The Kai Ken (also called Tiger Dog for the distinct brindle markings on its coat) is believed to be the most ancient and rare dog breed in Japan. They originated from wild mountain dogs in the remote district of Kai and have been used as hunting dogs for most of their history. The breed hadn’t been recognized in Japan until 1931 and was unknown in the USA until the early 1990’s. In 1934 the Kai Ken was awarded a national treasure status in Japan and is now protected by the law.
Being a hunting breed, the Kais are very intelligent, athletic, healthy and independent. They housebreak easily and are fairly easy to train, although they do require a firm hand and good socialization since very birth. They make good inside-house dogs, happy to live in an apartment as long as they are getting enough walks in the park. However, the Kais need to be kept on a leash – otherwise their strong hunting instincts will take over and lead them off on a chase of prey.
These small spaniel-type dogs that originate from the Netherlands used to be popular around 17th and 18th century (as evidenced by their presence in paintings of Rembrandt and other masters), but reached the brink of extinction after World War II. Thanks to enthusiasts’ efforts, Kooikerhondje have been rescued and are gaining recognition again, although the breed has not been recognized in the US or Canada yet.
The Kooikerhondje have a reputation for being well-behaved, quiet and loyal. They tend to be reserved with strangers, but grow friendly and affectionate once they warm up to someone. These are fairly energetic dogs, so it’s better if they have plenty of space to run around, like a fenced yard. Warning: since the breed has quite a small genetic pool, it’s prone to certain hereditary disorders, in particular von Willebrand’s disease, hereditary necrotising myelopathy (ENM) and eye diseases.
The Löwchen, or Little Lion Dog, at one point had the dubious pleasure of bearing the title of the world’s rarest dog breed: in 1971 there were only 65 registered examples in existence. Nevertheless, the breed’s history might be traceable all the way back to 15th century. Little lion dogs, companions of the wealthy and elite, appear in many Renaissance paintings and works of literature.
The Löwchen is a great house pet: friendly, playful and intelligent, and, unlike many other toy dog breeds, not known to be a barker. They need affection and may suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for a long time. They are also good with children, and make excellent family pets – it’s a real pity the breed is virtually unknown.