Country of Origin: Japan, United States of America (The American variety of Akita is generally considered a separate breed by kennel clubs
Other Names: Akita ken, Akita Inu, Great Japanese Dog
Average Height: Japanese: Male 26 inches (67 cm), Female 24 inches (61 cm) American: Male 26-28 inches (67-71 cm), Females 24-26 inches (61-66 cm)
Average Lifespan: 12-15 years
Coat: There are two types of coat, the standard coat and the long coat; however the long coat is considered a fault in the show ring. Either way, they have a very thick, dense, short and soft undercoat with a stiff, straight overcoat. Regular brushing is necessary.
Colour: The American standard allows any colour or pattern but the Japanese variety is limited to red fawn, sesame, brindle and white. According the Standard, the Japanese dogs must have what is known as “Urajiro,” which simply means that the dog has white markings on the sides of the muzzle, on the cheeks, on the underside of jaw, neck, chest, body and tail and on the inside of the legs.
It is not known when exactly the Akita was domesticated, but it is clear that it is quite an old breed. The ancestor to the Akita appears in Japanese history and holds the title of the country’s oldest native dog breed. Where the dogs originally came from is also unknown but it is quite clear that the Akita shares common ancestors with the other native Japanese breeds. Modern Akita’s are developed primarily from dogs from the Honshu Island in the Akita prefecture, which is where the breed got its name.
As with many older dog breeds, the history of the Akita is a bit murky. Some sources state that they were originally bred as fighting dogs while others say they were bred for hunting. Whatever the case, the Akita has been used for both dogfighting and hunting in Japan. They were highly popular for dogfighting in the 20th century, particularly in Odate. This resulted in breedings with larger dogs such as Great Dane, English Mastiff, St. Bernard and Tosa Inu in order to create larger and more aggressive dogs. The breed was also crossbred with German Shepherds during World War 2. The government had issued an order to put down all non-military dogs and so many Akitas were bred with German Shepherd dogs in order to help preserve the bloodlines. In 1931 the Akita was officially declared a national monument and great efforts have been made in order to preserve the pure Akita bloodline.
It was Helen Keller who brought the first Akita into the United States. She was visiting Japan and was gifted a dog named Kamikaze-go. Many American soldiers were quite fond of the Akita as well and many brought pups back with them. Many Americans preferred the larger Akitas that had been crossed with German Shepherds etc. This allowed the Japanese fanciers to focus more on restoring the Japanese Akita style. As a result, the American Akita is generally much larger and intimidating. The American standard also allows any colours however the Japanese standard has more strict limits on colour. The AKC officially recognized the breed in 1955 and breeding stock was imported from Japan until 1974. That year the AKC decided to stop allowing the registration of Japanese imports. This decision caused the divergence in type between the American Akita and the Japanese Akita that we see today.
FCI: Group 5, Section 5 ##255 (Japanese), #344 (American)
AKC: Working Group
CKC: Group 3 – Working dogs
KC (UK): Utility
Bold, willful, loyal, courageous, alert and intelligent are all words that describe the Akita. They are generally wary of strangers but extremely affectionate and playful with their family. They are known to be aggressive towards other dogs sometimes, especially the same sex. They generally do best in a single dog household. The Akita is known to be rather mouthy, and likes to carry around toys and other household objects. They are a fairly active breed and require regular exercise. Due to their large size and sometimes ferocious nature the Akita is not recommended to a first time dog owner.