The name AKITA comes
from the area of Japan known as the Akita prefecture. This is the northern most province of the main island of Honshu. The
name Akita Inu, as they are called in Japan (Inu meaning dog), was not used until September 1931, when the Akita was designated
a natural monument. Prior to this they were known as odate dogs.
It is certain that the breed goes back some 350 years,
and that the forebears of the Akita as we know it today were native to the Akita prefecture. However, claims that the breed
is 4,000 years old are unlikely.
Although the Akita are originally believed to have been revered by the Japanese aristocracy,
they were bred primarily as hunting dogs very agile and adept at downing prey including deer, boar and bear. The Akita would
hold its quarry at bay for the hunter to spear. The Akitas substance, size, thick coat and powerful jaws all designed to make
them formidable opponents.
Later the Akitas were utilised for herding cattle, as guide dogs, sled dogs and police
dogs. They were also used by fishermen as they were powerful swimmers and their thick coats enabled them to withstand the
rigours of very cold water.
The Akita was crossed with a selection of other breeds, such as St Bernards and the Japanese
Tosa dog to increase the size and bulk of the dog. By 1912 the Akita fanciers concerned by the loss of breed quality took
over. The introduction into the breeding programme of the Matagi and Hokkaido dogs restored characteristics like the curled
tail and small erect ears.
By 1940 all cross breeding had stopped in Japan and the Akita, as we know it today, was
established. During World War II Akitas became prime targets to be used as pelts and food and came very close to extinction.
Good Akitas were smuggled out into the mountains to save breeding stock for the future.
The Akita breed, therefore,
was still in a state of flux, only 15 or so years before the first imports started to arrive in the USA. Knowing this, it
is not too difficult to understand how the Japanese and American types of Akita evolved so differently since the time scale
for both is similar. It follows that if the Akita had been kept in its pure breed state for 350 years, the changes in the
American dogs could have been only minor.
Five or so years after the war ended, two main lines were established in
America, the ICHINOSEKI line and the DEWA line. These lines formed the foundation of the breed in the United States.
goes without saying that the history of the Akita breed is very complex. We would therefore like to recommend that all intending
prospective owners, who wish to study this subject in depth, read the publications listed in the bibliography of the leaflet.