Sunojo sunojo shiba inu
header photo


Shiba Inu & Japanese Chin

What Is An Akita?


The Akita is a member of the "spitz" or northern breeds family - the husky look. With a powerful, agile body, a broad head, small upright ears, dark triangular eyes and a full curled tail, the Akita is an impressive sight. Males are 25 - 28" at the shoulder, weighing 90 - 130 lbs; the females are 23 - 25", 75 - 95 lbs.

Coats are "double" - a harsh 2" guardhair, with a soft, dense undercoat. Colours may be white, fawn (silver to mahogany, with or without black tipping), red or brindle, and any of the above colours in a pinto pattern. Masks may be present (either black OR white). White markings are popular.


This is a very intelligent breed, but also very independent. Therefore Akitas may not seem as trainable as other breeds, as they do not depend on humans to provide guidance. They also bore easily, and will refuse to do the same exercise repeatedly. This trait has earned them the reputation of being stubborn. They also have the sometimes disturbing trait of watching intently, and then actually doing what it was they had been watching (such as opening gates, opening the cookie cupboard, etc.!).


The mature Akita is a proud, dignified dog: reserved with strangers, affectionate with friends, devoted to family, and a formidable opponent to intruders. Along with these good qualities, there are also drawbacks. Akitas are not good with strange dogs, they may become overprotective, and may also attempt to be the pack leader if their owners are not firm. These are not dogs that can run loose - a fenced yard is an absolute must! They can be very tolerant of small children, but will not take abuse. Intelligent, curious, courageous, determined, loving and patient - the Akita is all of these.


The Akita and the other native Japanese breeds share a common ancestor - a medium sized, curly tailed dog with erect ears that is depicted on ancient pottery and has been found in archeological digs. Over many years, the different areas of Japan developed types specific to their areas, with the major differences being that of size and colour. The Akita is from the Prefecture of Akita, the northernmost area on the island of Honshu. Rough terrain, harsh weather, and game such as bear, boar and deer required a dog of size and substance, with athletic ability and determination. This is the foundation of the the breed now known as "Akita".

The Akita’s considerable hunting skills were put to another use - dog fighting. In the early 1900’s, to improve fighting abilities, cross breeding was done with European breeds brought into the country by traders. The Japanese had also developed the "Tosa Inu" - a fighting dog of Mastiff descent . The Akitas and Tosas were cross bred, with the resulting off-spring labeled as "Shin Akita".

The traditional Akita was fast disappearing when the Japanese government initiated the Natural Monument program in 1919. Animals, plants, and historic landmarks were being swallowed up by the Western influence, and this program was to preserve and/or restore the traditional Japanese culture.

The first visit by officials to Odate, the capital of Honshu and considered the home of the Akita breed, failed to find any large dogs that could be designated as typical of the native Japanese dog . The importance of preserving and purifying the original bloodlines was stressed to breeders and fanciers, and the movement to restore the Akita was started. Dogs from the remote mountain villages (the relatively pure Matagi hunting dogs) were brought to Odate, and it was not long until the government was able to designate the Akita as a Natural Monument.

Drop ears, straight tails, non-Japanese colour, and loose skin were still cropping up from the Mastiff influence when Japan went to war. The breed came close to being wiped out again at this time. No one knows for sure how many survived, but there were enough to catch the attention of the American servicemen. This created a demand for puppies, and German Shepherds were used in some kennels to bolster the number of breeding animals. This introduced the "Shepherdy" look we still see, and the sable and saddle colours. This look enjoyed popularity in the 50's, and this was when many dogs were brought to North America. By the early ‘60’s, the Japanese had resolved to purify and rebuild the Akita breed, and great strides have been made in a relatively short span of time. Colour has been a a major factor, as black masks and any colour other than red, white, or brindle is seen to be a result of crossbreeding. Loose skin and too much mass were particularly discouraged, again because of the Mastiff genes this denoted.

In North America, the breeders and the public fell in love with the dogs brought into the country in the 50's, and this type has become well established and recognized around the world as the "American-type". Importation of Japanese stock was halted in the ‘70’s, so breeders were cut off from the transitional gene pool, but this changed in the early 90’s, when both the Canadian and American Kennel Clubs recognized the Japan Kennel Club’s registrations and pedigrees. There have now been several dogs imported from Japan, and their influence has been considerable.

The breed has been split by the FCI (the international dog registry) into American and Japanese Akita, in Europe. The Standards for each breed basically describe the same dog, with the major point of difference being colour. This restricting of the gene pool has made it difficult to improve, or even maintain, the health, soundness, and physical traits of the Akita.