The plight of unrecognised breeds.

Something I have received constant criticism and antagonism for with being a foundation Kai Ken breeder in the United Kingdom is the fact that my dog is not titled.

In Europe and the United States, the Kai Ken is recognised by FCI, UKC and AKC-FSS, meaning the breed can be shown and titled in conformation.

So why, in the UK, can I not title my dog?
The Kennel Club is the oldest kennel club in the world, and it certainly is set in its ways because of this. Instead of working on a system like the FCI where all countries under the club have the same list of accepted breeds, The Kennel Club runs things on its own terms, and has its own list of breeds.

So how do you get on that breed list?

With great difficulty.

The first step is to get onto the import register, which is a fight in itself.

When I spoke to the Kennel Club about getting the Kai onto the import register, this is what I was told.

Kenichi No Mitsuru Go Charadon at the British Utility Breed Association Show. The Japanese Akita Inu has full recognition with The Kennel Club and can be shown to championship.

As of 2017, to petition The Kennel Club for breed recognition to the import register, they require:

  • Names of UK owners/importers
  • Total number of dogs of the breed in the UK [ideally at least 20, preferably unrelated]
  • Copies of pedigrees of UK dogs – at least 3 generations
  • Proposed breeding plan and indication of available gene pool
  • Indication of temperament and characteristics
  • Recognition status in the country of origin
  • Details of registration body in country of origin
  • Indication of group classification
  • If the breed has been crossbred, when the registry closed
  • Brief history of the breed in its country of origin & photographs
  • Functionality of breed and how widely it is used
  • Breed Standard from country of origin
  • Draft Breed Standard [based on template]
  • Breed Registration statistics in country of origin [ideally a consistent minimum of 50 per year]; and other countries
  • Show entry statistics in country of origin and at international level [ideally a minimum of 35 individually exhibited at a single competitive event]
  • Details of any inherited conditions prevalent in the breed
  • For Working Breeds – details of activities. Video footage [if available]

Even once this has been done and the breed has been accepted onto the Import Register, the breeds will not be eligible for exhibition until an interim breed standard has been submitted, published and approved.

On top of this, The Kennel Club also will remove recognition for breeds if there are not enough registered, which means that without a steady increase in numbers here, gaining recognition may not be worth doing currently. 

I was also told directly, out of this list of requirements, that I would need 15 unrelated dogs.

We currently have two known Kai Ken in the UK, with a third coming over soon. We are very lucky that these three individuals are decently unrelated for a breed with such a small gene pool.

The issue here is that we don’t have interest. I have less than 10 individuals on my wait list for a puppy, which means even if every single one of those people decided to import an unrelated dog instead, we STILL would not have enough individuals to petition for recognition.

But let’s pretend for a moment that we DO have enough dogs to proceed onto the import register, and we do the above requirements and the Kai Ken is granted recognition. End of story, right?

Wrong!

Korean Jindo at Crufts’ Discover Dogs. The Jindo has been on the import register since 2006.

Import register breeds can show in conformation but they cannot gain championship titles. For a breed to be titled as a Champion in conformation, they must have full Kennel Club recognition, and achieve three Challenge Certificates (CC) under three different judges.

But that’s okay, once they’re on the import register, it’ll be easy to gain recognition, right?

Wrong! Some breeds will NEVER gain full recognition with the Kennel Club, especially if they are not popular and don’t have a steady increase of numbers. It could take 100 years before the breed gains full recognition, and if Kai numbers begin to decrease again, then hypothetically the breed COULD go extinct before there is ever a UK Champion Kai Ken.

Of course, we have the chance to travel abroad to show, but due to COVID-19 that has not been possible so I am not addressing that directly here.

So if Kai can’t be titled in conformation, surely there are other titles they can gain? Well…

Dog sports are not as common here as they are in the US, so there are very few options in that, so I will briefly cover the reasons why these titles are not accessible to the breed and to my kennel directly.

  • Breed Specific Working Trials – These are open to certain breeds only, such as Bloodhound Working Trials or
  • Border Collie Herding Tests.
  • Lure Coursing – You cannot title in coursing unless your dog is a sighthound. Most clubs will not allow non-sighthounds to run the lure even for fun.
  • Working Trials – This is the civilian version of police dog trials, it is very physically demanding for both dog and owner, and not accessible for people with health issues such as myself.
  • Field and Gundog Trials – These are titles specifically for working gundogs.
  • Barnhunt – Barnhunt is not a Kennel Club associated activity. A Barnhunt association was set up in 2020 and swiftly closed due to COVID-19, and their pages have not been active since.

So this leaves Rally, Obedience, Agility or Heelwork to music. Agility is too physically demanding for me as a person with Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome, and I personally have little interest in the remaining options, and I personally do not think Akiko would be interested either. That said, she is registered with the UK Activity Register, so if I did decide to pursue these, I can. I have also considered asking someone to run her in Agility for me, but again, COVID-19 has gotten in the way of that.

From ‘Active Training for Japanese Dogs (1934)’.

There are a few other sports that I haven’t mentioned, dock diving and weight pull come to mind, which are both quite common in the US sport scene. However they don’t really exist in the U.K. You can try dock diving at events but there isn’t a competitive scene. I’m also not including online titles in this list since they are not related to the Kennel Club here, though they are completely valid and should be pursued if you can.

So if we can’t show, and we can’t title, how else can we prove the Kai Ken? Well… we kind of can’t!

Kishu Ken with boar, published in Aiken No Tomo (1967). Like the Kai, the Kishu is one of the six Nihon Ken breeds, and an aboriginal boar hound.

The Kai Ken is a hunting breed used on medium and big game. The job of the breed, as with all Nihon Ken, is to find game, flush it and hold it at bay for the hunter to dispatch the animal. In Japan, many places in Europe and the United States, Nihon Ken breeders can prove their dogs in this way instead.

So can we hunt with our Kai in the UK? No, of course not, that would be too easy of an answer to this difficulty!

Under the Hunting Act 2004, it is against the law to use dogs to hunt. This includes deer and boar, two animals the Kai have historically been used to hunt. The UK has very strict regulations on what they view as animal cruelty, so even instinct trials are considered cruel and wrong here.

So we can’t show. We can’t title. We can’t hunt. What the heck can we do?
Well, we can focus on producing the healthiest dogs possible, and we can focus on importing fresh bloodlines until the day comes that we can do such things. We can continue working closely with breeders in the country of origin to preserve the type and spirit of these dogs, while making sure we breed for the future of the breed.

We can promote the breed at events, and hope that someone might just take a liking to our funny little brindle companions. We can do everything we can to keep this breed from falling into the hands of unscrupulous breeders and we can continue to fight for the KC to finally accept our breed. 

When COVID-19 isn’t an issue, we can travel and title abroad. But right now, we have to do what little we can do, otherwise there is no future for the breed.