The Japanese have six native Spitz type dogs that are unique to their part of the world. Among these six, the Kai Dog or the Tora Dog is the Shika Inu which means "medium sized" as opposed to Shiba Inu which is smaller. The Kai Dog has the typical Spitz type of short stand-off brush coat and the tail curled tightly over the back, while the head has the wedge shaped look of a fox and the ears are prick.
In the early 1900s there was an influx of western dogs into Japan due to the opening of their borders after the first World War. The Japanese were impressed greatly by the larger size of the dogs and the unique hunting abilities. The two breeds in particular which made a big impression were the German Shorthair Pointer and the Alsatian. For some time the Japanese abandoned their own breeds in favor of the newcomers. In 1930 a Japanese breeder by the name of Haruo Isogai attempted to revive the interest in breeding of these dogs. At that time he developed the categorizing of the native breeds by size and somewhat by function.
The function of the Kai Dog has always been that of a hunter. It is recognized by the F.C.I. as a member of Group 5 (Spitz type). The Kai Dog hunts deer and boar and small game. The alternate Japanese name of this breed "Tora Dog", which means "Tiger Dog", signifies the common coloring of the coat, which is often striped like that of the Tiger. Some breeders will also say that the name implies the disposition of the dog also, for it is a strong willed and cunning hunter and will not pass up the opportunity to hunt independently of its master.
The common colors of the Kai Dog are brindled with black, red, or a generally dark brindle, sometimes with white markings on the legs. However the white markings should not extend above the knee on the legs. Size is usually about 18-22 inches at the withers. The dog should be rather square in appearance and without legginess or ranginess. The Kai has made only a few inroads into other parts of the world. It wasn't until 1990 that there were the first imports into the United States. It is now recognized as a member of the United Kennel Club in the U.S.A. and is a member of the group of dogs which are listed in the F.S.S. registry of the A.K.C.
If its function is that of a household pet the Kai will be very affectionate and strongly loyal and requires a strong owner or it will take over the alpha position in the household. The Kai Dog in Japan is usually found in a hunting dog kennels but may be in the house as a pet more frequently in the United States, in which case it is very often a "one man dog". This is a breed which gets along well with other dogs. The Kai Dog also functions as a guard dog, although it is usually within a fence for it will definitely run off and hunt if allowed to roam free. The Kai is a good household pet when introduced as a puppy to the household, being very affectionate and loyal.