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a Japanese Natural Monument


The Akita is named for the province of Akita in northern Japan, where he is believed to have originated. The Akita's known existence goes back to the 1600's, when the breed guarded Japanese royalty and was used for hunting fowl and large game (including bears). Considered sacred and a good luck charm, ownership of an Akita was once restricted to members of the Imperial family. Although ownership is no longer restricted, the Akita is one of seven dog breeds considered a Japanese National Monument, and families of newborn children still traditionally receive a small statue of an Akita as a talisman signifying health, happiness, and a long life.

The first Akita in the United States was a dog named Kamikaze-go, who was given to Helen Keller during a trip to Akita in 1937. Kamikaze-go died of canine distemper soon after his arrival, however. In July of 1938, the Japanese government presented Keller with Kamikaze-go's brother, Kenzan-go. The breed did not become established in the United States until servicemen began bringing Akitas home with them. The American Kennel Club registered its first Akita in 1972.

The Akita's imperial heritage can be seen in its bearing, the way it holds its tail, and its distinctly powerful yet graceful appearance. It stands 2-2.5 feet at the shoulder and weighs 70-130 pounds. There are two recognized variations of the Akita, Japanese and American. The Japanese Akita is considerably smaller, both in height and mass, than the American. His foxlike head is decidedly different from the broad head of the American breed. The Japanese Akita has almond-shaped eyes, while the American Akita's eyes are triangular. A black mask is much in vogue on the American Akita, but is considered a show disqualifier in Japan, where markings on the face are white. In America, any color on the Akita is permitted; in Japan, only red, white, and some brindles are allowed.

Given its heritage, it is not surprising that the Akita is renowned for unwavering loyalty to his owners, sometimes to such a degree that he will follow you from room to room as if his entire mission in life seems to be simply to serve you. This means, however, that an Akita does not easily adapt to new owners and should never be left in the care of strangers unless absolutely necessary. Its inherent loyalty also means that an Akita demands companionship, becoming potentially destructive and aggressive if deprived of human company. An Akita will allow unfamiliar people into its owner's home, but only if he is raised in an environment where people come and go frequently and the owner is home. Akitas are by nature good with children, but only if the children are able to assert their dominance without being mean.

Like most other breeds, the Akita must be taught that his owner and family (if applicable) are the pack leaders. Since Akitas are best trained by their owners (rather than professional trainers), potential owners should themselves be trained before ever bringing an Akita into their home.

The Akita loves to carry things around in his mouth, and that includes your wrist. This is not an act of aggression, but simply an Akita way of communicating with those he loves. He may lead you to his leash because he wants to go for a walk, for example, or act on any number of other ideas that pop into his intelligent head. Rather than trying to stifle that urge, the owner should give the Akita a job that involves carrying something, such as fetching the newspaper, getting the mail, etc.

Akita Club of America
American Kennel Club
Dog Time

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The Robinson Library >> Agriculture >> Animal Culture >> Dogs

This page was last updated on 11/28/2017.