Akita Inu breed: the loyal dog that some say can take down a bear

László Enikő

2021. June 7 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

The former Japanese hunting dog has a real character. He is very reserved with strangers, but very loyal to his family. It has great strength, combined with exemplary perseverance and dedication.


The Akita Inu is a really strong personality, extremely determined and therefore sometimes stubborn, but also a notoriously loyal breed. Not suitable for a first dog as he requires an experienced owner to train him. He is always alert and very attached to his family. Hachiko’s story is one of unquestionable loyalty and commitment.

Akita Inu puppy.


Drawings of dogs resembling the Japanese Akita inu (Akita is a Japanese administrative unit, the word inu means dog) have been found by archaeologists on thousands of years old artefacts. The Akita Inu, the Chow Chow, the Shiba Inu and the Alaskan Malamute is one of the wolf’s closest relatives, with the closest genetic make-up. There have been many stories of Akita loyalty over the centuries. Today, the breed is held in high regard, but this has not always been the case, as it has been threatened with extinction on several occasions.

Akita dates back to the 1600s, but its ancestors can be traced back much earlier. Initially used as a hunting dog, bred for this purpose. They have taken on not only deer, but also wild boar and even bears in pairs, which shows their extraordinary courage and dedication. The dogs kept for this purpose were called matagi inu. The matagi were the traditional winter hunters of the Tōhoku region of northern Japan, who typically hunted bears and deer. As time went on, the Akitas were often used to guard, and they were also excellent watchdogs. They have a very strong territorial instinct, and to this day they are reluctant to tolerate foreigners.

According to a Japanese custom
a small statue of Akita is given to a newborn child. It symbolises long life, happiness and health.

In the 19. century, they were crossed with Mastiffs and Tosas to make them more successful in dogfights. As a result, the Akita began to lose its spiky appearance and its size increased significantly. In 1908 dogfighting was banned and the breed’s fanciers tried to restore the Akita’s original character in breeding. In 1931, nine of them were declared national treasures, and to this day the breed is respected as a national dog. The export of dogs from Japan was banned until 1945.

Hachiko’s, the most famous Akita’s statue in Japan.

World War II decimated the population again, people had nothing to feed their dogs, and sometimes the pets themselves became food. During the war soldiers used the dogs’ fur for clothing. They ordered that all dogs other than service German Shepherds be confined. Breed enthusiasts have tried to circumvent the strict system by using German Shepherds to crossing them with their Akitas. Thus the American version was born. Officially in 2000.

The most famous Akita
is surely Hachiko
, although there are also stories about other breeds. For nine years, the Japanese dog waited at the railway station for his dead owner. Until he himself lost his life in 1935. Hachiko is still known as the most loyal dog and a statue has been erected in his memory at Shibuya Station.

Breed standard

The large Akita, which belongs to the group of Spitzes and primitive type dogs, is a large breed with a proportionate build. The Akita Inu is is considered to be the original Japanese bloodline, while the American Akita is the variety that spread to the USA. The American type is slightly larger than the Inu and the black mask is desirable, while the Japanese type is a non-competitive factor. In the case of the Akita Inu, white, reddish brown, sesame or striped are the most desirable colours. For the American Akita, all colours are allowed.

The Akita Inu has a coarse, straight coat. The undercoat is soft and dense. The head is proportionate to the body, the eyes are relatively small and slightly triangular. Their colour is dark brown. The feet are small, thick and stick upwards. Straight muzzle, strong jaw. Their noses are large and black, while white-coated individuals may have a flesh-coloured nose. Neck thick, strong, straight back. The chest is deep, the belly curves upwards. The tail is thick, curling over the back. The paw is thick and round, with webs between the toes. His movements are confident, dynamic and powerful. Depending on sex, the height at the withers is 58-70 cm and the body weight is 38-50 kg. Expected lifetime 10-14 years.


Despite its increased popularity, this breed is not for everyone. He can be determined, decisive and sometimes stubborn. A true protector, guarding his owners and his territory from strangers. These are qualities that an owner must know, learn to manage and train according to his character. The Akita is very reserved around strangers, and may be very aggressive towards other dogs of the same sex. That’s why early socialisation and consistent, positive feedback-based training is so important. He is an ingenious and clever dog, who is quick to invent himself in any situation. He does not bark unnecessarily, and is described by many as a very quiet dog.

Talking akitas?
Akita owners often report that it is as if their pet is talking,
mumbling under his nose
. A dog described as a quiet breed tends to
 to express his affection and kindness.

The Akita is a very brave, loving, affectionate and loyal companion to his family. He doesn’t like being alone, he doesn’t tolerate loneliness well. He always wants to know everything, his determination makes him like to take action, to come and go, to listen. Intelligent, proud dog, hard to outsmart. He often carries toys and objects in his mouth to welcome his owner home (often combined with a special dance of joy), or to let you know what he wants to do. It’s important for him to get rid of excess energy – whether by hiking, walking or doing various tasks – but he’s not a particularly sedentary pet.

In the video below you can meet Olympic champion water polo player Rajmund Fodor:

Although he has a talent for dog sports, he often finds running around pointless, so it’s hard to get him to do this. Of course, there are exceptions, some who excel in agility or stand out in obedience competitions. If a dog is bored, it may be prone to destructive behaviour, so it’s important to keep him occupied.

Ideal environment

The Akita is considered by many to be a dog for himself, so is often recommended as an only pet. Of course with the right training he can also develop good relationships with other dogs. Smaller animals, such as cats, may also be considered prey because of their hunting instinct. A proper familiarisation is of paramount importance in their case.

Does not tolerate loneliness well, so not recommended to be left alone for long periods. If he does, he tends to find other activities, which may not be welcomed by the family. For example, it can chew up furniture, dig holes in the garden or even run away. For his own safety and the safety of others, it is important to have a good fence around the yard. Because of his family-centred nature, he is not recommended for outdoor keeping only, and the best is kept both outdoors and indoors. He is kind and patient with children in the household, but less tolerant of being pet by strangers. Anyone who lives with an Akita must accept the breed’s calm, determined but extremely clingy character.


Caring for Akita does not require much effort. It sheds heavily, twice a year. In this case, you should comb the coat as often as possible to remove dead hairs. Akitas are very clean dogs, many people compare them to cats because they like to clean themselves.

Common health problems

Although the Akita Inu is considered a healthy breed, all dogs can be affected by diseases. Dysplasia of the hip joint in large dogs can be screened with the appropriate tests, so affected dogs can be excluded from breeding. The breed can also develop eye diseases such as progressive retinal atrophy.

(Sources: János Szinák – István Veress: The Dogs of the World I., Dr. Klára Király: Poems, Legends and Wisdoms for Dog Lovers, David Alderton: Dogs, Dr. Pál Sárkány: International Dog Encyclopedia, Paul McGreevy: Dogs)

akita akita inu hunting dogs large dog

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