Did you know there are two types of Akitas? Many people, even legitimate dog lovers, do not realize that the term “Akita” can refer to two different breeds of dogs, the American Akita and the Japanese Akita Inu. While the American Kennel Club finally recognized these two types of dogs as different breeds, for many years the American Akita and the Japanese Akita Inu were not separated into individual classifications.
In today’s article we are going to cover all the differences, and the similarities between the American Akita also known as AAs and the Japanese Akita Inu also known as JAs, as well as tackle some of the common myths and misconceptions about these wonderful dogs. Our hope with this article is to help you make the best decision possible regarding which type of Akita is right for you!
Akita History 101
To understand how we ended up with two types of Akitas, we first need to learn a little bit more about the history of the amazing Akita. Most people know that the Akita breed originated in Japan. This leads many people to believe that what we now refer to as “Japanese Akita Inu” are the “original” Akitas, and that “American Akitas” are a spinoff of the Japanese Akita Inu. This isn’t exactly true.
Akita is a region in northern Japan, and the word Inu is Japanese for “dog.” This means that originally any dog in the Akita region was often referred to as an Akita Inu. There are many breeds of dog that are native to Japan, and especially the snowy northern areas of Japan. Dog showing as we know it today didn’t exist prior to the early 20th century. Previously dogs weren’t bred to maintain breed lineage, but rather to produce dogs that were suited to the work their owners needed them for. This included sled pulling, hunting, herding and home protection.
Sadly, dog fighting became very popular in Japan, and the dogs of the Akita region were often bred with several different breeds to produce bigger and stronger dogs, including the Tosa breed, which is the largest breed of dog in Japan.
Eventually dog fighting was outlawed, and famine struck Japan through the difficult years of the World War I and World War II. This led to many dogs being eaten, or left for dead because there was not enough food to feed them. In the years immediately after World War II, the Akita breed had dwindled down to an estimated 16 dogs.
Breeders began to rebuild the Akita breed and at the time, there were two bloodlines of Akita dogs. First there was the Dewa line of Akitas. These Akitas were had large heads, thick bone structure and a more “bear-like” appearance. The second line of Akitas was known as the Ichinoseki were more “fox like” and were classified as a Spitz Type breed of Akitas. The Dewa line of Akitas is what is now known as the American Akita, and the Ichinoseki line is now what we know as the Japanese Akita Inu.
When the Akita was first brought to the United States by Hellen Keller in the 1950s, these were Akitas of the Dewa line, hence how this line of dog became known as the American Akita, while back in Japan, under dog showing guidelines, the more fox-like Ichinoseki line became the preferred type.
In truth it is unlikely that either the American Akita or Japanese Akita Inu fully represent the original Akita of ancient Japan.
American Akita vs. Japanese Akita Inu: The Differences
American Akitas are larger than their Japanese Akita Inu cousins. American Akitas are typically 80-100lbs for females, and 100-130lbs for males, with Males growing to be up to 28″ at the withers (aka the shoulders). and female American Akitas coming in a couple of inches shorter.
The Japanese Akita Inu female tends to weigh 60-80lbs and stand at about 22-24″ at the withers, while the male Japanese Akitas weigh between 80-100lbs and standing 24-26″ at the withers.
In general American Akitas tend to have broader heads, with a more bear like appearance, where the Japanese Akita Inu has been said to be more “Fox like” in its appearance.
American Akitas can come in all different colors, ranging from pure white to pure black, red and white, gray and white, gray brindle, or brown brindle. American Akitas are also known for their infamous “black mask” which some American Akitas may not have.
In Japan, they are much more strict about the coloration of the Japanese Akita Inu. You will only find Japanese Akitas in three colorations: All white, Red and White, Gray Brindle. Japanese Akitas do not have a mask like their American Akita cousins.
American Akita vs Japanese Akita Inu; The Similarities
While some people say there are differences between the American Akita and the Japanese Akita Inu in terms of temperament, these differences are likely very subtle, or non existent depending on the specific dogs in question.
In general both the American Akita and the Japanese Akita Inu are aloof, independent and intelligent. Both of these lines of Akita are traditionally best suited for single dog homes, and have a very high prey drive. Some people believe that the Japanese Akita is more easily “offended” than the American Akita, and needs a gentler hand in terms of training, but for most people, it would be difficult to tell the difference.
While the American Akita and Japanese Akita Inu do each have a distinct look about them, they do both have some physical similarities. Both types of Akita have the distinct tightly curled tail, both dogs are tall and powerful, with small eyes, and pricked ears, and both types of Akita can have the Long Coat Akita gene.
However, while you may think American Akitas and Japanese Akitas look distinct from one another, looking at both breeds in all white coloration makes the differences less noticeable.
American Akita Puppies vs. Japanese Akita Puppies
It comes as no surprise that in America, the American Akita is more popular. In fact, the Japanese Akita is a very rare breed here in the US. There are about a dozen reputable Japanese Akita breeders in the United States recognized by the Japanese Akita Club of America, and most of the breeders have extensive waiting lists.
No matter which breed you decide to go with, picking a reputable breeder is extremely important, so make sure to check out our Get an Akita page to find the perfect American Akita or Japanese Akita Inu for you and your family!