The Akita Inu is the largest of the Nihon Ken. The breed originates from the Akita Prefecture of Honshū, where it was originally used in hunting large game, such as bears. The breed also saw use in dog fighting rings until the decline and eventual outlaw of the sport. The Akita was declared a National Treasure in 1931.
The breeds numbers heavily declined during World War 2, where the breed was used for meat and fur. The breed was often cross bred with German Shepherds in an attempt to protect the breed, as military dogs escaped the cull. Due to the breed becoming almost extinct, it lost many of its original features and, over the years since World War 2, a huge effort has been made to 'recreate' the dog of old.
The Akita Inu is a completely separate breed to the American Akita, and only the American Kennel Club still classes both types as a single breed. While the American Akita can come in a large range of colours, the Akita Inu only is only accepted in red, white and brindle coats. The tail should be curled (maki-o).
The Akita Inu gained fame due to the story of Hachikō, an Akita known for waiting for his master to return from work each day at Shibuya train station. When his master passed away at work one day, Hachikō travelled to the train station each day, waiting for his master to return, until the day he too passed away. This story attests to the Akita’s loyalty and a statue stands in the place he once waited.
The breed is known for being territorial, fiercely loyal to their owners and are sometimes seen to be used as a watch dog. They are a breed which possesses a great deal of dignity, courage and spirit. Its history in hunting gives the dog a strong drive and will to do any job it is given.
FCI Breed Standard
Standard for FCI
UTILISATION: Companion dog.
FCI-CLASSIFICATION: Group 5 Spitz and primitive type.
Section 5 Asian Spitz and related breeds.
BRIEF HISTORICAL SUMMARY: Originally Japanese dogs were small to medium in size and no large breeds existed. Since 1603 in the Akita region, Akita Matagis (medium-sized bear-hunting dogs) were used as fighting dogs. From 1868 Akita Matagis were crossed with Tosas and Mastiffs. Consequently, the size of this breed increased but characteristics associated with Spitz type were lost.
In 1908 dog fighting was prohibited, but this breed was nevertheless preserved and improved as a large Japanese breed. As a result, nine superior examples of this breed were designated as «Natural Monuments » in 1931.
During World War II (1939-1945), it was common to use dogs as a source of fur for military garments. The police ordered the capture and confiscation of all dogs other than German Shepherd Dogs used for military purposes. Some fanciers tried to circumvent the order by crossbreeding their dogs with German Shepherd Dogs.
When World War II ended, Akitas had been drastically reduced in number and existed as three distinct types; 1) Matagi Akitas, 2) fighting Akitas, and 3) Shepherd Akitas. This created a very confusing situation in the breed.
During the restoration process of the pure breed after the war., Kongo-go, a dog of the Dewa line, which exhibited characteristics of the Mastiff and German Shepherd.
However, sensible learned fanciers did not approve of this type as a proper Japanese breed, so they made efforts to eliminate the strain old foreign breeds by crossbreeding with Matagi Akitas for the purpose of restoring the original pure breed. They succeeded in stabilizing the pure strain of large sized breed as known today.
GENERAL APPEARANCE: Large-sized dog, sturdily built, well balanced and with much substance ; secondary sex characteristics strongly marked, with high nobility and dignity in modesty; constitution tough.
IMPORTANT PROPORTIONS: The ratio of height at withers to length of body ( from the point of the shoulders to the point of the buttock) is 10 : 11, but the body is slightly longer in bitches than in dogs.
BEHAVIOUR AND TEMPERAMENT: The temperament is composed, faithful, docile and receptive.
Skull: The size is in proportion to the body. The forehead is broad, with distinct furrow. No wrinkle.
Nose: Large and black. Slight and diffuse lack of pigment accepted in white dogs only, but black is always preferred. Muzzle: Moderately long and strong with broad base, tapering but not pointed. Nasal bridge straight.
Jaws/Teeth: Teeth strong with scissor bite.
Cheeks: Moderately developed.
Eyes: Relatively small, almost triangular in shape due to the rising of the outer eye corner, set moderately apart, dark brown- the darker, the better.
Ears: Relatively small, thick, triangular, slightly rounded at tips, set moderately apart, pricked and inclining forward.
NECK: Thick and muscular, without dewlap, in balance with head.
Back Straight and strong.
Loin: Broad and muscular.
Chest: Deep, forechest well developed, ribs moderately well sprung.
Belly: Well drawn up.
TAIL: Set on high, thick, carried vigorously curled over back ; the tip nearly reaching hocks when let down.
Shoulders: Moderately sloping and developed.
Forearms: Straight and heavy-boned.
General appearance: Well developed, strong and moderately angulated.
FEET: Thick, round, arched and tight.
GAIT: Resilient and powerful movement.
HAIR: Outer coat harsh and straight, undercoat soft and dense; the withers and the rump are covered with slightly longer hair; the hair on tail is longer than on the rest of the body.
COLOUR: Red fawn, sesame (red fawn hairs with black tips), brindle and white. All the above mentioned colours except white must have « urajiro ».
(Urajiro = whitish coat on the sides of the muzzle, on the cheeks, on the underside of jaw, neck, chest, body and tail and on the inside of the legs).
Height at the withers: Dogs: 67 cm,
bitches: 61 cm. There is a tolerance of 3 cm more or less.
FAULTS: Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.
• Bitchy dogs / doggy bitches.
• Undershot or overshot mouth.
• Missing teeth.
• Blue or black spotted tongue.
• Iris light in colour.
• Short tail.
• Aggressive or overly shy dogs.
• Any dog clearly showing physical or behavioural abnormalities shall be disqualified.
• Ears not pricked.
• Hanging tail.
• Long hair (shaggy).
• Black mask.
• Markings on white ground.
• Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
• Only functionally and clinically healthy dogs, with breed typical conformation should be used for breeding.
NIPPO Breed Standard
The NIPPO standard for the Akita Inu is outlined under the ‘large sized division’ of the standard for the Nihon Ken. An excellent translation of the NIPPO standard can be viewed at Kazeshimasou (Shiba Inu Ireland)’s website.
The Kennel Club (UK) Breed Standard
Standard for The Kennel Club (UK)
Vulnerable Native Breed:
How much exercise?:
Length of coat:
How much grooming?:
Supposedly sheds? *:
Town or Country:
Type of home:
Minimum Garden Size: Large
When viewed from the front the head appears rounded due to well developed cheeks. From above, the head appears as a blunt triangle. Broad skull, flat and free from wrinkle. Defined stop and distinct furrow. Muzzle straight, of good depth, tapering gradually. Skull to muzzle proportions 3:2. Nose large and black except in white dogs where flesh coloured is acceptable. Lips tight with dark pigment.
Akita Inu in media
Hachikō’s story is the subject of many media adaptations, including Hachikō Monogatari (1987) and Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (2009).
Many Akita Inu appears as main characters across Yoshihiro Takahashi’s series, in particular Gin of Ginga Nagareboshi Gin, who is a Brindle Akita Inu, and his son Weed of Ginga Densetsu Weed, who is an Akita x Kishu.