Kai Ken in the United States

The first Kai to reach the US were gifted to a Utah zoo in the 1960’s. They lived there all their lives as zoo exhibits and did not produce pups.

It was not until the 1990’s that the Kai arrived to stay. Minimeadow Kennel brought over about 8 Kai dogs from a variety of Japan Kennel Club breeders. When that kennel relocated and got out of the breed late in the decade, the dogs were acquired by Classy Kennel, and Mijikai Kennel. These two programs worked hard to preserve the best in these lines and produced many terrific dogs and champions in UKC, and provided the foundation stock and mentorship to new breeders as the Kai became established and people fell in love with this sincere, rugged hunting dog.

Twenty years later, sensing the critical need for diversity in the breed, Yamabushi Kennel imported 22 Kai Ken Aigokai dogs from each of the various lines in Japan, beginning around 2010. This infusion of dogs with the established US lines is the reason why the Kai Ken enjoys the greatest genetic diversity of all the Nihon Ken breeds today, a diversity differential range only slightly higher than the combination of Japanese Akita and American Akita combined. Yamabushi’s imports and the generations they produced, with the assistance of Suteishii Kennel, Mijikai Kennel and O-Ikon Nihon Ken, spread to enrich all active breeders today and gave them a large palette to work in and the flexibility to breed around any health issues as we learn about them through better testing protocols, without facing crippling loss of diversity.

Kai Ken in Japan

Written by Shigeru Kato, http://nihonken.blogspot.com/p/kai.html

It is believed the first domesticated dogs arrived in Japan with the Jomon and Yayoi peoples. Over thousands of years the dogs remained essentially the same due to the country’s geography and isolationist policies. However as Japan opened up to the outside world, the native dogs crossbred with Western dogs leaving fewer and fewer of the original Nihon Ken (Japanese Dog). As the Showa period began efforts were made to classify and preserve the remaining Nihon Ken. Research teams scoured the country searching for and cataloguing the remaining pockets of native dogs. Thanks to the Yamanashi region’s mountainous terrain and limited accessibility there were considerable numbers of quality specimens to be found.
In 1931 Dasuke Adachi, a prosecutor in Kofu city, saw one of these brindle coated dogs and it made a strong impression on him. After some research he discovered that these dogs could be found in Ashiyasu village. He began efforts with other prominent citizens to locate and preserve this rare type of Nihon Ken. After much difficulty he was able to locate and return to Kofu city with 2 of the best available specimens. Hence began the preservation of the Kai as a breed. In November of the same year the Kai Ken Aigokai was formed with Mr. Adachi as its chairman. At the first Nihon Ken Hozonkai (Japanese Dog Preservation Society or NIPPO) show, the Kai drew much attention from the attendees, which helped lead to the classfication of the Kai as a Living Natural Monument by the government of Japan in 1933.