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The Japanese Akita – Dog of Dignity
Anyone that has seen the film ‘Hachi a dog’s tale’ will know what a Japanese Akita is. Based on a true story the film is about college professor Ueno who rescued a dog which became a loyal and loving friend the film is a tearjerker indeed. Hachi saw his master onto the train one morning and never saw him again. This was because his master suffered a major heart attack and died, never returning home. Hachi then displayed the unfailing loyalty that only a dog can by meeting the train every day for nine years.
The real Hachi was a dog called Hachiko and in springtime 1934, a bronze statue was erected at Shibuya Station in his likeness and to celebrate the loyalty and bond between the dog and his owner.
It cannot be denied that the Japanese Akita is a beautiful and dignified breed of dog. Strong and robust with a thick coat and great bone structure the Akita commands respect. Ancestors of this breed were used for hunting, fighting, herding and as guard dogs.
A great partner with a loyal nature the Akita has a varied and interesting history. Referred to in past times as the regional dog, from Akita, the ancestors of breed had many names including;
- Odate- Inu
Some ancestors of todays breed were used for fighting in the towns whilst others in the countryside for hunting, they were all variations of the same dog, the dog that we now call the Japanese Akita.
Dog fighting is a substantive part of the ancestry or the Japanese Akita. Dog fights were said to preserve the spirit of the samurai warrior. In order to present ever stronger fighting dogs in the early 1800’s the Tosa fighting dog was introduced into the Akita stature. Attempts were made to cross breed many other dogs into the dog’s bloodline including Saint Bernards, German Pointers and Great Danes.
At around this time dog fighting was encouraged and organized as public events for adults and children to attend. In the early 1900’s dog fighting was prohibited and public opinion changed in favor of preservation of the breed.
Mr. Shigeie Izumi established the Akita-Inu Preservation Society in 1927 and the Odate town dog was renamed the Akita-Inu and officially declared a national monument in 1931.
Rabies outbreaks in both 1899 and 1924 almost pushed the breed to extinction.
World war two also saw the breed pushed towards extinction as the dogs were used for food and their pelts. Surviving dogs were turned into the hills by desperate owners in order to survive a blanket cull ordered by the authorities. The cull aimed to cease the spread of disease. The dogs survived by their own keen hunting and survival skills.
During this time the Akita was often bred with the German shepherd in order to preserve the breed. This was to avoid loss of the dog altogether as German shepherds survived being culled for fur garments and food by being used as instruments of war. It is said that barely a dozen Japanese Akita dogs survived the Second World War.
In 1937 Helen Keller expressed a keen interest in the breed and was presented with two dogs to take back to the USA. One of the dogs died young but the other stayed with her for its entire lifetime dying in 1945.
By the 1960’s the Japanese had managed to bring the breed closer to its origin and a new strain of the breed was developing in North America which is now known as the American Akita. The breed is recognized as two different types.