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Pure-bred red white Japanese Akita
Akita Inu
(Akita, Akita Dog, Japanese Akita)
Akita books
Akita calendars
Akita stuff
Japanese dog breeds
Shiba inu
Shikoku inu
Kai inu

The Japanese Akita belongs to the "spitz" group of dog breeds (cfr. northern dog breeds). It is an intelligent and courageous breed, slightly to highly reserved, even with its owner. Yet, it is an extremely loyal and devoted dog and discerning guardians of their families. The Akita is named after its native country, the Akita prefecture, the northernmost area on the island Honshu (Japan). The name Akita Inu, as they are called in Japan (Inu meaning dog), was not used until September 1931, when the Akita was designated a natural monument. Prior to this they were known as Odate dogs (the main city of Honshu in the 1800s).

History and Origins
It is not known when the Akita dog (originally called the regional dog) was domesticated. Together with the other native Japanese breeds it shares a common ancestor - a medium sized, curly tailed dog with erect ears that is depicted on ancient pottery and has been found in archeological excavations.

White dogs are mentioned in Japanese literature such as the Kojiki (A Chronicle of Medieval Japan of A.D. 712) and the Nihon Shoki (The Chronicles of Japan).

Picture scrolls of the Middle Age from the late Heian Period (A.D. 898-1185) to the Kamakura Period (1182-1332) show dogs with erect ears, curled tails, and some with sickle tails.
Akitas presented to the then crown prince Taisho
In the original Akita (Japanese Akita) the only colors accepted are red, white, or brindle. A black mask, loose skin or too much mass are not accepted and are seen as being the result of crossbreeding.

Champion male
Akita Inu
Onwer: Joanne

Brindle Akita
American Akita with black mask
American Akita with black mask
Photo: Michal Napartowicz

In the United States, Canada Britain, and the rest of the non-FCI  all colors are allowed and no difference in type is made.

The breed has been officially split by the FCI (the leading international dog registry in most European countries, Asia and South America) into American Akita (Great Japanese Dog) and the Akita (Japanese Akita).
White American Akita and brindle Japanese Akita
BooBoo the white American akita and Foshigan the Japanese Akita

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Red and white Japanese Akita
The Akita is not a dog for everyone. Because they are so intelligent and bore easily, they demand a lot of attention and exercise. Obedience training is also essential,  however their dominant nature and obstinate character can present quite a challenge to their trainer.  The breed cannot be forced and will react against harsh method, but once shown what is desired, he is quite cooperative.With firm, consistent and loving discipline, they can achieve quite a lot.

Akita at Nanatsu-gawa Kennel
photo: M. & H. Heuver
Catherine Marien for Japanese Dogss 2003-2011 © All rights reserved by and
The 'History' part of this article was originally published on the page of this website.
Some Akitas work as sled, police, therapy, and several are trained companions of hearing- and sight-impaired people. 
The Akita can appear aggressive as they may consider smaller animals to be game and will defend its territory against all intruders, human or otherwise.  But they are more cerebral than other guard-dog type breeds. Rather than immediately reacting to situations, they tend to size things up first and then respond. Other characteristics that recommend the Akita include the fact that it does not bark excessively. (It was developed to be a silent hunter that attacks without warning.  Like other primitive breeds, the Akita is exceptionally easy to housetrain and very clean.
Temperament and Character
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Nanatsu-gawa Akita
Photo: M. & H. Heuver
See also:
Japanese dog breeds
Akita gift ideas
Akita Christmas ornaments
Akita calendars
Akita books

Akitas by Dan Rice
Akitas (Complete Pet Owner's Manuals)
by DVM, Dan Rice
The Akita Today
The Akita Today
by Dave Killilea
Book of the Akita
by Joan Brearley
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Further Reading
Japanese dogs
Akita inu
Shiba inu
Hokkaido dog
Kai dog
Shikoku inu
Chinese dogs
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Primitive dog breeds
Guide to Owning an Akita:
Puppy Care, Grooming, Training, History, Health, Breed Standard
by Jason Taylor
More information:
The New Complete Akita
by Joan M. Linderman
More information:

Akita: Treasure of Japan
by Barbara Bouyet
 More information:

by Gerald Mitchell
Akitas were originally developed as fighting dogs during the Tokugawa period (1603-1925). Dog fights wera as popular in the Far East as they were in Europe and at that time, the prefecture of Akita was one of the two most popular dog fighting areas, the other one being the Tosa province.
At first, the Akita breed was stronger and larger than the Tosa (hence, its nick name ShiShi Inu, meaning large dog), but gradually, the situation reversed. 
The Akita gradually lost its popularity as a fighting dog because other breeds, like the Tosa Inu (crossbred with larger European breeds), proved more efficient. The Akitas and Tosas were also cross bred, with the resulting off-spring labeled as "Shin Akita".
With their size and substance, athletic ability and determination, the Akita then gained praise as a bold hunter of deer, wild boar or Japanese antelopes and even bears. They were used in male-female pairs to hold the prey until the hunter arrived. Other uses include retrieving waterfowls as they have a soft mouth. They were usually kept by the aristocracy or wealthy people, as a guard and a loyal companion, or as village guard dogs and, as previously stated, as hunting dogs (especially in the Ani area).
Fearing that under the Western influence, traditional and historic landmarks, including animals and plants, would disappear, the Japanese government initiated the Natural Monument program in 1919 in order to preserve and/or restore the traditional Japanese culture. Preservation of the native Japanese dog breeds was part of that program. The Akita dog was in a state of greatest decline among Japanese dogs, not only in numbers, but also in purity, due to their being crossbred to western dogs (German Shepherd Dog, St. Bernard, Mastiff) and Tosa fighting dogs, mostly during the early part of the twentieth century.  Although the natural monument legislation was established by the Japanese government in 1919, almost twelve years went by before the Akita dog was finally declared as a natural monument in July 1931.
Fighting Akita with untypical ears
Fighting Akita with untypical traits (drop ears)
Drop ears, straight tails, non-Japanese color (black masks, and any color other than red, white or brindle), and loose skin had appeared as the result of cross-breeding to the Mastiff and other European breeds. In order to restore the pure Akita characteristics like the curled tail and small erect ears, dogs known as "matagi" (Tohoku term for "hunting") and
Hokkaido dogs were introduced into the breeding program. These relatively pure dogs from remote mountain villages were brought to Odate, on the island of Honshu. The importance of preserving and purifying the original bloodlines was stressed to breeders and fanciers, and the movement to restore the Akita could be started.

The Matagi dogs were slightly larger than the medium dogs. Examples of these were Oyajiro-go of Mr. Hyoemon Kyono, Fuji-go of Mr. Kesakichi Takahashi and Sentaro-aka of Mr. Keiji Takahashi, which were famous hunting dogs in the medium group registered with Nippo in the early 1930's.

Several times in recent history, the Akita came close to extinction. A rabies outbreak in 1899 and another rabbies epidemy in 1924 resulted in many dogs being destroyed.

During  World War II the breed came close again to being extinct because many Akitas, especially those in the cities, were killed for food or for their pelts. The police ordered the capture and confiscation of all dogs other than the German Shepherd Dogs, which were used as military dogs. Some fanciers tried to bypass the order by crossbreeding their dogs with German Shepherd Dogs. Moreover, due to the food shortage, anyone seen feeding dogs was often considered a traitor.

Barely a dozen Akita dogs survived the war. Nevertheless, in the 50's the demand from abroad for this dog breed increased and German Shepherds were used in some kennels to allow more breeding possibilities.
This created the "Shepherdy" look, and the sable and saddle colours, still seen today which immediately enjoyed popularity. From the reconstruction period after the War two major bloodlines subsisted the Ichinoseki line (referred to by the Japanese as the "Mastiff" type), and the Dewa line (known as the "German Shepherd Akitas". The Dewa line came from Dewa-go, a dog from the Kennel of Yozaburo Ito, a dog dealer. The Ichinoseki line goes back to Ichinosekitora-go that was owned by the wealthy Mr. Kuniro Ichinoseki.
Akita with Shepherd look
Akita with Shepherd look
Ichinosekitora can be traced back to the so-called "Shin" ("New") Akita fighting dog called "Gamata", which was a product of crossbreeding the Akita fighting dog with the Tosa fighting dogs according to Mutsuo Okada.

Ichinosekitora can be traced back to the so-called "Shin" ("New") Akita fighting dog called "Gamata", which was a product of crossbreeding the Akita fighting dog with the Tosa fighting dogs according to Mutsuo Okada.

The Dewa type, represented by the Kongo line, soon went into a decline, when most Japanese dog breeders began to feel they were unable to produce Akita dogs representative of the Japanese dog breed from the Kongo line. However, Tetsuyuki-go and Kumomaru-go are said to have dogs of the Dewa line in their pedigrees. The Ichinoseki type, represented by the Goromaru line, soon began to replace the dogs of the Dewa line. Success toward the Japanese Akita dog type was obtained when Goromaru was bred to females of the Taihei and Nikkei lines from Southern Akita. Goromaru-go was not a winner in the show ring, but was valued for producing outstanding Akita dogs of the Japanese type when bred to certain bitches from Southern Akita.

By the early '60's, the Japanese had achieved to purify and rebuild the Akita breed again, by discouraging loose skin and too much mass as well as black masks and any colour other than red, white, or brindle, which are seen as being the result of crossbreeding. In North America, the breeders and the public fell in love with the new type which became well established and recognized around the world as the "American-type" or American Akita (formerly also knoan as Great Japanese Dog).
ichinoseki type

dewa type

reimprovement of the breed
reimprovement of the breed
sesame, pinto, male