Description & History

The Akita is the national dog of Japan and comes from a province of the same name on Honshu Island. It is a member of the Spitz group and the largest of all the Japanese Spitz breeds (the other breeds are - the Sanchu, the Shiba, the Shika and Ainu).

An ancient breed which is known to have been pure-bred since the seventeenth century. At the beginning of the eighteenth century the Akita was owned mostly by the aristocracy. Owing to the wealth of the families who owned them, the majority of these dogs lived in superb conditions. It was during this period that a law was passed to prevent dogs being killed or injured - the punishment for such an act was death or imprisonment.

During the Meiji period (1868 - 1912), however, their life changed. Dog fighting became popular in Japan, as it had been in feudal times, and almost rendered the breed extinct.

Shortly before the Second World War, efforts were made to put the breed on a more secure footing, only for it to be seriously depleted again during the hostilities. Akitas,like other Japanese breeds were used for their fur and meat during this period.

Only a few dogs survived the war and the breed once more faced extinction. It was Mr Ichinoseki - who had been a supporter of the Akita for many years - that came to their rescue and started a breeding programme to re-establish the breed.

The Akita, a silent hunter, was used in the past for hunting game such as bear, wild boar and deer.

The breed was introduced to the West in 1937. Today's dogs are seen in the show ring and are used for police work and guard duties.

Rosamund Walters.



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