Named for the locale from which it originally hails, the Akita dog also goes by the following names:
- Shishi Inu
- Akita Inu
- Japanese Akita; and
- Nippon Inu
Although the Akita makes for a great pet and companion dog nowadays, that was not always the case. You see although the Akita was originally used as a large game hunting dog by the 17th century its primary role had been reinvented into fighting dog. But you would never know this from all the effort and lengths that modern fanciers of the breed have gone to in order to bury such an unsavory past!
From Japanese history records it is more than likely that the Akita was the descendant of the Matagi dog, a native dog that hailed from the island of Honshu. The Matagi was primarily used as a hunter of large game such as elk, boar, Asian black bear and antelope. The Akita took over these duties when it superseded the Matagi dog but was itself overshadowed by the advances of technology.
It was at that time the Akita’s primary role was redefined as fighting dog!
Perhaps though what is more remarkable about this its less than stellar past is how the Akita dog breed has managed to completely shed its gladiatorial past to remake itself into the wonderful canine companion of today! After all up until the 19th century the Akita was Japan’s premier fighting dog. The change that happened in the 19th century was the introduction of imported foreign dogs that radically altered the Japanese fighting dog scene.
More recently the Akita Inu finds itself employed as a hunting dog, companion dog, police dog, security dog and of course show dog.
Characteristics of the Akita Inu
One glance at the Akita Inu and one can immediately tell that it belongs to the Spitz family of dogs. The Akita Inu has many of the obvious traits characteristic of Spitz dogs which include: the pricked up ears; the bushy curled up tail; the plush double coat and characteristic wolf-like muzzle.
The Akita is a well proportioned muscular dog with plenty of evident power and strength. Males attain weights of up to 120lbs (54kgs) and the smaller females get up to 100lbs (45kgs). Height wise the breed stands anywhere from 23” to 28” though males are naturally taller than females.
Appearance wise the Akita Inu may display in a variety of colors which include: fawn; brindle; sesame; pure white and red. All colors according to the breed standard must display whitish hairs on the sides of the muzzle, cheeks, neck chest, body and tail. As far as Japanese breed standards are concerned “black masks” are forbidden in the breed.
The American Akita breed standard adopts a somewhat more liberal view , accepting and encouraging the black mask specimens as well as allowing certain coat colors such as pinto that are not recognized by Japanese breeders. In fact as far as the American Akita Association is concerned all colors are welcomed and accepted.
Although the Japanese and American Akita’s derive from a common ancestor (after all the American specimens were imported from Japan by military personnel who took fancy to the breed after the 2nd world war) by the latter 3rd of the 20th century the two types had began to morphologically diverge.
American breeders and fanciers favored the larger and heavier dogs and thus bred the breed with such traits in mind. Also as previously mentioned American Akita dog breeders recognized all colors and embraced those specimens that displayed a black mask muzzle. Currently the AKC and the Canadian Kennel Club consider the Japanese and American Akita to be two types of the same breed and thus freely allow interbreeding of the two types.
Akita Dog Temperament
In keeping with its Spitz dog background the Akita is independent, strong-willed bordering on stubborn and bold with a lavish dose of confidence. Although wary and reserved with strangers the Akita is fiercely loyal and demonstrative to its immediate family. By nature the Akita is domineering in character and does not get on well with other dogs unless early and extensive socialization is adopted.
The Akita dog is of above average intelligence and thus needs plenty of mental stimuli to avoid becoming a nuisance. On par with its muscular and physical morphology the Akita Inu breed requires a moderate amount of exercise on a daily basis; fortunately despite its powerful build and physique the Akita only has moderate energy levels.
Akita Inu do well with kids but here as always with any dog breeds especially the larger breeds adequate levels of adult supervision are required when small kids are involved!
Most Famous Akita Inu
You would think that having been Japan’s premier fighting dog breed before the invasion of foreign dog imports, the most celebrated Akita would be remembered for its fighting chops! Well sorry to break the assumption.
Surprisingly the most celebrated Akita Inu was a companion dog not a fighting champion and happened to be the loyal canine friend of a Tokyo professor called Eizaburo Ueno. The dog known as Hachi would accompany his master to the train station everyday to see him off then return home on his own. Then in the evening Hachi would set off again to the train station to greet his master and walk back home with him.
One day (25th May 1925) the good professor suffered a fatal stroke and died in his office. As usual Hachi set off that very evening expecting to greet his master; but of course the professor was a no show. The following evening and each and every evening after that for the next nine years of his life Hachi went to the train station and waited expectantly for his master’s return.
Now that’s what you call loyalty and devotion!
In recognition of his loyalty a bronze statue was erected in memory of Hachi and can still been seen to this very day in Shibuya Station. The statue was appointed Chuken Hachi-ko, which means “Loyal Dog Hacchi.”
Article on Akita written by Kayye Nynne