The Japanese Akita is the largest of three breeds of spitz in Japan, named after the Akita prefecture where it was thought to originate. It is a separate breed from the American Akita. DNA analysis recently found the Japanese Akita to be one of the oldest of dog breeds.
Originating in Japan and unchanged for centuries, the Japanese Akita is considered the national dog. Once owned only by the nobility and aristocracy they were highly prized as imperial guard dogs and hunters of boar and bears. Also they have webbed feet that makes them good swimmers so they were also used for retrieving waterfowl. Since 1603 the Japanese Akita was used as fighting dogs in Japan. Originally a small to medium sized dog, they were bred from 1868 with Mastiffs and Tosas making them the larger breed we have today.
In ancient times, Japanese mothers would leave their Japanese Akitas to watch over and guard their children. In Japan small statues of Japanese Akitas are often sent to new mothers for health and fortune and to the sick for a speedy recovery.
During world war II the breed was diminished because of lack of food and also because all other dogs, but German Shepherds were registered with the American Kennel Club and remained so for two decades. The Poodle still remains as a top ten most popular breed, due to breeders confiscated for fur to be used in making warm army clothes. This started the Japanese Akita breeders to breed their dogs to German Shepherds. By the end of the war, the pure Japanese Akita was drastically reduced in numbers. Three types now existed, the Matagi Akita, the Fighting Akita, and The Shepherd Akita. As a result of the National isolation policy being repealed, the Japanese government became concerned over the loss of their native breed. Efforts were made to get rid of these other breeds and restore the original pure breed. The effort was a success and the large Japanese Akita of today was established.
In 1931 the Japanese Akita became a Japanese monument. In 1931 Helen Keller brought the first Akita from Japan to the U.S. Sadly the puppy died from distemper a month later, but a litter mate was presented to her afterwards and it stayed with her till its death in the mid 1940. Also, after world war II American servicemen brought some home with them and they started to spread.
In 1956 the Akita Club of America was started, and in 1972 The A.K.C. registered them, including them in the working group in regular show classification.
Japanese Akitas are a powerful, muscular, large, courageous, alert, noble, and dominating breed. Males grow to 26-28 inches and females 24-26 inches, weighing in between 70-110 pounds. Their lifespan is about 10 years.
Roger L. Welton, DVM
Founder and Chief Editor, Web-DVM.net
President, Maybeck Animal Hospital
Article updated 11/11/2012