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Kai Ken
Characteristics, History, and Health

Kai Ken

The Kai Ken, also known as the Tora Inu or Tiger Dog, is a rare and ancient Japanese dog breed that was discovered in 1929 near Mount Fuji in the Kai province. It was traditionally used for hunting, and as a versatile working dog in the Kai region. The breed was recognized by the Japanese Kennel Club in 1934, and it is believed the first Kain Ken came to the United States in the 1950s. In 1990 and 1991, a male and three female dogs were brought to the U.S., respectively. These dogs started the genetic pool for the Kai Ken that would be bred in America. There were originally two types of Kai Ken: a thick, stocky bear-faced version, and a thin fox-faced version. The Kai Ken is one of the six native Japanese dog breeds recognized by the Japanese government as a national monument, alongside the Akita Inu, Shiba Inu, Kishu Ken, Hokkaido, and Shikoku.

Main Info
Alternate Names
Kai, Tora Dog (means tiger in Japanese), Tiger Dog, Tora Inu
Life Expectancy
12-15 years
Average Male Height
18.5-19.5 inches
Average Female Height
15.5-17 inches
Average Male Weight
30-40 pounds
Average Female Weight
25-35 pounds
Coat Length
Coat Type
Coat Colors
Black Brindle (Kuro-Tora), Brindle (Chu-Tora), and Red Brindle (Aka-Tora)
Coat Pattern

Genetic Predispositions and Health

The Kai Ken is a generally healthy breed, but may suffer from allergies, seizures, and luxating patella. Patella, hip, and ophthalmologist evaluations are recommended, along with cardiac exams and progressive retinal atrophy optigen DNA tests for this breed. Genetic testing is recommended, including for the following additional conditions: hyperuricosoria, degenerative myelopathy, and progressive rod-cone degeneration.

Personality and Behavior

Croatian Sheepdogs are known for their intelligence, agility, and strong work ethic. They have a lively and alert temperament, making them excellent watchdogs. These dogs are often reserved with strangers but loyal and affectionate with their families. Croatian Sheepdogs are very active and require regular physical and mental stimulation. If not given a job to do, they may become bored and develop problem behaviors.

This is a breed that requires an active lifestyle and is ideally suited to a rural environment where it can have space to run and work. They are generally good with children and other dogs if properly socialized from a young age. However, due to their herding instincts, they may try to herd small children and animals.

Given their herding background, Croatian Sheepdogs can excel in dog sports such as agility, obedience, and herding events. Their intelligence makes them relatively easy to train, but they can have a stubborn streak, so consistent, positive reinforcement methods work best.

Fun Facts

The Croatian Sheepdog was recognized by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) in 1969 and to the American Kennel Club (AKC) Foundation Stock Service Program in 2017.

According to the AKC, the earliest written document about Croatian Sheepdogs, titled, "Canis pastoralis croaticus", dates back to 1374. It was discovered in the archives of the diocese of Djakovo, by “father of the breed” and veterinarian Dr. Stjepan Romić.