The Akita Inu is the largest of the Japanese breeds of dog, and one whose true origins have no comprehensive documentation. It is a dog that evolved in the mountainous regions of Akita Prefecture, but that later on, at various points in time prior to the 20th century, had other breeds intentionally – and unintentionally – added to the gene pool in Japan, including the Mastiff and the Tosa Fighting Dog. The reason for these particular additions is that the Akitawas a popular choice for dog fighting while that ‘sport’ was in favor in Japan. And while the Akita Inu has been attributed other more palatable tasks throughout its history, including guardian to nobility, dog aggression is an unfortunate legacy of its fighting past that cannot be denied or ignored.
Because of the various breeds being mixed with theAkita in Japan, the dogs have looked very different from one period to another. All those influences have played a significant role in shaping the Akitas of today, both physically and emotionally.
Today, the Akitas in or from Japan reflect the intense effort the Japanese made in the second half of the 20th century to recreate the original Akita, a dog uninfluenced by western breeds. Other Japanese breeds were used, all smaller than the Akita but all exhibiting similar type, coat and overall structure. The American Akita, on the other hand, evolved from the gene pool that was imported from Japan in the late 1940′s and 50s, and that gene pool was heavily influenced by western breeds that contributed the size, the heavy bone and the ‘big bear head’ we love and desire today.
Whether you prefer the more ‘fox-like’ JapaneseAkita or the big ‘bear-type’ American Akita depends on your personal taste; both have some similarities but have been deemed two different breeds by Japan, the country of origin. Interbreeding, or mixing, is strictly prohibited. There are differences in personality as well as size, type and structure. However, both breeds are stunningly beautiful, a challenge to own and train, and loyal and devoted companions. We have American Akitas, and therefore strive to produce according to the AKC Standard, which demands a “large, powerful appearance, with much substance and heavy bone“, a “broad head forming a blunt triangle with deep muzzle, small triangular eyes” and a “well defined stop”. Japanese Akitas are smaller and slighter than American Akitas, with different body structure, a different head type, and only white, red, and selected brindle colors are allowed. In ALL FCI countries, the two Akitas are completely different breeds.
Unfortunately the U.S. has been slow to embrace the concept, and a majority of the Akita Club of America voted against any further information on the subject. Nothing like a closed mind in the face of progress! As a result, here in the U.S., the two breeds continue to be mixed by some. There have been unsuccessful attempts to ‘modify’ the AKC standard so that a smaller, finer-boned Akita is acceptable, even preferred. But Japan, being the country of origin, owns the breed standard, and eventually the Akita will be two breeds in the entire world.
Changes are taking place at an alarming rate around the world and only time will tell when the Japanese and American Akitas will be split in the United States. One thing for sure… Hoka-Hey will not compromise the size and substance, the big bear heads, and the wide range of colors that attracted us in the first place. And of course, we would not want to tamper with what the Japanese have struggled so hard to recreate in their breed either.
We are very gratified with the success of our breeding program which started in 1987, both as far as our personal goals and our success in show rings here and around the world. We make our decisions with a look to the future of our breed, but are always mindful of their colorful and significant past.