The Akita is known for its powerful appearance; a large skull, deep chested body, small upright triangular ears, lean strong muscular legs and a large curled bushy tail to balance out the large head. The jaws are powerful with strong sharp teeth ideal for hunting and taking down prey. They are longer than they are tall, this low centre of gravity ensures fast running – again ideal for hunting.
The Akita-Inu (Akita-Dog) formally called the Odate-Dog, originated from the Akita Prefecture region on the island of Honshu, Northern Japan. With mountainous terrain, cold harsh winters and wet summers, their powerful double coated body served them well. These “Matagi-Inu” or hunting dogs lived with villagers and earned their keep hunting a variety of wildlife, both large and small.Sadly these magnificent dogs were also used by the Samurai warriors of the Shogun dynasties during the 12th and 13th century for dog fighting. Luckily for the breed, Japan began to change. Industrialisation brought with it gold and silver mining. This resulted in larger communities growing in the vast countryside, and creating a need for guard dogs for personal safety and also to safeguard property.
The Akita-Inu were selected for size and aggression for this purpose, and as more dogs entered Japan, breeding with larger dogs such as Mastiff’s, Great Danes and Bull Dogs became possible. Resulting in the “bigger - better” Shin-Akita’s, which quickly out populated the original finer boned, smaller Japanese Akita-Inu, resulting in the two divergent breeds we see today. During World War two, many of these dogs were taken out of the country by service men, introducing them to the United States and many European destinations.
The larger Shin-Akita with its natural guarding abilities and its devoutly loyal nature as exemplified by the story of “Hachi-Ko” * soon became a desirable pet. Although the Shin-Akita has steadily increased in popularity, giving rise to the now simply called “Akita”, the original finer boned Akita-Inu was restored to its national breed status by careful selective breeding for the original traits by Japanese dog enthusiasts. * For a brief story on Hachi - Ko see Akita Loyalty