Japanese history, both verbal and written, describe the ancestors of the Akita, the Matagi dog （Japanese:マタギ犬）（hunting dog, Bear hunting dog, Deer hunting dog), as one of the oldest of the native dogs. Today's Akita developed primarily from dogs in the northernmost region of the island of Honshū in the Akita prefecture, thus providing the breed's name. The Matagi's quarry included wild boar, Sika deer, and Asian black bear. This precursor dog tracked large game, holding it at bay until hunters arrived to make the kill. The breed is also influenced by crosses with larger breeds from Asia and Europe, including English Mastiffs, Great Danes, St. Bernards,[ and the Tosa Inu, in the desire to develop a fighting dog for the burgeoning dog fighting industry in Odate in the early 20th century. During World War II the Akita was also crossed with German Shepherd Dogs in an attempt to save them from the war time government order for all non-military dogs to be culled. The ancestors of the American style Akita were originally a variety of the Japanese style Akita, a form that was not desired in Japan due to the markings, and which is not eligible for show competition.
The story of Hachikō, one of the most revered Akitas of all time, helped push the Akita into the international dog world Hachiko was born in 1923 and owned by Professor Hidesaburō Ueno of Tokyo. Professor Ueno lived near the Shibuya Train Station in a suburb of the city and commuted to work every day on the train. Hachikō accompanied his master to and from the station each day. On May 25, 1925, when the dog was 18 months old, he waited for his master's arrival on the four o'clock train, but Professor Ueno had suffered a fatal stroke at work. Hachikō continued to wait for his master's return. He travelled to and from the station each day for the next nine years. He allowed the professor's relatives to care for him, but he never gave up the vigil at the station for his master. His vigil became world renowned when, in 1934, shortly before his death, a bronze statue was erected at the Shibuya train station in his honor. This statue was melted down for munitions during the war and new one was commissioned once the war ended. Each year on April 8 since 1936, Hachikō's devotion has been honoured with a solemn ceremony of remembrance at Tokyo's Shibuya railroad station. Eventually, Hachikō's legendary faithfulness became a national symbol of loyalty, particularly to the person and institution of the Emperor.
In 1931, the Akita was officially declared a Japanese Natural Monument. The Mayor of Odate City in Akita Prefecture organized the Akita Inu Hozankai to preserve the original Akita as a Japanese natural treasure through careful breeding. In 1934 the first Japanese breed standard for the Akita Inu was listed, following the breeds declaration as a natural monument of Japan. In 1967, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Akita Dog Preservation Society, the Akita Dog Museum was built to house information, documents and photos.
The Akita "Tachibana", one of the few Akitas to survive the war, pictured here on a Japanese 1953 issue postage stamp
In 1937, Helen Keller travelled to Japan. She expressed a keen interest in the breed and was presented with the first two Akitas to enter the US. The first dog, presented to her by Mr. Ogasawara and named Kamikaze-go, died at five months of age from Distemper, one month after her return to the States. A second Akita was arranged to be sent to Miss Keller: Kamikaze's litter brother, Kenzan-go. Kenzan-go died in the mid-1940s. By 1939 a breed standard had been established and dog shows had been held, but such activities stopped after World War II began. Keller wrote in the Akita Journal:
“If ever there was an angel in fur, it was Kamikaze. I know I shall never feel quite the same tenderness for any other pet. The Akita dog has all the qualities that appeal to me — he is gentle, companionable and trusty.”
Just as the breed was stabilizing in its native land, World War II pushed the Akita to the brink of extinction. Early in the war the dogs suffered from lack of nutritious food. Then many were killed to be eaten by the starving populace, and their pelts were used as clothing. Finally, the government ordered all remaining dogs to be killed on sight to prevent the spread of disease. The only way concerned owners could save their beloved Akitas was to turn them loose in remote mountain areas, where they bred back with their ancestor dogs, the Matagi, or conceal them from authorities by means of crossing with German Shepherd dogs, and naming them in the style of German Shepherd dogs of the time. Morie Sawataishi and his efforts to breed the Akita is a major reason we know this breed today.
During the occupation years following the war, the breed began to thrive again through the efforts of Sawataishi and others. For the first time, Akitas were bred for a standardized appearance. Akita fanciers in Japan began gathering and exhibiting the remaining Akitas and producing litters in order to restore the breed to sustainable numbers and to accentuate the original characteristics of the breed muddied by crosses to other breeds. U.S. servicemen fell in love with the Akita and imported many with them upon their return.
The Japanese style Akita and American style Akita began to diverge in type during the Post–World War II era. It was during this time, that US servicemen serving as part of the occupation force in Japan first came into contact with the Akita, the breed so impressed them that many soldiers chose to bring an Akita back home with them upon completion of their tour. American soldiers were typically more impressed with the larger more bear-like fighting Akita or German Shepherd type than they were with the smaller framed and fox-like Akita-Inu; the types of dogs they brought back with them to the US reflected this sentiment. Japanese style Akita fanciers focused on restoring the breed as a work of Japanese art or to 'Natural Monument' status. American style Akita fanciers chose to breed larger, heavier-boned and more intimidating dogs. Although, both types derive from a common ancestry, there are marked differences between the two. First, while American style Akitas are acceptable in all colors, Japanese style Akitas are only permitted to be red, fawn, sesame, white, or brindle. Additionally, American style Akitas may be pinto and/or have black masks, unlike Japanese style Akitas where it is considered a disqualification and not permitted in the breed standards. American style Akitas generally are heavier boned and larger, with a more bear-like head, whereas Japanese style Akitas tend to be lighter and more finely featured with a fox-like head.
Recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1955, it was placed in the Miscellaneous class. It wasn't until the end of 1972 that the AKC approved the Akita standard and it was moved to the Working dog class, as such, the Akita is a rather new breed in the United States. Foundation stock in America continued to be imported from Japan until 1974 when the AKC cut off registration to any further Japanese imports until 1992 when it recognized the Japan Kennel Club. The decision by the AKC to disallow the registration of any further imported dogs in 1974, set the stage for the divergence in type between the American Akita and Japanese Akita Inu that is present today by making the Fighting Dog type the foundation stock of the American Akita.
Elsewhere in the world, the American style Akita was first introduced to the UK in 1937, he was a Canadian import, owned by a Mrs. Jenson, however the breed was not widely known until the early 1980s. The breed was introduced in Australia in 1982 with an American Import and to New Zealand in 1986 with an import from the U.K.
Massive but in balance with body; free of wrinkles when at ease. Skull flat between ears and broad; jaws broad and powerful with minimal dewlap. Head forms a blunt triangle when viewed from above. Fault—narrow or snipey head. Muzzle—broad and full. Distance from nose to stop is to distance from stop to occiput as 2 is to 3. Stop—well defined, but not too abrupt. A shallow furrow extends well up forehead. Nose—broad and black; black noses on white Akitas preferred, but a lighter colored nose with or without shading of black or gray tone is acceptable. Disqualification—partial or total lack of pigmentation on the nose surface. Ears—the ears of the Akita are characteristic of the breed; they are strongly erect and small in relation to rest of head. If ear is folded forward for measuring length, tip will touch upper eye rim. Ears are triangular, slightly rounded at tip, wide at base, set wide on head but not too low, and carried slightly forward over eyes in line with back of neck. Disqualification—drop or broken ears. Eyes—dark brown, small, deep-set and triangular in shape. Eye rims black and tight. Lips and Tongue—lips black and not pendulous; tongue pink. Teeth—strong with scissors bite preferred, but level bite acceptable.
Neck—thick and muscular; comparatively short, widening gradually toward shoulders. A pronounced crest blends in with base of skull. Body—longer than high, as to 10 is to 9 in males; 11 to 9 in females. Measurement from the point of the sternum to the point of buttocks. Chest wide and deep; reaching down to the elbow, the depth of the body at the elbow equals half the height of the dog at the withers. Ribs well sprung, brisket well developed. Level back with firmly-muscled loin and moderate tuck-up. Skin pliant but not loose. Serious faults—light bone, rangy body.
Tail—large and full, set high and carried over back or against flank in a three-quarter, full, or double curl, always dipping to or below level of back. On a three-quarter curl, tip drops well down flank. Root large and strong. Tail bone reaches hock when let down. Hair coarse, straight and full, with no appearance of a plume. Disqualification—sickle or uncurled tail.
Forequarters—shoulders strong and powerful with moderate layback. Forelegs heavy-boned and straight as viewed from front. Angle of pastern 15 degrees forward from vertical. Faults—elbows in or out, loose shoulders. Hindquarters—width, muscular development and bone comparable to forequarters. Upper thighs well developed. Stifle moderately bent and hocks well let down, turning neither in nor out. Dewclaws—on front legs generally not removed; dewclaws on hind legs generally removed. Feet—cat feet, well knuckled up with thick pads. Feet straight ahead.
Double-coated. Undercoat thick, soft, dense and shorter than outer coat. Outer coat straight, harsh and standing somewhat off body. Hair on head, legs and ears short. Length of hair at withers and rump approximately two inches, which is slightly longer than on rest of body, except tail, where coat is longest and most profuse. Fault—any indication of ruff or feathering.
Any color including white; brindle; or pinto. Colors are rich, brilliant and clear. Markings are well balanced, with or without mask or blaze. White Akitas have no mask. Pinto has a white background with large, evenly placed patches covering head and more than one-third of body. Undercoat may be a different color from outer coat.
Brisk and powerful with strides of moderate length. Back remains strong, firm and level. Rear legs move in line with front legs.
For the most part, the Akita possesses an easy going, laid back temperament that makes them a great family house pet. They are also commonly known to be quiet dogs that bark only when something necessitates them to bark. Many people commonly report that the Akita makes people feel relaxed and calm and is the ideal pet to own if you suffer from stress. In addition to being easy going, quiet life enhancing pets, the Akita breed is also known for being easy to house break and very clean dogs. The Akita is known for being so clean that many people have described the Akita breed as "cat like" for their odorless and cleanly appearance. When training Akita dogs to be house broken, many successfully accomplish this task within a few weeks, however, if you have other dog breeds that learn at a slower pace this can affect the Akita's learning pace slowing it down as well. The Akita breed is also a very patient, loyal and devoted breed that protects children. The Akita is gentle with children so much so that it is known that mothers in Japan have left their children alone in the care of an Akita. It is, of course, important to note that one should never leave a child alone with an unattended pet. Since the Akita does have a possessive temperament as well as a prey instinct they do need to be socialized with other pets at an early age. Akitas raised with cats and other dogs will do very well as companion pets, but without socialization they may be aggressive and are not recommended for multi-pet families if they are older, non-socialized dogs.
Height: Males 26 - 28 inches (66 - 71 cm) Females 24 - 26 inches (61 - 66 cm)
Weight: Males 75 - 120 pounds (34 - 54 kg) Females 75 - 110 pounds (34 - 50 kg)
Weight: Males 75 - 120 pounds (34 - 54 kg) Females 75 - 110 pounds (34 - 50 kg)
The Akita will do okay in an apartment if it is sufficiently exercised. It is moderately active indoors and will do best with a large yard.
While it is a subjective matter as to how much exercise the Akita needs, having a large yard with a fence is considered the ideal living situation for this type of dog. Akita dogs are strong and can typically, easily handle sledding and weight pulling activities. However, it is important to keep in mind that any Akita puppies less than 18 months should not try to pull any large amount of weight as their bones and joints are not fully developed yet. It is also best to allow Akita dogs to exercise on their own. Akita dogs love to jump, run and play when they want to. It is recommended that the best exercise for the Akita is with another dog. You can play with your Akita with dog toys that will encourage them to run and play. Allow small Akita puppies to rest when they need to rest and their exercise should be contained to a fenced in area. If this area is not sufficient for adequate exercise, walking and jogging with an Akita puppy is a good daily exercise. An Akita is an ideal hiking or walking dog and they are large and sturdy enough to handle even very difficult and challenging terrain. They are also very willing to play with kids and run and explore all day. A well exercised and fit Akita is calm and docile in the house and will typically not engage in any kind of destructive behavior, but they do need regular, lengthy exercise periods per day if kept indoors. Akitas, like any other dog, like to have a variety of options for exercise and not just complete the same routine everyday. While they are excellent swimmers they sometimes have to be coaxed into the water at least the first few times, but will soon enjoy a refreshing swim or paddle about on a hot day. Avoid allowing the Akita to swim in cold weather as their coat is very hard to completely dry when temperatures are cooler.
About 10-12 years
The Akita is a double coat, waterproof breed. The outer coat is harsh, straight, and stands slightly off the body. The under coat is dense, soft, and close to the body. The hair on the head, legs, and ears is short, while the hair on the tail is long and profuse. They typically shed their coat twice a year. The Akita coat colors include pure white, red, sesame, and brindle.
The Akita's coat should be brushed on a weekly basis. It is important to use a grooming comb and a slicker, steel Pin brush to groom your Akita's coat effectively. You can also use a firm bristle brush. Akita dogs do not need to be trimmed or shaved. They do, however, "blow" coat which means that their undercoats shed completely. As you can imagine this can be a very messy time period for any owner. It is good to know that this period typically only lasts a few weeks and this shedding period usually only takes place heavily two times a year. In addition, when your Akita is shedding brushing its coat on a daily basis is recommended in addition to using an undercoat rake. Akita dogs that live indoors or cooler climates typically shed less. It is important to know that you should not bath an Akita too frequently. If you do, you can potentially remove the waterproofing properties that are a natural part of the Akita's full coat.
Large, powerful and alert, the Akita is a working breed that originated in Japan. Dignified and courageous, the Akita today is popular in the show ring and also participates in performance and therapy work. The breed's thick double coat can be any color including white, brindle or pinto. An Akita trademark is the plush tail that curls over his back.
Although known to be a quiet dog (they are known as the "Silent Hunter" in Japan), the Akita has strong guarding instincts and will sound the alarm if an intruder breaks into their house. Akita temperament can range from calm to bouncy and aggressive, so the breed should always be supervised around small children and other animals. Akitas like to be "pack leader," so obedience training is also necessary for a harmonious household. The breed will groom itself like a cat, but daily brushing is still necessary, as is daily exercise.