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Alternative Name

Akita Ken, Japanese Akita (The Most Venerated)

Basic Info

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).


Some of the health conditions known to affect the Akita Inu include: Canine herpesvirus, a strain of the Herpes virus that happens to affect canines,/ Canine herpesvirus, a strain of the Herpes virus that happens to affect canines,/ 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)[1], known as Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada (VKH) disease in humans,/ Sebaceous adenitis, an autoimmune condition which attacks and destroys the dog's sebaceous glands



Although the American Kennel Club has put the Akita in the Working Group, the Akita Inu 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". The two most outstanding characteristics of the Akita as a house pet are that they are very clean and that they are very easy to house break. Akita Inu have been described as almost "cat-like," they are so clean and odorless. This may also be one of the reasons why they housebreak so easily. Most Akitas respond so well to housebreaking that they are trained in a matter of weeks. As far as the family children are concerned, there are few worries. Akitas are devoted, patient friends and protectors of children. Akitas are typically very gentle with children, and it is said that Japanese mothers often left their children with only the Akitas to watch over and protect them. Remember, however, that young children should never be left unattended with a pet. When raised indoors with children, they can be excellent companions. Left unattended in the backyard or in a kennel, they tend to develop "personality" problems and become very destructive to the yard, which is due to boredom. They are highly pack oriented, thus, isolating them from the pack (i.e., the owner) causes them great stress. Akitas tend to be stubborn and require a firm but loving education where "no" always means "no" and never "whatever". While not aggressive to humans, Akita Inu's have been known to attack, and sometimes kill, other dogs. Two males can easily get violent with each other if given the chance, which is why most breeders keep their studs separate. The same is true for females, although they tend to be more tolerant towards other females. The Akita is a dominant dog who expects other dogs to be submissive. If they fail to live up to the Akita's expectations, incidents can happen. The Akita is not a dangerous dog but their sociability with other dogs should be handled with caution. Akitas have a high and well-developed prey drive, particularly to small animals, including cats. An Akita Inu is not likely to shower affection on someone that is not a member of his family or a close friend that he sees frequently, and can be extremely aloof. The loyalty and devotion displayed by an Akita is phenomenal. The typical pet Akita will follow you from room to room, yet has the uncanny ability not to be underfoot. Your Akita lives his life as if his only purpose is to protect you and spend time with you. This trait is evident in the tale of Hachiko.




The Akita Inu'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 also worked towards preserving the Akita breed. As a result, the Akitainu Introduction Foundation 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 Inu called Kamikaze-go was given to her within a month. When Kamikaze-go later died because of canine distemper, his brother, Kenzan-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 Inu 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.