The Akita Inu may be one of the most powerful dog breeds in the canine kingdom. They have an intimidating presence, but they’re also regarded as a dignified and noble breed. But there’s a lot of the Akita Inu that you may not know.
Like, do you know about the legend of Japanese samurais and Akita Inus? Or did you know that the Akita Inu from Japan is different from the American Akitas? Interested in learning why it was illegal to own an Akita?
In today’s article, we’re counting down the 10 most interesting facts about the Akita Inu. And that all starts right here on The Smart Canine, the only website that explores the most interesting stories and facts behind dogs.
RECOMMENDED: 100 Most Interesting Dog Facts
Table of Contents
- 10. The Akita Inu was brought to America by Helen Keller.
- 9. At one point, only the super-wealthy of Japan could own an Akita.
- 8. Akita Inus nearly went extinct – TWICE.
- 7. Akita Inus are famously known for their unwavering loyalty.
- 6. There’s a museum dedicated to the Akita Inu in Odate, Japan.
- 5. Insurance companies don’t really trust the Akita Inu (yet).
- 4. Akitas were used as fighting dogs in Japan.
- 3. The Akita Inu is the national dog breed of Japan.
- 2. The Akita Inu in Japan is different from the one in America.
- 1. Japanese legend says that Samurais are often reborn as Akita Inus.
10. The Akita Inu was brought to America by Helen Keller.
There may not be a person more important to the advocacy for disability rights than Helen Keller. The deaf and blind author, activist and educator was known for many things. However, did you know that Helen Keller was a true dog lover?
Throughout her life, she’s owned a variety of dog breeds, such as the German Shepherd, Great Dane and many more. But did you know she was credited with bringing the first Akita Inu to America?
In 1937, Keller was touring Japan while speaking about her challenges and her ability to overcome them. During her time in Japan, she had heard about Hachiko, a local legend Akita Inu who waited over 9 years at a train station for his owner to return.
The loyal dog certainly impressed Keller and she wanted one of her own. So before she left the country, the Japanese government gifted Keller an Akita puppy, named Kamikaze-Go. Thus Kamikaze became the very first Akita in America.
9. At one point, only the super-wealthy of Japan could own an Akita.
Not only were Akitas frequently owned by the elitists of Japan, but they were actually monopolized by them! If you owned an Akita Inu in 17th century Japan, then you were definitely an aristocrat.
You see…Akita Inus were status symbols! Ownership of these dogs was restricted to the wealthy and it was even enforced by their government. It was simply illegal for commoners to own these dogs.
In fact, they were so revered that those who caused any harm to an Akita were jailed in prison. And just like children, the Japanese aristocrats would hire dedicated caretakers to pamper and spoil their pet Akita Inus.
However it wasn’t until the 19th century that the emperor changed the law so that anyone could own an Akita Inu.
8. Akita Inus nearly went extinct – TWICE.
In the 1800s, the Akita Inu nearly died out completely because they were so exclusive to the wealthy. When the Japanese realized this, the government did everything they could to revive the iconic breed.
It worked out in the end, though this wasn’t the only time that these Japanese dogs faced these challenges. Just as these dogs were starting to boom in their home country, World War II once again pushed these dogs to the brink of extinction.
During wartime, the government issued an order to slaughter all non-military dogs. For some reason, the Japanese government only wanted German Shepherds to be recruited as their military dogs.
Some successfully hid their Akitas from being culled, but many more crossbred Akitas with the German Shepherds in an attempt to save the breed. All the bomb raids and the subsequent famine didn’t help the breed either.
But after all that, the breed was once again revived. Not only are they extremely popular companion dogs in Japan, but they’ve managed to make their way all around the world. Needless to say, the Akita as a breed is alive and still thriving today.
7. Akita Inus are famously known for their unwavering loyalty.
There are plenty of loyal dog breeds. For instance, there’s the German Shepherd, Doberman Pinscher or the trusty Rottweiler. But when talking about loyalty in dogs, none may be more famous than the Akita Inu.
One prime example of this is the true story of Hachiko the Akita. The dog was raised by a professor from Tokyo Imperial University.
Every time the owner went to work, he would take the train and the Akita would patiently wait for him at the train station. This happened every day for a couple years. However, when the owner passed away one day at work, Hachiko kept waiting.
In fact, the Akita waited at the same train station every day for over nine years until his death! It’s no wonder Akitas have a reputation for being remarkably loyal dogs.
6. There’s a museum dedicated to the Akita Inu in Odate, Japan.
The Japanese are very fond of Akitas, especially with the widespread legend of Hachiko. They love these dogs so much that there’s even a museum dedicated to this breed!
In fact, the museum is located in Odate, Japan – where Hachiko was born. Not only does the museum celebrate the local legend, but also promotes the breed in general.
Inside, you’ll find plenty of art, documents and miscellaneous information about these incredible dogs. They even have real Akitas to greet the guests!
5. Insurance companies don’t really trust the Akita Inu (yet).
Dogs are by far the most popular pets in the world. Just in American households, there are over 90 million dogs! But what’s shocking is that roughly 4.5 million dog bites happen in America every year.
If a dog bite occurs and injures a victim, usually a homeowners insurance claim will be filed. However, there is a list of dog breeds that insurers won’t cover.
And while the list may vary by insurance company, Akita Inus are one of the breeds that are most commonly seen on these lists. Other breeds include the Doberman, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Siberian Husky, Great Dane and the Pit Bull Terrier.
This doesn’t mean that your Akita is a dangerous dog. It just means they need more attention when it comes to their socialization and obedience training! And for best results, make sure to start as early on as possible with your Akita puppy!
4. Akitas were used as fighting dogs in Japan.
Dog fights are still relatively popular in rural regions of Japan, though it’s banned in major cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. And although the Tosa Inu is the premier Japanese dog fighter, the Akita has had a part in this underground scene as well.
In fact, many of the Akita fighters were crossbred with the Tosa, thus being called the “Shin Akitas.” These dogs not only had the strength of the Akita Inu, but also the endurance of the Tosa Inu. They were some of the best fighters in the canine kingdom.
And while we don’t condone dog fighting, it’s good to know that dog fights in Japan aren’t the typical “fight to the death” matches. Typically, dogs are pulled apart before one becomes too seriously injured.
3. The Akita Inu is the national dog breed of Japan.
There’s no denying the Akita Inu has a long and decorated history in its homeland of Japan. It’s no wonder they’re the official dog breed of the country. These dogs are even used as diplomatic gifts from Japan’s government to other countries.
For example in 2012, Japan gifted Russian President Vladimir Putin an Akita Inu because the country provided much aid to Japan after the massive 2011 earthquake.
And while there are 6 native dog breeds designated as national treasures of Japan, the Akita tops the list and earned the title of the national breed. The 5 other breeds are the Shiba, Hokkaido Inu, Kai Ken, Kishu Inu and the Shikoku.
2. The Akita Inu in Japan is different from the one in America.
Did you know that there are actually two variations of the Akita? Of course we have the original Akita Inu, but there’s also the American Akita.
The American Akita is largely derived from the Japanese Akita Inu. When these dogs reached America, there was a strong preference and trend towards larger dogs. So, they were crossbred with other popular breeds, such as the German Shepherd, to create more size.
That being said, the two Akitas share many similar characteristics and traits, though the two are distinct breeds with the American Akita being larger.
Aside from size, the most notable difference is the facial structure. American Akitas have a much broader head with smaller eyes. On the other hand, Japanese Akitas tend to have a more narrow fox-like face with almond eyes.
Either way, both variations have the same aloofness and guard-dog instincts that people love about these dogs. And best of all, they still retain that remarkable loyalty that these dogs are wonderfully known for.
1. Japanese legend says that Samurais are often reborn as Akita Inus.
Few warriors in history were seen as noble and disciplined as the Japanese samurai. In fact, they’re known for their legendary code of honor, where they valued death over defeat and dishonor. But did you know that Samurai soldiers were actually inspired by the Akita Inu?
He was so impressed with the Akita that they eventually became an integral part of the Imperial samurai culture. So even before these dogs were exclusive to the wealthy, they were made exclusive to Samurai soldiers for nearly five centuries.
Samurais were so infatuated by the Akita Inu that eventually the legend of warriors being resurrected as an Akita began to spread.They believed that if a Samurai died dishonorably in battle, they would oftentimes receive a second chance by being born as an Akita in the next life.
This way, they have yet another opportunity to die defending their masters, which were of course, Samurai warriors.
So what was your favorite Akita Inu fact? Did we miss any interesting things about these dogs? Let us know in the comments section below!
More Dog Facts: