Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Kai Ken standard

I just typed up an email to a friend looking to export Kai to give a brief history of the Kai breed, and explain the reason most Kai are not registered with the Nihon Ken Hozonkai and the JKC. In the hopes that it is informative and useful to others looking to own Kai overseas, I'm posting it here.

'As far as the history of the Kai in Japan (most of this is based on research, but I've added my own opinions as well), like all Japanese breeds the ancestors of the Kai are thought to have been brought over thousands of years ago by the Jomon, and later the Yayoi people. Due
to Japan's geographic and political isolation, there was not much inter breeding with dogs from the continent. Of the Japanese breeds Kai, Hokkaido, and Ryukyu carry more of the genetic make up of the original dogs brought over by the Jomon. This can be almost completely contributed to geographics.

Many of the legends surrounding the formation of the Japanese breeds involve cross breeding with, or direct descendance from wolves, and though not 100 percent certain, some genetic tests have seemed to support these legends. The Kai originated in modern day Yamanashi prefecture, which used to be known as 'Kai no Kuni' (the country of Kai) and like all the Japanese breeds (other than the Shiba) they were named after the area they were found.

As Japan opened up to the outside world, traders brought dogs with them. In many cases these dogs were systematically bred with the native dogs, as in the case of the Akita and the Tosa. The interbreeding was so widespread that in the early 1900s moves were made to try and save the remaining 'pure' native dogs. The mood in the country at the time was leaning toward ultra-nationalism, and the government actively encouraged the preservation of all things
Japanese. Teams scoured the country to find the 'best' 'pure' dogs. Thus began the classification of the Japanese breeds (and the breed standards).

The Kai is often cited as being the most 'pure' of the Japanese breeds. This is mostly due to Yamanashi being extremely back country and mountainous, making it difficult for outsiders to enter the area. The Kai Ken Aigokai (Kai Ken Protection Society) was established in 1931, and the first Tenrankai (exhibition) was held in April the following year. In November of the same year the first Nihon Ken Hozonkai (Japanese Dog Preservation Society) Tenrankai was held in Ginza, Tokyo. Of 81 dogs shown, 17 were Kai. The breed was given Natural Monument status in 1934. The rift between the Kai Ken Aigokai and Nihon Ken Hozonkai began when Nippo (Nihon Ken Hozonkai) classified all the Japanese breeds into 3 sizes, small, medium and large. The Kai was grouped in the medium category along with the Shikoku, Kishu, and Hokkaido.

After World War 2 began Nihon Ken numbers, including the Kai's, were depleted due to food shortages, and in some cases laws banning the ownership of dogs. Owning a dog during the war was considered unpatriotic which is ironic as the original move to preserve the Japanese breeds was championed by the ultra-nationalist government as patriotic. Again due to geographic isolation, the Kai did not suffer as much as the other Japanese breeds, and thanks to avid supporters
the breed was revived after the war.

The disagreement between the Aigokai and Nippo was mainly over size. The Kai did not conform to the measurements of the medium standard as set by Nippo. Slightly larger than the 'small' Shiba, they do not conform to the 'small' or 'medium' standard, ending up somewhere in between. The Aigokai standard calls for a height of 40-50 centimeters, with the Nippo 'medium' standard set at
51cm for males (give or take 3cm), and 49cm for females (give or take 3cm). The Aigokai was set on preserving the Kai as it was, without breeding to manipulate size to conform to the Nippo 'medium' standard. There was also a disagreement regarding the black tongue markings that almost all Kai have. According to the Nippo standard black markings on a dog's tongue is a flaw, and in the ring counts for a point deduction. A few years ago Nippo finally changed this rule, and the Kai is no longer docked points for tongue markings.

Due to these disagreements (and possibly other politics) Aigokai members stopped showing their dogs at Nippo events, and does not allow their Kai to register with other canine registration organizations. Any Aigokai Kai registered with another organization loses its Aigokai registration. Due to this, there are very few Kai registered with Nippo, and it is very difficult for them to do well in Nippo events due to size constraints (and until recently, tongue markings). There is a small group of Kai registered with Nippo, but the smaller gene pool and their larger than average size leave something to be desired. I have heard on occasion of Kai that do not do well showing at the Aigokai events due to size or other issues, switching to Nippo registration to compete in their events (less competition).

One stickler born of all this is that the Japan Kennel Club (JKC) which is the recognized national canine registry, only allows registration of Nippo Kai, and not Aigokai Kai. So, anyone looking to export and register their Kai with an overseas canine registry can have problems getting Aigokai papers recognized. It is easier to export a Nippo Kai and get JKC papers, but due to the aforementioned reasons is not necessarily in the breed's best interest.

It may seem I'm a little biased as a member of the Aigokai, but the Aigokai does have the vast majority of registered Kai. A larger gene pool to breed from, and maintaining the breed as it was originally found is what a breed preservation society should be doing. The day Nippo changes its Kai standard to allow the breed to be what it was and is, I'm sure Kai fanciers will be more than happy to show and register their dogs with Nippo.'

This is all based on what I've researched, been told, with some of my opinions thrown in, so some of this may not be 100 percent accurate. If anyone has any other information to add, or anything to correct, feel free to comment.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Well written and full of helpful info. Thanx man!