About Japanese Akitas
There has been a lot written about the history of the Akita. We’ve studied the breed history much like everyone else in the fancy. We’ve participated in clubs and have been involved in online forums and groups. While we can say we have an understanding of the breed and its history, we’re certainly not scholars on the subject. We don’t have a lot to add since neither of us is a historian. That being said, there are three tips we wish someone would’ve told us when we became interested in learning more about the Japanese Akita breed.
Many books and articles out there have been published with an agenda. For example, all major kennel clubs throughout the world recognize the Japanese Akita and the American Akita as two separate breeds. The only exceptions (more on this topic below) are the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC), but that is likely to change eventually. Some websites you may come across still push the one Akita agenda or even support blending the two together thus nullifying the idea of the purebred dog. Novices to the breed should be wary of the sources they access. Like anything political, there is a lot of misinformation out there presented as fact. A lot of websites post articles, even historical documents, but they may do so to further their own agenda.
Newcomers may start reading about any breed on a variety of content mill websites or Wikipedia, but learning about the breed requires much more than that. Apart from reading up on the breed characteristics and studying the standard, the best way to get to know the breed is by talking at length to veteran breeders, owners and handlers, and by seeing as many Japanese Akitas in person as possible.
Quite a few articles about the Akita have been translated from the Japanese into English or other languages. Translating from Japanese into English is tough work and there are cultural nuances that may not be expressed accurately, in addition to specific dog-related terms that are difficult to convey or define. For instance, in the Akita Inu Hozonkai (AKIHO) standard, there is mention of pinto dogs. Pinto to the American Akita fancy means ⅓ to ⅔ white markings on the body of a dog, but to the Japanese Akita fancy, a pinto simply refers to a dog with a full white collar. In no way are we trying to dissuade novices from reading historical documents that have been translated but we learned that we must always keep in mind that there may be errors in the translation, information taken out of context and an agenda.
We would be remiss not to mention what’s been a hotly debated topic in the Japanese Akita fancy the past two decades. Regardless of agenda, we know that what is largely known as the purebred Japanese Akita in North America originated in Japan and that the Japan Kennel Club (JKC), on behalf of the breed’s nation of origin, requested that the Japanese Akita be recognized as its own distinct breed separate from that of the American Akita. With the help of the World Union of Akita Clubs (WUAC), the split became a reality. The Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) recognized the Japanese Akita as a separate breed from the American Akita, a beautiful breed in its own right, in 2001. Once the FCI separated the breeds, all of their member nations followed suit. Contrary to what some may believe, the breeds have been split in the US. Although the the last holdouts remain the Canadian Kennel Club and the American Kennel Club, another breed registry, the United Kennel Club (UKC) which holds shows in both the US and Canada, split the breeds in 2012.
The oldest Akita club in the world, founded in 1927, is the Akita Inu Hozonkai (AKIHO) which is headquartered in Japan’s Akita Prefecture. A dog with an AKIHO pedigree is considered the most valued by many in the Japanese Akita fancy. AKIHO members have avoided the controversy and debate by not getting involved. To them, it’s almost a no-brainer that there are two distinct breeds of Akitas. The oldest overseas branch of AKIHO, established in 1970, is based in Los Angeles, but in recent years Italy, Russia, China and Mongolia have also opened branches.
These photos of Kenji (Japanese Akita) and Sumi (American Akita) are published with kind permission of the Wright family in Spokane to highlight the difference between the two breeds.
This photo, courtesy of the Choi Sisters, is of Nabi the Japanese Akita and Bear the American Akita hanging out in Atlanta.
What’s important is being thorough in learning both the good and the bad about Japanese Akitas. We also hope that you will look for puppies from ethical breeders who do health testing of their sire and dam. To help you increase your knowledge, here are some links to the various breed standards, all of which are closely related, that we feel are good starting points: