The Akita is the largest of
the six Japanese spitz-type dogs. For several hundred years, these dogs were used in
male-female pairs to hold game such as bear, wild boar, or deer at bay until the hunter
arrived. They have also been used to retrieve waterfowl as they have a soft mouth. They
were usually kept by the aristocracy or wealthy people.
At the end of the 19th century, the Japanese crossed this large dog with non-native dogs
(such as the Tosa Fighting Dog, German Shepherd Dog, St. Bernard, Mastiff) to develop a
dog of increased size and strength for pit fighting. The Akita gradually lost its
popularity as a fighting dog because other breeds proved more efficient fighters (and dog
fighting had been outlawed).
In 1919, concerned by the Japanese
breeds potential extinction, the Japanese included the large spitz-type dog (by then
called the Akita after a prefecture on the northern part of Honshu Island) in a list of
natural monuments to be preserved. At that time, many of the Akitas resembled the
crossbred fighting dog. It was not until 1931, after searching the relatively isolated
villages where the Akita was still used for its original hunting purposes, that enough
dogs that resembled the current idea of a purebred Akita were found. It was at this point
that the Akita became the first of the Japanese native dogs to be declared a natural
During World War II, the breed was nearly lost because many Akitas, especially those in
the cities, were killed for food or for their pelts. After the war, the breed was
re-established in Japan from the best of the remaining dogs. Although the first Akita to
come to the United States was the puppy given to Helen Keller on her visit to Japan in
1937, breeding stock did not arrive until Akitas were brought here in some numbers after
WWII by servicemen stationed in Japan. They were probably not used as guard dogs by the
military as both US and Japan military used German Shepherd Dogs at that time.
Best suited as a companion now, some Akitas also work as sled, police, therapy, guard and
hunting dogs. Several have herding titles, and several are trained companions of hearing-
and sight-impaired people. Akitas are also involved in obedience trials and tracking,
however their high intelligence and dominant nature can present quite a challenge to their
trainer. In general they are discerning guardians of their families. Because of their
hunting background, Akitas can appear aggressive as they may consider smaller animals to
THE STORY OF HACHIKO
In 1920 Dr. Ueno was a professor at the Tokyo university, from where he used to commute by
train to his residence. Together with his dog "Hachiko", he would walk to the
Shibuya Station. Like clockwork, Hachiko would return to meet his master at 3 p.m. as he
returned on the afternoon train. Tragedy struck on May 21, 1925, when Dr. Ueno did not
return because he had suffered a stroke and died at the university.
Loyalty of the Akita has no bounds, and over the next ten years Hachiko would return each
morning and afternoon in search of his master. People were so moved and impressed by the
dogs faithfulness that they took to feeding him and giving him water. News travelled
and soon people were coming expressly to Shibuya Station to feed and pet and to have the
privilege of saying that they had seen and touched Hachiko.
Years rolled on and Hachiko became crippled with arthritis and barely able to walk, but he
continued to make his daily pilgrimage to the station until March 7, 1935, when Hachiko
was found dead at the station on the spot where he had kept vigil for so many years.
Hachikos memory was immortalized in an exquisite small bronze statue which was
erected on the site where he died. Due to the war, all statues were confiscated and melted
down for use in weaponry, including Hachikos. However in 1948 a son of the original
sculptor, whose name was Teru Ando, was commissioned to create a replica which was then
placed on the original site.
Almost seventy years have elapsed since Hachikos demise but visitors continue to
visit the spot and remember and pay tribute to this great dog so aptly named Chuken (loyal
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