History and Origin of the Japanese Akita-Inu

By:Terry Arndt
reprinted with permission

Revered as”Ichiban”(number one) in Japan, memorialized on a postage stamp, sculpted in bronze at a railway station and declared a Natural Monument; what greater honor could a dog enjoy?

For one, the breed was once owned solely by royalty in Japan, and lavishly adorned with colorful leashes. These leashes were hooked to silver studded collars or harnesses and were borne by two men who wrapped the long cords around their waists.The Akita pulled the two handlers as he made his powerful entry into the show ring. Historians trace the arctic type hunting strains back to Eurasian tribes several millenniums B.C.

The Akita as we know today evolved from a hunting dog of the Matagi people who hunt the Northern Honshu Island. During the 17th Century, a great war lord encouraged the cross of the hunting dogs with a fighting strain to improve his strength. Some of the crosses were to the Tosa, Mastiff-like in structure, to the Chow, and to other native species. Because of its ancestral ties to aggressiveness towards other dogs, combined with hunting instincts, the Akita can be a troublesome dog to try to adopt into the domestic home scene.

The Akita is NOT the dog for the faint of heart or the gentle owner who desires a totally placid lap side companion. While the good qualities and beauty of the animal makes him an attractive consideration to would be owners, he is a responsibility to own and enjoy as a mature adult. Akitas should not be let free to run in a park to play with other dogs. His instinct to “hunt” and challenge, to attempt to be “pack leader” may result in strong skirmishes that the owner is not prepared for.

If not present as a pup, these instincts quickly develop during puberty or shortly thereafter. Used as a hunter, the Akita can find quick prey in small animals, so that must be a consideration before adopting this breed into an established household with other animals. Dogs of the same sex will be inevitably in conflict with the Akita, due to his ancestral urge to dominate. After World War II, only a handful of Akitas survived, and a society in Japan was formed for the preservation of the breed.

Our U.S. stock had its igins from these survivors. The line that came to the U.S. were the heavy-boned, loose-skinned Kongo line, plus the more refined Ichinoseki lineage. A blend of the two emerged and is more the rule today. In modern day Japan, the Akita is an upright, often small-chested, tight skinned animal with exceptional beauty in points of color, oriental eye shape,earset and full tail. Their “ornamentals” are exquisite. Angulation and bone development for work function has to be improved. Only red, white,and brindle are colors allowed in the show ring in Japan.

In these times of social concern, the Akita is a desired asset for protection purposes. However, their use in police work, in unison with other canines, is questionable due to the traits mentioned previously.

However, Akitas have been known to distinguish themselves in police work. In Japan, they hunt in a male-female pair. The male can get distracted, but as in many species, the female is relentless, and will not stop until she captures her prey.

You should ask yourself: Do you really want an Akita? Your answers can best be obtained by doing a little homework about the breed.

(1) Go to shows – see the different types. Unfortunately, there is a great need for breed standardization, as too many are losing the bear-like look, developing longer ears and muzzle, shepherd-like. Watch for soundness in body (especially in the rears) and mind (stability of temperament).

(2) Talk to breeders – especially those who have labored for love over the years. Ask opinions of more than one. Ethical breeders will not hesitate