So you are thinking of owning a Japanese Akita Inu?
Here we will add some useful information for prospective owners about the advantages and disadvantages of owning a Japanese Akita Inu in the UK.
Origin of the breed: Japanese Akita Inu; a large ‘spitz-type’ dog named after the Akita Prefecture; in the north-west of Honshu Island, Japan. Noted amongst the most primitive breeds of dog it’s direct descendents lived in the ‘Matagi’ villages of this province. Life was extremely dependent upon hunting for survival hence dogs from these villages were referred to as ‘Matagi Inu’ (simply translated as “hunting dog”). 1st millennia AD illustrations depict hunters in pursuit of solid coloured hunting dogs tracking large prey in the forest and mountains. From 1600’s - 1800’s “Matagi Inus” were bred with large mastiff type breeds; possibly for fighting purposes. Many of the ‘spitz’ characteristics were lost through this process. Japan prohibited dog fighting in early 1900’s.
The conflicts of WWII caused dogs in Japan to be confiscated and destroyed to provide food and clothing for Japanese troops except the military and shepherding types. Dedicated fanciers of the Akita Inu attempted to circumvent this by cross breeding with shepherding breeds or hiding their dogs in remote mountain farms. By 1946 the ‘Akita dog’ existed in three different types: Matagi Akitas (original hunting dog), Fighting Akitas (Matagi Akitas x Mastiff influence) and Shepherd Akitas (Akitas x shepherd mix). This variance created confusion and lead to much conflict between breeders as to desirable breed type. After WWII; the impressive mastiff characteristics of the Dewa bloodline attracted huge breeding interest. American troops
took examples of the ‘Dewa’ type home with them. These became the ancestors of the Akita in America. Over a 35 year period; those breeders wishing to return to the original “Matagi” type selected different breeding stock mainly from the Ichinoseki breeding line. Eventually their concerted efforts produced a type more closely resembling the “Matagi Inu” (pictured right). Securing the highly admired ‘Urajiro’ markings and defined coat colours seen today.
During the years that followed a very confusing situation developed for the Akita breeds outside Japan. Both breeds (the American + Japanese types) shared one name, one breed register and one breed standard; competed in the same show ring and significant crossbreeding took place.
The difference in appearance between the dogs from Japan and those coming from America was very obvious even at this early stage!
Steps were taken to correct this during the early 90’s but ‘naming’ confusion still remains: in the UK. ‘American type’ Akitas are registered as ‘Akita’ and the pure Japanese dogs as “Japanese Akita Inu”. In FCI countries the “American type” is known as “American Akita” and the “Japanese dogs” are referred to as “Akita”. The USA is now the ONLY country still registering both breeds together and allowing crossbreeding to continue.
The UK Kennel Club officially recognised the JAI as a breed in 2006. Entry on to the new register was controlled with genetics in mind. Only dogs with a three generation traceable ancestry to Japanese dogs were accepted in the new register. Every Japanese Akita Inu that is imported to this country has the pedigree carefully checked by The Kennel Club.
Throughout Europe the separation process was controlled by phenotype; dogs were visually assessed. Those considered to “look like a Japanese Akita
Inu (Akita in FCI countries) became classified as one!
Knowledgeable UK breed enthusiasts founded a breed club in 2007, sourced and imported dogs from across the globe to create pure foundational bloodlines with genetic diversity in the hope of securing a robust future for the breed. As a consequence, the UK has some of the purest bloodlines outside of Japan.
The breed is weathering the path of development and faces the same challenges as most other breeds. Perhaps the biggest challenge being that of education. The breed club has a comprehensive breed education and judging competence programme in place. This is designed to impart in depth understanding of the essential and unique features that set this breed apart from all other spitz types.