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Akita Inu

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A white Akita Inu
A white Akita Inu
Alternative names
Akita Inu (秋田犬)
Japanese Akita
Country of origin
Classification and breed standards
FCI: Group 5 Section 5 #255
AKC: Working
ANKC: Group 6 - (Utility)
CKC: Group 3 - (Working Dogs)
KC (UK): Utility
NZKC: Utility
UKC: Northern Breeds
Not recognized by any major kennel club
This breed of dog is extinct

The Akita or Akita Inu is a breed of large Japanese dog, named for Akita Prefecture, where it is thought to have originated. "Inu" means "dog" in Japanese, although in practice this animal is nearly always referred as "Akita-ken," another reading of the same kanji (And also a pun, as the word "prefecture" is pronounced "ken" in Japanese).


A fully grown male adult can be over three feet tall at the withers, although this is rare; more typically, the breed stands 24 to 28 inches (60 to 71 cm). On average, a full-grown male can reach 120 pounds (54 kg), a female 100 pounds. Akitas come in many different colours and patterns including white, brindle, black, fawn, and many combinations of these. It is one of the few breeds that the American Kennel Club recognises in all its coat colour variations.


Although the AKC has put the Akita in the Working Group, the Akita was historically used as a hound to run large game, such as bears, in the mountainous areas of Japan. Anyone who has had hounds will recognise that group's very laid back, easygoing temperament in this breed.

Despite their enormous size, they are excellent house dogs. They require only a moderate amount of exercise. Akitas are known to be very quiet dogs, only barking "when there is something to bark about".

When raised indoors with children, they can be excellent companions. Left unattended in the backyard, they tend to develop "personality" problems and become very destructive to the yard. They are highly pack oriented, thus, isolating them from the pack (i.e., the owner) causes them great stress.


Some of the health conditions known to affect this breed include:

  • Canine Herpes, a strain of the Herpes virus that happens to affect canines
  • Gastric Dilitation Volvulus (GDV), a condition associated with bloat;
  • Pemphigus, which causes the autoimmune system to attack the dog's skin (leading to pustules)
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), an adult-onset condition which gradual degeneration in the eye cells (i.e. rods & cones)
  • UveoDermatological Syndrome (UDS), known as Volt-Koyanagi-Harada disease in humans
  • Sebaceous Adenitis, an autoimmune condition which attacks and destroys the dog's sebaceous glands


The Akita's ancestors were dogs used by matagi for hunting. These dogs, usually called matagi inu, were not as large as modern Akita dogs.

Edo Period

In the Edo Period, Dewa Province (present-day Akita prefecture) was ruled by the Satake clan. Since the Satake were tozama daimyo (considered potentially rebellious), they received severe restrictions by the Tokugawa Shogunate in all military areas. The clan decided to encourage dog fighting around 1630 in order to make it possible for the samurai to retain their aggressive edge in a way that would not offend the shogunate. Dog fighting became especially popular in the Odate area. Dog fighting enthusiasts in the area began to interbreed matagi inu with dogs indigenious to the area. These dogs, which later turned into the Akita, were called Odate inu at that time.

Before World War II

After the Meiji Restoration, people began to breed Akita with many dogs from other regions in Japan, such as the Tosa. The Meiji Restoration also ended Japan's closed door policy, and large, western dogs began to enter Japan. As a result, Akita were also bred with German Shepherds, Great Danes, and Mastiffs. This resulted in the breed losing many of its spitz-like characteristics. Akita were later bred with Hokkaido and Karafuto dogs, which were introduced to mainland Japan after the First Sino-Japanese War.

In the Taisho Period, people such as the mayor of Odate Town began a movement to preserve the Akita breed. By this time, the Akita had began to turn into a mixed breed as a result of excessive breeding with other dogs. Watase Shozaburo, a Japanese zoologist that successfully proposed the Law for Protection of Natural Monuments (天然記念物保護法) also worked towards preserving the Akita breed. As a result, the Akitainu Introduction Foundation (秋田犬保存会) was created in May 1927 by the mayor of Odate, and nine Akita dogs were designated as natural monuments in 1931. In 1932, the faithful Akita dog Hachiko was featured in an article in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, which contributed to the popularity of the breed. When Helen Keller visited Akita prefecture in 1937, she expressed that she would like to have an Akita dog. An Akita called Kamikaze-go was given to her within a month. When Kamikaze-go later died because of canine distemper, his brother, Tsurugiyama-go, was promptly sent to her. By 1938 a breed standard had been established and dog shows had been held, but such activities stopped after World War II began.

The War and the Aftermath

During World War II, the number of Akita dogs greatly diminished because of the lack of food. There were also orders to capture all dogs except German shepherds, in order to use their fur for warm army uniforms. Many people bred Akitas with shepherds to avoid capture. When the war ended in 1945, there were fewer than twenty purebred Akita dogs in Japan.

However, the Akita became quite popular during the postwar period. Many occupation soldiers liked the Akita, because it was by far the largest Japanese dog. The fact that Helen Keller had an Akita also became well-known when she came to Japan in 1948 and thanked people in Akita for the dogs she was given. Most of the Akita dogs at this time had many German Shepherd-like characteristics. These dogs are currently known as Dewa line, or Dewa type Akitas.

On the other hand, the Akitainu Introduction Foundation was breeding the remaining purebred Akitas in order to omit western dog characteristics and make the breed closer to the original matagi inu. Their efforts created the Ichinoseki line, or Ichinoseki type Akitas, which became recognized as the mainline in Japan by 1955. Although Dewa line Akitas are now rarely seen in Japan, they achieved popularity outside Japan through occupation soldiers who took them back from Japan. The Japan Kennel Club and the FCI consider Dewa line Akitas to be a separate breed, called the Great Japanese Dog or the American Akita.


  • Recent DNA analysis confirms that this is one of the most primitive breeds of dog.[1]
  • Perhaps the most famous Akita is Hachiko, a dog remembered in Japan for his loyalty. When his owner died, Hachiko returned to the train station every day for the rest of his life to wait for him. A life-size statue of Hachiko still stands at Shibuya Station.
  • Many manga titles by Takahashi Yoshihiro feature Akita dogs as the main character. This is said to be because Takahashi Yoshihiro was born in Akita Prefecture.
  • The title character in the anime and manga series InuYasha, along with his brother and father, are said to be Akita yōkai. A yōkai is a mythical Japanese creature that is said to take human form. InuYasha himself is technically a hanyō, a mythical half-human, half-yōkai.
  • Main character of the anime and manga series Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin is a Akita Inu pup called Gin.

External links


Much of the content of this article comes from the equivalent Japanese-language wikipedia article (retrieved October 15, 2005).

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