Meet the Breed: Eastern Monument

Beloved in its native Japan and around the world, the Akita radiates dignity and showers its loved ones with ample affection.

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Japan is famous for exporting attractive goods, including dogs, throughout the world. One of the country’s most well-known canine exports is the Akita. This large, powerful member of the spitz family of dogs – characterized by a wedge-shaped head, a thick double coat and a large curled tail – originated on the island of Honshu in the area known as Akita prefecture. In the rugged, cold mountains that were its homeland, the Akita aided hunters in search of boar, elk and the Yezo bear.

“A male and female hunted together,” says Rita Biddle of Eagle, Mich., past president of the Akita Club of America. “The male distracted the bear from the front, and the female ran around and bit at its hocks. They kept the bear at bay until the hunters got there.”

Just as they are today, the early Akitas were also family companions and guardians. Because of their size and strength, Akitas were crossed with Tosa Inu and other breeds to create fighting dogs. Fortunately, the practice was outlawed in the early 1920s, Biddle says. A club for Akita fanciers, Akitainu Hozankai Society of Japan, formed in Japan in 1927, and in 1931, the Japanese government declared the breed a natural monument. The club published the first written breed standard in 1934.

The first Akita known to come to the United States was given to inspirational writer and speaker Helen Keller. She visited Japan on a speaking tour in 1937 and was presented with an Akita puppy after expressing her admiration for the breed. Sadly, the puppy died of distemper at only 8 months of age, but Keller was able to acquire another one, which she named Kenzan-Go, or Go-Go. He was her companion until his death at 9 or 10 years of age.

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