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What Is an Akita?

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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 19 March 2014
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The akita is a Japanese dog breed that is often attributed great cultural significance in its native country. These dogs began to grow in popularity in North America after World War II. Today, there are believed to be two types of akita dogs, the American akita and the Japanese akita, also known as the akita inu. The two breeds generally differ somewhat in size and appearance, though they often share the same temperament.

The dog breed known as the akita originated as a working dog in Japan. Historically, akitas have filled many working dog posts, acting as guard dogs, hunting dogs, waterfowl retrievers, military and police dogs, and sled dogs. the akita inu, or Japanese akita, is considered native to the Japanese Island of Honshu. Many Japanese consider them sacred and capable of bringing good fortune to their owners and families. Many Japanese honor this tradition by bestowing small akita statues upon newborn babies and invalids, in order to ensure or restore that person's health.

Soldiers are credited with popularizing the akita breed in North America, by returning home with puppies after World War II. The most significant difference between the original and American breeds may be that the American breed standard allows these dogs to possess black, mask-like facial markings. Many breeders consider the American and Japanese akitas to be the same breed.

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These are considered rather large working dogs. Males are generally between 26 and 28 inches (66 to 71 cm) tall, while females are usually 24 to 26 inches (61 to 66 cm) tall. These dogs generally have large, broad heads and powerful bodies. They have curly tails and thick, double-coated fur. The akita's undercoat is typically short, thick, and soft, while the outer coat is straighter, longer, and coarser.

The akita breed can come in a range of colors, and can have short fur or long. The akita's undercoat may be differently colored from its outer coat. Japanese akitas are typically all white, without the black mask-like facial markings. Other akitas have clearly defined markings, and may be either brindle, white, or pinto, with large areas of darker fur accounting for more than one-third of the coat.

This breed is said to be loyal and protective. Akitas can be very assertive and often require firm discipline, even from children in the family. These dogs generally require high levels of physical activity and can be hard to train, because they often have short attention spans. Akitas generally enjoy bonding with their families, however, and can become very protective when danger is sensed.

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