The History of the Akita

        The breed we know today as Akitas derived from 

ancient hunting or Matagi dogs found in the northern

area of Honshu Island, which is the main island of Japan.

Today, this area is the province of Akita which gives

the breed its name.

        Akita Province is a mountainous, sparsely settled

area, and the dogs hunted large elk and the fierce Yezo

bear.  Purportedly, the dogs were used in pairs and pursued

their prey quietly.

        During the 1600's as the cult of bushido gained a

foothold in Japanese culture, one of the samurai's favored

pastimes was watching dog fights.  Their popularity

continued into fairly modern times.  Unfortunately, one of

the breeds used for fighting was the dog from Akita (or

Dewa, at it was known during the 1900") Province. To

improve their fighting ability, the Japanese crossed the

northern hunting dog with several other breeds.

        Finally, concerned fanciers became alarmed at the

deterioration of the breed and began trying to restore it

to its original hunting type.  With the rise of nationalism

that marked Japanese history in the early part of this

century came a corresponding interest in their native dogs,

and the Preservation Society for Japanese Dogs, known as

Nippo, was formed in the early 30's.  This was followed by

two societies devoted to the Akita Inu (dog), Akikyo and


        Their efforts were set back seriously during the

war, when the Japanese government passed an edict that all

large non-military dogs should be killed.  They took too

much food and supervision in a war-time economy.  The

Akitas that survived were dogs that were hidden by their

owners.  After the war, so few were left that other

Japanese breeds of differing size were used to restore the

Akita.  A few other breeds were also used.

        The dogs were very popular with American soldiers

during the occupation of Japan and many of them brought

dogs back to the US.  Interested in establishing the breed

here, they began taking steps to have the breed registered

which finally occurred in 1972, after which, no further

registrations from Japan were allowed.  This changed

several years ago when AKC recognized the Japan Kennel

Club and reciprocity of registrations began.

        Over the ensuring years, though, the Japanese have

taken a different approach to the dogs and have changed

their standard several times as the dogs changed.  Here,

we have the same standard as we started with.  The dogs

have improved structurally but are essentially the same

type that we began with.  How the divergence between the

mother country's dogs and ours will affect the breeding

the future, only time will tell.

                                        Written by Sherry Wallis


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