The Akita: A Breed with Fascinating History

The Akita is a popular dog breed with an interesting and long history. From ancient roots in Japan to a journey to the United States and beyond, the Akita breed has proven to be a fascinating and enduring favorite.

In this article, we will explore the origins of the Akita breed, its characteristics, and its role in modern society. Read to find out if this faithful and loyal breed is right for you.

Origins of the Akita Breed

The origins of the Akita breed can be traced back to ancient Japan, where they were bred as hunting and guard dogs.

In fact, at a certain point in history, the Akita was so highly prized in ancient Japan that only nobles and royalty were allowed to own them.

The Akita was particularly popular in the northern region of Japan, where the breed was known as the Odate dog.

Ancient Japanese History and the Akita

Historians believe that the Akita breed may have been around for more than 3,000 years. Some of the earliest written records of these dogs date back to the 15th century when they were used by samurai warriors as hunting companions and guardians.

The Akita’s loyalty and protective nature made them ideal for these roles, and they quickly became a symbol of strength and courage in Japanese culture. They were even used as a sigil of the imperial family, which further elevated their status.

The Matagi Dog: Ancestor of the Akita

The Akita is an ancient breed, and it is believed that they are descended from a dog called the Matagi dog. Matagi dogs were used by hunters in northern Japan to track and hunt large game such as deer and boar.

The Matagi dog was a strong and fearless canine, with a thick coat that protected them from harsh winter weather. Over time, the Matagi dog was crossbred with other breeds, such as the Tosa and Mastiff, which helped to create the modern Akita breed.

The Role of Akitas in Japanese Culture

The Akita breed has an important place in Japanese culture, where they are considered to be a national treasure. Despite their early association with nobility and the imperial family, the Akita has also been used as a working dog in Japan.

They were used as hunting dogs, sled dogs, and even as guard dogs for the police and military. Today, the Akita remains a beloved breed in Japan, and there are even several museums dedicated to their history and heritage.

The Story of Hachiko

One of the most famous Akitas in history is Hachiko, a dog that lived in Tokyo in the 1920s. Hachiko’s owner was a professor at the University of Tokyo, and every day Hachiko would accompany him to the train station and wait for him to return from work.

One day, the professor suffered a fatal stroke while at work, and never returned to the train station. Despite this, Hachiko continued to wait at the station every day for the next nine years, until his death.

Hachiko’s loyalty and devotion to his owner made him a national symbol of loyalty in Japan, and a statue of him can be found at the train station where he waited every day.

The Akita in Modern Days

In addition to their role in Japanese culture, Akitas have also become popular around the world as family pets. Their loyal and protective nature makes them excellent guard dogs, and they are known for their affectionate and playful personalities.

However, due to their strong will and independent nature, Akitas require a firm and consistent hand when it comes to training and socialization.

The Akita’s Journey to the United States

Although the Akita has a long and rich history in Japan, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that the breed was introduced to the United States. This was largely due to the efforts of Helen Keller, who brought the first Akita to America in 1937 as a gift from the mayor of Tokyo.

Helen Keller and the First Akita in America

Helen Keller was a well-known author and activist who was deaf and blind. Despite her disabilities, she was a passionate advocate for animal rights and was drawn to the Akita breed because of their beauty and loyalty.

The first Akita that she brought to America, named Kamikaze-go, quickly became a beloved member of her family.

World War II and the Akita’s Popularity

After World War II, interest in the Akita breed grew in America as soldiers who had been stationed in Japan brought them home as souvenirs. This helped to popularize the breed, and they soon became a sought-after pet in the United States.

The Akita’s Influence on American Dog Breeds

The Akita’s popularity in the United States had a significant impact on the breeding of other dog breeds. Many American dog breeders began to incorporate Akita bloodlines into their own breeds, resulting in the creation of new breeds, such as the American Akita and the Akita Shepherd.

The Akita Breed Standard and Characteristics

The Akita is a large breed, with a muscular body and a thick, double coat. They have a broad head, a strong jaw, and a curly tail that is often carried high. The breed can come in a variety of colors, including white, brindle, red, fawn, and sesame.

Physical Traits of the Akita

The Akita’s impressive size and sturdy build make them a formidable presence. Females weigh 70 to 100 pounds and stand between 24 and 26 inches tall, while males are 100 to 130 pounds and around 26 to 28 inches tall.

The Akita has a thick, double coat that provides insulation and protection from the elements. The coat requires regular grooming to keep it looking healthy and shiny. Akitas shed a lot and need frequent brushing.

Temperament and Personality

The Akita is known for its loyalty and devotion to its family. They are highly intelligent dogs, but they can also be stubborn and independent at times. The breed is typically reserved around strangers but can be fiercely protective of their family if they perceive a threat.

According to the American Kennel Club, the three main adjectives describing the Akita’a personality are dignified, courageous, and profoundly loyal.

Health and Lifespan

The Akita breed is generally healthy, with an average lifespan of 10 to 14 years. Like all breeds, it is prone to certain health conditions, such as:

  • Hip Dysplasia: An orthopedic disease caused by a malformation of the hip joint, which causes pain and mobility issues 
  • Hypothyroidism: An endocrine issue in which the thyroid gland is  underactive and does not produce enough thyroid hormones
  • Bloat: A life-threatening condition known as gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), in which the stomach bloats and twists on itself 

Akitas in Dog Shows and Competitions

The Akita’s beauty and regal demeanor make them a popular breed for dog shows and competitions. They have excelled in obedience, agility, and conformation competitions.

Many Akitas have even earned the title of “Best in Show” at prestigious dog shows such as the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

The Akita as a Family Companion

Despite their impressive size and protective nature, the Akita can make a wonderful family pet when properly trained and socialized. They are highly loyal to their family members and can be very affectionate and playful.

However, due to their independent nature, they may not be the best choice for first-time dog owners. Training and socializing an Akita requires a firm and experienced hand.


In conclusion, the Akita breed has a rich and fascinating history that can be traced several back centuries and across continents.

From their origins in ancient Japan to their status as a beloved family pet in modern society, the Akita continues to be a highly prized breed.

Whether working as police dogs or competing in dog shows, or simply as loyal and loving family companions, the Akita remains a breed that captures the hearts of many.

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