The Akita, is a large spitz breed of dog originating from the mountainous northern regions of Japan. There are now two separate types, the American type and the Japanese type. Known in different parts of the world respectivly as Akita or American Akita and Akita inu or Japanese Akita.The American style come in all dog colors, however the Japanese style come in selected colors only, with all other colors considered untypical of the breed. The Akita has a short double coat, similar to that of many other northern Spitz breeds, e.g., Siberian Husky, but long coated dogs can be found in many litters due to a recessive gene. The American style Akita is now considered a separate breed from the Japanese style Akita in many countries around the world, with the notable exceptions of Australia (where there are no current breeders of the Japanese style dog), the United States and Canada. In the US and Canada, both the American style Akita and the Japanese style Akita Inu are considered a single breed with differences in type rather than two separate breeds. During a short period of time the American style of Akita was known in some countries as the "Great Japanese Dog". Both styles of Akita are probably best known worldwide from the true story of Hachik?, a loyal Akita dog who lived in Japan before World War II.
American Akita or Akita or Akita Inu?
White Akita and pup
Brindle Japanese style Akita
Debate remains among Akita fanciers of both types whether there are, or should be, two distinct breeds of Akita. To date, the American Kennel Club (AKC), Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) and Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC), guided by their national breed clubs, consider American and Japanese style Akitas to be two types of the same breed, allowing free breeding between the two. The Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI), The Kennel Club (KC) (UK), New Zealand Kennel Club (NZKC) and Kennel Clubs of some other nations, including Japan, consider Japanese and American style Akitas as separate breeds. However all except the FCI refer to the American style Akita as simply the "Akita" and not American Akita. Indeed, the issue is especially controversial in Japan. Formally, for the FCI, the breed split occurred June 1999, when the FCI voted that the American type would be called the Great Japanese Dog, this was changed in January 2006 to American Akita.
Japanese history, both verbal and written, describe the ancestors of the Akita, the Matagi dog, as one of the oldest of the native dogs. Today's Akita developed primarily from dogs in the northernmost region of the island of Honsh? in the Akita prefecture, thus providing the breed's name. The Matagi's quarry included wild boar, Sika deer, and Asian black bear. This swift, agile, unswervingly tenacious precursor dog tracked large game, holding it at bay until hunters arrived to make the kill. The breed is also influenced by crosses with larger breeds from Asia and Europe, including Mastiffs[disambiguation needed], Great Danes and the Tosa Inu, in the desire to develop a fighting dog for the burgeoning dog fighting industry in Odate, Akita Prefecture, Japan in the early 20th century. During World War II the Akita was also crossed with German Shepherd Dogs in an attempt to save them from the war time government order for all non-military dogs to be culled. The ancestors of the American Akita were originally a variety of the Akita Inu, a form that was not desired in Japan due to the markings, and which is not showable.
Three events focused positive attention on the breed in the early 1900s and brought the breed to the attention of the Western world:
First was the story of Hachik?, one of the most revered Akitas of all time. He was born in 1923 and was owned by Professor Hidesabur? Ueno of Tokyo. Professor Ueno lived near the Shibuya Train Station in a suburb of the city and commuted to work every day on the train. Hachik? accompanied his master to and from the station each day. On May 25, 1925, when the dog was 18 months old, he waited for his master's arrival on the four o'clock train. But he waited in vain; Professor Ueno had suffered a fatal stroke at work. Hachik? continued to wait for his master's return. He traveled to and from the station each day for the next nine years. He allowed the professor's relatives to care for him, but he never gave up the vigil at the station for his master. Upon Hachik?'s death on March 8, 1935 a national day of mourning was declared in honor of Hachik?'s devotion. His vigil became world renowned when, in 1934, shortly before his death, a bronze statue was erected at the Shibuya train station in his honor. This statue was melted down for munitions during the war and new one commissioned once the war had ended. In 1983 a bust of Professor Uneo was placed next to the statue of Hachik?.
The second major event was in 1931, when the Akita was officially declared a Japanese Natural Monument. The Mayor of Odate City in Akita Prefecture organized the Akita Inu Hozankai to preserve the original Akita as a Japanese natural treasure through careful breeding. In 1934 the first Japanese breed standard for the Akita Inu was listed, following the breeds declaration as a natural monument of Japan. In 1967, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Akita Dog Preservation Society, the Akita Dog Museum was built to house information, documents and photos.
The third positive event was the arrival of Helen Keller in Japan in 1937. She expressed a keen interest in the breed and was presented with the first two Akitas to enter the US. The first dog, presented to her by Mr. Ogasawara and named Kamikaze-go, died at five months of age from Distemper, one month after her return to the States. A second Akita was arranged to be sent to Miss Keller, he was Kamikaze's litter brother, Kenzan-go. Kenzan-go died in the mid-1940s.
The Akita "Tachibana", one of the few Akitas to survive the war, pictured here on a Japanese 1953 issue postage stamp
Just as this mountain dog breed was stabilizing in its native land, World War II pushed the Akita to the brink of extinction. Early in the war the dogs suffered from lack of nutritious food. Then many were killed to be eaten by the starving populace, and their pelts were used as clothing. Finally, the government ordered all remaining dogs to be killed on sight to prevent the spread of disease. The only way concerned owners could save their beloved Akitas was to turn them loose in the most remote mountain areas, where they bred back with their ancestor dogs, the Matagi, or conceal them from authorities by means of crossing with German Shepherd dogs, and naming them in the style of German Shepherd dogs of the time. Morie Sawataishi and his efforts to breed the Akita is a major reason we know this breed today.
During the occupation years following the war, the breed began to thrive again through the efforts of Sawataishi and others. For the first time, Akitas were bred for a standardized appearance. Akita fanciers in Japan began gathering and exhibiting the remaining Akitas and producing litters in order to restore the breed to sustainable numbers and to accentuate the original characteristics of the breed muddied by crosses to other breeds. US servicemen fell in love with the Akita and imported many of them into the US upon and after their return.
4 month old American style Akita pup
The Japanese style Akita and American style Akita began to diverge in type through the middle and later part of the 20th century. Japanese style Akita fanciers focused on restoring the breed as a work of Japanese art. American style Akita fanciers bred larger, heavier-boned dogs. Both types derive from a common ancestry, but marked differences can be observed between the two. First, while American stlye Akitas are acceptable in all colors, Japanese style Akitas are only permitted to be red, fawn, sesame, white, or brindle. Additionally, American style Akitas may be pinto and/or have black masks, unlike Japanese style Akitas where it is considered a disqualification and not permitted in the breed standards. American style Akitas generally are heavier boned and larger, with a more bear-like head, whereas Japanese style Akitas tend to be lighter and more finely featured with a fox-like head.
Recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1955, it was placed in the Miscellaneous class. It wasn't until the end of 1972 that the AKC approved the Akita standard and it was moved to the Working dog class, as such, the Akita is a rather new breed in the United States. Foundation stock in America continued to be imported from Japan until 1974 when the AKC cut off registration of any Japanese import until 1992 when it recognized the Japanese Kennel Club. The period of non-recognition was in concern for the authenticity of the pedigrees and the purity of the breeds. This no-doubt was a major factor of the breed in America diverging from the Japanese type as both countries continued to breed to their own standard.
Elsewhere in the world, the American style Akita was first introduced to the UK in 1937, he was a Canadian import, however the breed was not widely known until the early 1980s.The breed was introduced in Australia in 1982 with an American Import and to New Zealand in 1986 with an import from the U.K.
American style Akita female
As a northern breed (generically, Spitz), the appearance of the Akita reflects cold weather adaptations essential to their original function. The Akita is a substantial breed for its height with heavy bones. Characteristic physical traits of the breed include a large, bear-like head with erect, triangular ears set at a slight angle following the arch of the neck. Additionally, the eyes of the Akita are small, dark, deeply set and triangular in shape. Akitas have thick double coats, and tight, well knuckled cat-like feet. Their tails are carried over the top of the back in a graceful sweep down the loin, into a gentle curl, or into a double curl.
Mature American type males measure typically 26-28 inches (66–71 cm) at the withers and weigh between 100-130 lb (45–59 kg). Mature females typically measure 24-26 inches (61–66 cm) and weigh between 70-100 lb (32–45 kg). The Japanese type are a little smaller and lighter.
Breed standards state that all dog breed coat colors are allowable in the American style Akita, including pinto, all types of brindle, solid white, black mask, white mask, self colored mask, even differing colors of under coat and overlay (guard hairs). This includes the common Shiba Inu coloring pattern known as Urajiro. The Japanese style Akitas are restricted to Red, fawn, sesame, brindle, pure white, all with "Urajiro" markings i.e. 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.
Long Coat Akita dog
There are two coat types in the Akita, the standard coat length and the long coat. The long coat is considered a fault in the show ring, however, they still make good pets. The long coat, also known as 'Moku' is the result of a autosomal recessive gene and may only occur phenotypically if both sire and dam are carriers. They have longer (about 3-4 inches in length) and softer coats and are known to have sweeter temperaments. It is believed that this gene comes from the now extinct Karafuto-Ken ??? (extirpated in Japan, anyway) Dog of Russia.
The Akita today is a unique combination of dignity, courage, alertness, and devotion to its family. It is extraordinarily affectionate and loyal with family and friends, territorial about its property, and can be reserved with strangers. It is feline in its actions; it is not unusual for an Akita to clean its face after eating, to preen its kennel mate, and to be fastidious in the house. They are however known to be intolerant of other dogs, as stated in the AKC breed standard.
Since it is a large, powerful dog, the Akita is not considered a breed for a first time dog owner. The breed has been targeted by some countries' breed legislation as a dangerous dog. The Akita is a large, strong, independent and dominant dog. A dog with the correct Akita temperament should be accepting of non-threatening strangers, yet protective of their family when faced with a threatening situation. They should be docile, aloof and calm in new situations. As a breed they should be good with children, it is said that the breed has an affinity with children, just as retrievers have an affinity with sticks and balls. However all care and caution should be taken with children and large dogs. Not all Akitas, nor all dogs, will necessarily have a correct temperament.
The Akita was never bred to live or work in groups like many hound and sporting breeds. Instead, they lived and worked alone or in pairs, a preference reflected today. Akitas tend to take a socially dominant role with other dogs, and thus caution must be used in situations when Akitas are likely to be around other dogs, especially unfamiliar ones. In particular, Akitas tend to be less tolerant of dogs of the same sex. For this reason, Akitas, unless highly socialized, are not generally well-suited for off-leash dog parks.The Akita is docile, intelligent, courageous and fearless, careful and very affectionate with its family. Sometimes spontaneous, it needs a firm, confident, consistent pack leader, without which the dog will be very willful and may become very aggressive to other dogs and animals.
The health conditions mentioned below are by no means only specific to the Akita, but also to many other breeds including mix or cross breeds. All however, have been seen enough in the Akita to be listed as conditions known to occur in the breed as per citations.
Brindle Akita dogs
There are many autoimmune diseases that are known to sometimes occur in the Akita. These include, but are not limited to:
Micropthalmia, a developmental disorder of the eye, also known as "Small eye", believed to be an autosomal recessive genetic condition.
Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada syndrome, also known as Uveo-Dermatologic Syndrome is an auto-immune condition which affects the skin and eyes.
Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia, which is an autoimmune blood disorder
Sebaceous Adenitis is an autoimmune skin disorder believed to be of autosomal recessive inheritance.
Pemphigus Foliaceus is an autoimmune skin disorder, believed to be genetic.
Immune-mediated endocrine diseases
In addition to these there are also the Immune-mediated endocrine diseases with a heritable factor, such as:
Addison’s Disease also known as hypoadrenocorticism, it affects the adrenal glands and is essentially the opposite to Cushing's syndrome.
Cushing’s Syndrome also known as Hyperadrenocorticism, it affects the adrenal glands and is caused by long-term exposure to high levels of glucocorticosteroids, either manufactured by the body or given as medications.
Diabetes mellitus, also known as type 1 diabetes. It affects the pancreas.
Hypothyroidism, also known as autoimmune hypothyroidism. This is an autoimmune disease which affects the thyroid gland.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus also known as SLE or lupus, is a systemic autoimmune disease (or autoimmune connective tissue disease) that can affect any part of the body.
Non immune specific conditions
Other non-immune specific conditions known to have occurred in the Akita include:
Gastric Dialation is also known as bloat, torsion, gastric torsion, or gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV).
Primary Glaucoma, a disorder of the eye
Progressive Retinal Atrophy which is also a disorder of the eye.
Hip dysplasia a skeletal condition.
Elbow dysplasia another skeletal condition.
Von Willebrands Disease, a genetic bleeding disorder
Breed specific conditions
There are two breed specific conditions mentioned in veterinary literature:
Immune Sensitivity to vaccines, drugs, insecticides, anesthetics and tranquilizers
Pseudohyperkalemia, a rise in the amount of potassium that occurs due to its excessive leakage from cells, during or after blood is drawn. This can give a false indication of hyperkalemia, hence the prefix psuedo, meaning false.
Predecessors of the modern Akita were used for hunting bear in Japan as late as 1957. They would be used to flush out the bear and keep it at bay until the hunter could come and kill it. Akitas have also been used as military dogs and guard dogs. Today, the breed is used primarily as a companion dog. However, the breed is currently also known to be used as therapy dogs, and compete in all dog competitions including: conformation showing, obedience trials, canine good citizen program, tracking trials and agility competition as well as weight pulling, hunting and schutzhund (i.e., personal protection dogs).
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