Suggested Tests: Patellas, hips

Lifespan: 12 to 15 years


Note: While the characteristics mentioned here may frequently represent this breed, dogs are individuals whose personalities and appearances will vary. Please consult the adoption organization for details on a specific pet.

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