The courageous Akita originates from the mountainous northern areas of Japan and is classed as a 'Spitz' breed of dog which is usually noted for their longer fur and characteristic curled tails. In Japan they are known as 'Akita Inu', 'Inu' being 'dog' in Japanese.
The Akita was considered the noble dog of Japan, often owned by Imperial Leaders and originated in the hilly northern parts of the country, specifically and small region called Akita Prefecture on Honshu Island. It is thought that sometime in the 17th or 18th century, this dog was crossed with a Tosa type, a notorious fighting breed, and the offspring produced as a result were used for dog fighting. A notable Akita is one named 'Hachi-ko'. In the 1920's this dog was owned by a Professor HidesaburÅ Ueno who lived in Tokyo. Each day the Professor and his dog would walk to the Shibuya Train Station where the Professor would catch his train to work. On May 25, 1925, he waited as usual at the station for his master's return from work however; the Professor had died while at work of a stroke. Hachi -ko continued to wait for his master's return each day for the following 9 years, while being cared for by the late Professors family. Hachi-ko never gave up the vigil at the station for his master. In 1934 shortly before his own death, a bronze statue was erected at the Shibuya train station to honour Hachi-ko.
In 1931, the Akita was officially named as a 'national monument' but during the Second World War, the breed almost became extinct as their pelts were used for clothing and the meat as food during this crisis when resources were scarce. A few committed owners of these dogs hid, concerned as to their fate, and the breed was able to be pulled back from the brink.
The breed was diversified in the early 20th century as the 'American Akita'. In 1937 Helen Keller, the famous deaf blind linguist and activist, developed a fondness for the breed and was sent a dog named 'Kamikaze' who sadly died at a young age from distemper and who was followed by one of his litter mates named 'Kenzan-go'. From this point the Japanese and the American breeds were bred away from each other slightly, with the Americans breeding for heavier, larger physical traits. The breed became known in the UK not long after and remains popular to this day.
Average height to withers: Males are larger than females at 26-28 inches while females measure in at between 24-26 inches
Average weight: Males 35-59 kg and females substantially less between 29-35kg.
The Akita reflects the conditions for which it was bred to work in having, a verdant, thick double coat. The undercoat is noted for its insulation properties and is soft and fluffy, while the overcoat is coarser and protective. An overly long coat is not desirable in showing circles. Whether it is the American or Japanese type, the dog as a breed looks physically very powerful, graceful and well muscled. The ears are pointed, triangular and small in contrast to a rather large head and they have dark, intelligent eyes. The tail is always carried curled extravagantly over the back of an Akita, sometimes in a double curl.
With regards to colour, breed standards dictate that any coat colors are permitted with the American Akita including all of brindle, solid white, black mask, white mask, self coloured mask, even differing colors of under coat and overcoat. Japanese Akitas, as per the breed standards, are restricted to red, fawn, sesame, brindle, pure white, all with what is known as 'Urajiro' markings (whitish or pale coat on the sides of the muzzle and cheeks, on the underside of jaw, neck, chest, body and tail and down the inside of the legs).
Akita's are dogs best suited to experienced dog owners or one with specific Akita experience. They are a complex mixture of intelligence, courageousness, loyalty, dominance and alertness. They will not tolerate boredom easily and need a home where its owners can devote a lot of time to its exercise and training. Early socialisation and obedience training are essential - do not even think of owning an Akita if you are not prepared to put in the required level of effort, as the dominant side of their character can easily slide forwards and become intolerable. As a result they can, sometimes, challenge the pack leader - you - for dominance. Akitas are known for displaying some aggressive tendencies, especially towards other dogs of the same sex. With this in mind, do not let your Akita off the lead with other dogs unless you are confident in your abilities as a handler and the dog's social skills. They do not tend to be aggressive towards humans and can prove to be exceptionally loyal to a family. If the owner of an Akita is prepared to put in the effort, they will be rewarded with an affectionate, distinguished and loyal animal who will be a pleasure to own.
The Akita is generally quite a healthy breed who will live for an average of between 12-15 years. There are some general auto immune disease and hereditary conditions which can affect Akitas as much as the next breed of dog. There are a couple of breed specific issues which have been researched and are mentioned in veterinary literature, these being a high level of sensitivity to certain drugs, tranquillisers, anaesthetics and vaccines.
The coat of an Akita will require a certain amount of attention and will benefit from professional grooming from time to time. As quite a large breed of dog, prospective owners need to think about the costs of feeding and the amount of exercise and input this dog will need to prevent boredom and to maintain a firm and well balanced relationship with it.