You probably have heard about the Akita Inu before, but are you familiar with its history and importance in Japanese culture?
The akita is a dog breed that dates about 300 years back. It takes its name from the Akita prefecture that is located in the north of the Japanese archipelago. Back then, they were used for hunting purposes, to chase after wild bears, boars and deer, and were bigger than the ones we see nowadays. Their origin can be traced back to the Matagi Inu, also known as the Akita Matagi, and from 1603 they began to be used as fighting dogs. This lasted until 1908, when the governor of the Akita Prefecture banned dog fighting to preserve and protect the breed. In 1927, a society for the preservation of the Akita was established. In 1931, The Akita was proclaimed national treasure by the Japanese Ministry of National Education, and a lot of effort was invested into keeping the features of the original breed.
However, misfortune befall the Akita during the Second World War. As food and resources became dim, the Akita were killed for their skin and meat. To that end, the police would seize all dogs, with the exception of the German Shepherd because they were used in the military. Afraid of what would become of their dogs, some people tried to preserve them by crossing them with other military breeds or hiding them in the mountains. By the end of the Second World War, the breed had been brought to the brink of extinction and the purity they had been trying to keep in the past was almost lost. Three kinds of Akita came out of the mayhem of the war: the Akita we see nowadays, the fighting Akita and the Akita-German Shepherd crossbreed. What followed was a new endeavor by breeders to recover the original breed of the past.
The Akita made its first international debut when the American writer Hellen Kellen brought one back home with her after a trip to Japan. After being crossed with mastiffs and German Shepherds, they became a breed in their own right, different from the standard one. In 1956, a club was created for them, and in 1972 the breed was officially recognized as the “American Akita.”
The Akita reached farther in the international stage thanks to Hachiko, the most famous and well-known Akita Inu. It even has his own Statue in Shibuya, Tokyo, and his history was made into a movie. Hachiko went with his master everyday to Shibuya station and loyally waited there for his return. One day, however, his master dies from an illness while being away and never comes back. Ever faithful to his master, Hachiko stays there and waits for 9 years. After being touched by such display of loyalty, the neighbors came regularly to fed Hachiko and helped him survive. The movie is called “Hachiko” and it also has an American adaption that goes under the name of “Hachi: a dog’s tale.”
Coming back to the present, this magnificent dog has become an irreplaceable companion to man, but it has also taken important roles in Japan’s society as a guardian or police dog. There is even an old saying about how if a Samurai died in dishonor, he would reincarnate into an Akita to redeem their past mistakes. The Akita breed has also a more petite version in the “Shiba Inu.”
Always looking proud and haughty, the Akita is as majestic as it is arrogant. It chooses to impose its presence by holding the head high and showing self-confidence. But when it comes to their master, they are very affectionate and loyal dogs that could die if they were taken away from them.
Rather stubborn, they love tranquility to the point that they would refuse to go out if it were raining. On top of that, Akitas are particularly unsociable, a feature that many Akita owners identify themselves with. You won’t see them barking often, but they are more expressive barking often, but they are more expressive than you would think.
However, they make for good family dogs because they are rather calm at home, they are good guardians and love children. Akitas stay close to their families and protect them, driving away any outsiders that get close without their permission. As the old saying goes, the Akita is a samurai in a dog’s body, so they have a strong character that not about anyone can handle. If the owner does not help them socialize, Akitas will grow unsociable towards other dogs, only showing their dominance.
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