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
UTILISATION: Companion dog.
FCI-CLASSIFICATION: Group 5 Spitz and primitive type. Section 5 Asian Spitz and related breeds.
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.
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 / 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.
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.
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.
Thick, round, arched and tight.
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: Males 67 cm.
Females 61 cm. There is a tolerance of 3 cm more or less.
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
Large, well-balanced, sturdily built dog of Spitz type. Very slightly longer than high.
Alert and agile. Thick triangular ears, pricked and inclined forward. Dark eyes, set and shaped to give a distinctive appearance. Stand off coat with brilliant colours and defined markings. Tightly curled tail.
Dignified and composed with a courageous character.
Head and Skull:
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.
Placed moderately apart, relatively small, almond shaped, dark brown and obliquely set. Eye rims dark and tight.
Thick, triangular and slightly hooded, with rounded tips. Proportionately small, set moderately well apart, pricked and inclining forward. Closely following the line of the back of the neck.
Strong jaws with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws. Full dentition and well developed teeth.
Thick and muscular, of moderate length, without dewlap. Pronounced crest blending with back of skull.
Shoulders moderately laid back with well developed muscles. Elbows set close to chest. Forelegs well boned and straight when viewed from the front. Pasterns slightly sloping.
Length from point of shoulder to point of buttock slightly greater than height at withers, as 11:10. Females may be slightly longer. Strong, level back. Chest deep with well developed forechest. Moderately sprung ribcage with well defined tuck up. Short coupled with a broad and muscular loin.
Strong and muscular with moderate angulation. Well developed thighs. Moderate turn of stifle. Strong hocks, turning neither in nor out.
Round, arched and tight with thick pads. Turning neither in nor out.
Set high. Thick, full and of good length. Tightly curled over the back. Uncurled tail highly undesirable.
Moderate strides that demonstrate an efficient, rhythmic and resilient gait, converging towards the centre line at speed. Stilted gait undesirable.
Outer coat course, stand-off and straight. Slightly longer at withers and rump. More profuse on tail. Undercoat soft and dense. No indication of ruff or feathering.
Red fawn; Sesame (red fawn hairs with black tips); Brindle; White. All the foregoing colours, except white, must have ‘urajiro’ markings, which may be less visible on the brindle, where it may be a greyish frosted overlay of the main coat colour. (Urajiro – whitish coat on the sides of the muzzle, on the cheeks, on the undersides of jaw, neck, chest, body and tail, and on the inside of the legs). The urajiro markings must blend in gradually with the main coat colour and not extend above the elbow or hock. White markings in the main body coat are undesirable.
Height at withers: dogs 64-70cms (25 ¼-27 ½ in); bitches 58-64 cms (22 ¾-25 ¼ in).
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 and on the dog’s ability to perform its traditional work.
Note: Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
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.