The larger, more heavier-boned of the two types of Akita, the American Akita was developed during the middle of the 20th century from fighting dogs brought back from Japan. Although both the American Akita and Japanese Akita Inu derive from common ancestry there are distinctive differences between two. The most obvious difference aside from size and structure would be coloration, the Japanese style Akita is only permitted to be red, fawn, sesame, white, or brindle; whereas the American Akita is acceptable in all colors. Additionally, the American Akitas may be pinto and/or have a black mask, unlike Japanese style Akitas where that is not permitted by the breed standards and would be considered an instant disqualification in the show ring. As a general rule, the more heartily built American Akita, in overall appearance is more bear-like, the Akita Inu on the other hand, with its more delicate features appears more fox-like.
Please see the Akita “Main Page” for the complete history of the breed.
The story of the American Akita (Great Japanese Dog –obsolete) truly begins with the famous author, lecturer, and humanitarian Helen Keller, who is credited with having introduced the first Akita to the United States. While touring Japan in 1937 she visited the Akita Prefecture were she heard the story of Hachiko, the famed Akita dog that had died two years earlier in 1935. Impressed with the story she stated that she would like to have an Akita dog of her own. Mr. Ogasawara, a member of the Akita area police department agreed to give her a two month old puppy named Kamikaze-go as a present. When Kamikaze-go died of canine distemper a month after her return the United States, his older brother, Kenzan-go, was presented to her as an official gift from the Japanese government in July 1938.
Of her dog Kamikaze-go, Keller wrote in the Akita Journal:
“If ever there was an angel in fur, it was Kamikaze. I know I shall never feel quite the same tenderness for any other pet. The Akita dog has all the qualities that appeal to me — he is gentle, companionable and trusty.”
During the occupational period following World War II many US servicemen stationed in Japan fell in love with the Akita and brought them back to the United States when they completed their tour. As the popularity of the breed grew, more and more Akitas found themselves being imported from Japan to the United States; although most of these dogs were of the German Shepherd or Fighting Akita types.
In the US, breeders and fanciers were drawn larger and more substantial Japanese Fighting Akita than to the other types; although a small number of Matagi type (hunting type) Akitas were also imported. This is also the primary reason that there are so many differences between the American Akita (Great Japanese Dog) and the Akita-Inu of Japan. The Akita Club of America (AKA) was created in 1956 and in the early part of 1973, the American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized the Akita and subsequently closed the stud book to any further imported dogs on March 1st ,1974, as the AKC did not recognize the Japanese Kennel Club.
The ACA Stud Register is the original Akita register and the source register for all AKC registered Akitas born in the U.S. The ACA stud register was closed 2/28/74 at which point all U.S. born Akitas were to be registered directly with the AKC. The birth date of the first U.S. born ACA registered litter is 7/2/56 and the last 10/30/72. Prior to the AKC taking control of the stud book a total of 588 registered litters totaling some 2,151 individual Akitas were already present in the ACA Stud Register. When viewing the original ACA register the rising popularity of the Akita becomes quite evident. The registered US born litters by year are as follows: 1950’s (13 Litters), 1960’s (180 Litters), and between 1970-1973 (321 Litters). Of the 588 litters listed in the Litter Register; 74 litters are from an Import Akita bred to an Import Akita, 121 litters are from an Import Akita bred to a U.S. born Akita and 393 litters are from a U.S. born Akita bred to a U.S. Born Akita. There were a total of 139 import Akitas; 76 import males and 63 import females in the register. The vast majority of these import Akitas were closely related many being either littermates (from repeat breeding) half siblings or cousins.
The closing of the studbook in 1974 by the AKC set the stage for the current divergence in breed standards present between the American Akita (Great Japanese Dog) and the Akita-Inu. As previously stated the vast majority of Akitas imported into America were of the German Shepherd or Fighting Dog type. By closing the books the AKC made these dogs the foundation stock of the American Akita.
In 1992 the A.K.C. recognized the JKC (Japanese Kennel Club ) and re-opened the Akita stud book to imports. American Akita breeders found them to be quite exotic and a few imported them to cross with the American type. However, the divergence between the two types is of such significance that interbreeding will usually do nothing but produce a hybrid - not one or the other. A few breeders in the United States used this opportunity to import the Akita-Inu and start breeding the the true Japanese type on American soil.
Although both types of Akita derive from a common ancestry, 50 years of breeding on different sides of the Pacific Ocean have produced substantial differences between the two. American Akitas are larger, the head is shaped completely different and all colors are acceptable. Japanese Akitas are only permitted to be fawn, red, sesame, white, or brindle.
The 1990’s also marked a time when problems with the acceptable breeding standards for an Akita in the show ring and register began to develop worldwide. The acceptance of the JKC by the American Kennel Club validated the JKC and their version of the Akita-Inu as a purebred dog. The FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale) with its 84 member countries has a letter of understanding with the AKC to “Share the common goals of protecting and promoting purebred dogs”. The FCI is a show giving organization that as a matter of policy willl accept the breed standard of the country of origin for a recognized breed. Thus the recognition of the JKC by the AKC opened the doors for the JKC to push the FCI toward having it's judges’ judge according to the standards established in the breeds country of origin -Japan. Unfortunately for many Akita fanciers and breeders around the world the vast majority of Akitas had come from the US and were of the American type.
This process of judging to a new set of standards was phased in rather gradually. Initially it didn’t seem to make much of a difference. However, as show judges began to more strictly adhere to the Japanese Akita-Inu standards it became a problem for those fanciers and breeders with the US type Akita. Akitas with black masks and colors other than red, white and brindle no longer received excellent ratings, and eventually could not even be used for breeding. The issue of the two separate and unique types of Akita was rapidly coming to a head.
In 1993, breeders in FCI affiliated countries began to flood the FCI with complaints and suggestions to split the breed into two unique types. As so many of them owned and bred what had become known as the American Akita, which meant they could no longer show them and in some cases could not even register them. In response to these issues, the first ever World Akita Conference was organized and held in December of 1996 in Tokyo by the JKC. This conference was attended by the members of 14 countries whom all agreed that the American type Akita and the Japanese Akita were two distinctly different breeds that should be shown separately and not be interbred.
However, the Akita Club of America (the parent club of the Akita in the United States) maintained an undecided position on the issue of a breed split which prevented the AKC from making the change. The AKC was then hogtied from changing its stance due to its requirement that a two-thirds majority vote of the membership of the parent club is needed to affect any changes. Likewise the FCI, was hampered by its unwillingness to split the breed unless the AKC did the same.
Thus the desire of the JKC to have have the FCI and AKC split the breed concurrently was effectively stalled by the indecision of the Akita Club of America. The whole issue ended up becoming a highly charged stalemate within FCI.
On June 10, 1998, 24 member countries submitted a signed letter to the FCI board. That stated in part:
"Since the Japan Kennel Club has officially admitted, before the present General Assembly of FCI, that two different breeds of Akita do indeed exist, and since one of these two breeds was developed not in Japan but in USA, it has become urgent to recognize that breed formally, under the patronage of FCI."
This resulted in the organization of a second World Akita Conference that was held in Haam, Germany in December of 1998. Just like the first conference it was again decided by the representatives of the member countries in attendance that the Akita should be divided into two breeds within the FCI as soon as possible. The JKC then submitted a formal proposal to FCI for a breed split that was endorsed by both the Scientific Commission as well as the Standards Commission of the FCI.
This formal propasl and the final decision to split the breed was then put before the FCI General Assembly to be voted upon. At the World Dog Show in Mexico City the FCI formally announced its decision to split the breeds on June 1st, 1999. Much to the dismay of American breeders and breeders of American type Akitas in FCI member countries, the name for the American type was changed to ‘Great Japanese Dog or GJD’ while the Japanese Akita would be formally known as the ‘Akita Inu’.
The name "Great Japanese Dog" for the American type was politically motivated and did not made breeders of American Akitas happy.
In July, 2005 at the FCI General Assembly meeting at the World Show in Buenos Aires it was announced that the politically motivated name of ‘Great Japanese Dog’ in FCI countries had been officially changed to ‘American Akita’ by the FCI General Assembly to be effective January 2006. This was done at the request of the JKC; the official breed club of the Akita-Inu in Japan, the country of origin for both types of Akita. Additionally the American Akita breed has had its Group competition classification changed from Group 2 to Group 5- Spitz and primitive types.
The American Akita is a large, powerful, muscular and heavy boned breed of dog. Males are 26 to 28 inches tall at the withers and weigh 99-130lbs while females are 24 to 26 inches tall and weigh 70-99lbs. The head is massive but in balance with the overall size of the body. The head should be free of wrinkle when the dog is relaxed. The skull is flat between the ears with the overall shape of the head forming a blunt triangle when viewed from above. The smallish, strongly erect, triangular shaped ears of the Akita are a breed characteristic. The ear tips are slightly rounded, fairly wide at the base and set wide atop the skull. A properly sized ear will touch the upper eye rim if it is folded forward. Carriage of the ears should be slightly forward over the eyes and in line with the back of the neck. The dark brown eyes of the American Akita are small, triangular in shape and set deep within the skull. The eye rims should be black and tight.
The muzzle is broad and full with the requirement that “Distance from nose to stop is to distance from stop to occiput as 2” is to 3”. Simply put the requirement is a 40/60 (as two is to three) ratio between muzzle and top skull. The nose is broad and black. White Akitas with Black noses are preferred, however, lighter colored noses with or without shading of black or gray tone is acceptable. The jaws are broad and powerful with minimal dewlap. The lips should be black and tight not pendulous. The teeth are strong with a preference toward a scissor bite although a level bite is acceptable; tongue should be pink.
The American Akita has a comparatively short, thick, and muscular neck that gradually widens toward the shoulders. There is a pronounced crest that should blend almost seamlessly with the base of the skull. The overall shape of the American Akita is a dog that is more long than it is tall. The AKC standard calls for the body to be “Longer than high, as to 10 is to 9 in males; 11 to 9 in females” as measured from the point of the sternum to the point of the buttocks. The chest is wide and deep; extending down to the elbow, with the depth of the body at the elbow equal to half the height of the dog at the withers. The ribs are well sprung, from a level back that extends from the withers to a firmly-muscled loin with moderate tuck-up. Skin should be pliant but not loose.
The front shoulders are strong, sturdy and powerful with moderate layback. The forelegs are heavy-boned and straight when viewed from the front with elbows that turn neither in nor out. The rear of the dog should have good width, with muscular development that is comparable to that of the forequarters giving the dog a balanced appearance. The upper thighs are well developed. The stifles are moderately bent with well let down hocks that turn neither in nor out. The feet point straight ahead and are cat like, well knuckled with thick well developed pads.
The American Akitas Double coat consists of a thick, soft, dense undercoat that is shorter than the outer coat. The guard hairs of the outer coat are straight, harsh and stand straight out from the body. The hair at the withers and rump should be roughly two inches which is slightly longer than that of the rest of the body, except the tail, where the coat is the longest. The hair of on the head, ears, and legs is short.
The American Akita is acceptable in any color including white, brindle, or pinto. Regardless of the coat color of the individual dog the color should be rich, brilliant and clear with well balanced markings, with or without mask or blaze. Pinto colored American Akitas will have a white background with large, evenly placed patches covering head and more than one-third of body. White Akitas have no mask. The undercoat may be a different color than that of the outer coat.
There are a number of differences between the American Akita and the Japanese Akita Inu mostly in size as the Japanese dogs are not as large, massive or heavy boned as the American Akita. American Akita males have a height 26 to 28 inches and weigh between 99 to 130 lbs while females are 24 to 26 inches with a weight of 70 to 99 lbs. The male Akita-Inu on the other hand is shorter and lighter with a height of 25 ¼ -27 ½ inches at the withers with a weight of 77 to 118 lbs with the female Akita-Inu being 22 ¾ -25 ¼ inches with a weight of 66 to 99lb. The Japanese Akita-Inu is also more square in proportion with a much more pronounced tuck-up. Another striking difference between the two breeds is the shape of their heads. The American Akita has a large triangular head with small eyes set deep in the skull similar in appearance to that of a bear. While The Japanese Akita-Inu has a much smaller head, almond shaped eyes with ears that are set more forward and lower creating a more fox-like head. In the Japanese Akita-Inu the head to muzzle proportions are more 50/50 whereas the AKC standard calls for the American Akita to have a 40/60 (as two is to three) ratio between muzzle and top skull.
Coloring between the breeds is another area in which there is a clear difference as to what is acceptable. The Japanese Akita-Inu is only correct in five specific colors-- Pure White, Red, Fawn, Sesame and Brindle. On the contrary, the American Akita comes with a black mask and is acceptable in all colors including Pinto, which is not seen in the Japanese Akita-Inu. Another unique trait of the American Akita is that the undercoat comes in a different color than the upper coat whereas with the Japanese Akita-Inu the color is the same.
Lastly is that the Japanese Akita-Inu comes from hunting stock and is bred to be a companion dog while the American Akita is from fighting/guard dog heritage. In temperament there is little difference between the two, as there are aggressive Japanese Akita Inu’s and mellow American Akita dogs as well as the other way around. Both are hunters and killers of small animals. They are both generally good with family members but not so with strangers.
As there in no noticeable difference between the temperament of the American Akita vs. the Japanese Akita Inu please visit the Akita "Main" page for a description of the breeds temperament.
For American Akita grooming information please visit the Akita "main" page as the requirements are the same.