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All Dog Breeds >>History of Akita

Japanese history, both verbal and written, describes the ancestors of the Akita Inu, the Matagi dog, as one of the oldest of the native dogs. The Akita Inu of today developed primarily from these dogs in the northernmost region of the island of Honshū in the Akita prefecture, thus providing the breed's name. The Matagi's quarry included elk, antelope, boar, and Asian black bear. This swift, agile, unswervingly tenacious precursor dog tracked large game and held it at bay until the hunters arrived to make the kill. Recent DNA analysis found that the Akita was among the most ancient dog breeds. During World War II, the number of Akita dogs greatly diminished because of the lack of food. There were also orders to capture all dogs except German Shepherds in order to use their fur for warm army uniforms. During the occupation years following the war, the breed began to thrive again through the efforts of Morie 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. The Japanese Akita and American Akita began to diverge in type through the middle and later part of the 20th century with the Japanese Akita fanciers focusing on restoring the breed as a work of Japanese art and American Akita fanciers selecting for the larger, heavier-boned dogs that emerged from the post-war times. Both types derive from a common ancestry, but marked differences can be observed between the two. First, while American Akitas are acceptable in all colors, Japanese Akitas are only permitted to be red, fawn, sesame, white, or brindle. Additionally, American Akitas may be pinto and/or have black masks, unlike Japanese Akitas.