This is a large and powerful breed, with much substance and heavy bone; it is slightly longer than tall. The Akita's build reflects its original job of hunting big game through deep snow and rugged terrain. Its double coat consists of a dense undercoat and a straight, harsh, outer coat — about 2 inches or less in length — standing off from the body. Such a combination provides ample insulation from water and weather. Its gait is brisk and powerful. The Akita is a versatile dog of large spitz type. It is able to perform as a hunting companion and protector.
As befitting its spitz-like heritage, the Akita is bold, independent, stubborn and tenacious. Demonstrative to its family, it is utterly devoted and will protect family members. It is reserved with strangers and can be aggressive toward other dogs. It can be domineering. Though not the breed for everyone, in the right hands the Akita is an excellent companion.
The Akita is perhaps the most renowned and venerated of the native Japanese breeds. Although it bears a likeness to dogs from ancient Japanese tombs, the modern Akita traces back to the 17th century, when a nobleman with a keen interest in dogs was exiled to the Akita Prefecture of the island of Honshu, a rugged area with intensely cold winters. He challenged the landowners there to compete in breeding a race of powerful hunting dogs. These dogs distinguished themselves in the hunting of bear, deer and wild boar, holding the game at bay for the hunter. These Akita forebears were called matagi-inu, or "hunting dog." The breed's numbers and quality varied over the next 300 years. In the late 1800s, it underwent a period when it was used as a fighting dog, and some were even crossed with other breeds in an attempt to enhance its fighting prowess. In 1927, the Akita-inu Hozankai Society of Japan was formed to preserve the original Akita, and in 1931 the Akita was designated as one of Japan's natural treasures. The most honored Akita of all time was Haichiko, who greeted his master every evening at the train station to accompany him home. When his master died at work one day, Haichiko waited for him and continued to return and wait for his master every day until he died nine years later on March 8, 1935. Today, a statue and annual ceremony pay homage to Haichiko's loyalty. The first Akita arrived in America in 1937, when Helen Keller returned from Japan with one. Following World War II, servicemen returned home with Akitas from Japan. The breed's popularity grew slowly until it received AKC recognition in 1972. Since then, it has steadily gained admirers and continues to grow in popularity. The Akita is now used as a guard and police dog in Japan.
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