Akitas are a dog breed originally from Japan, known for their unceasing loyalty and muscular stature. Some Akitas have even reached stardom, like Hachikō, who waited over nine years for his owner to return, or Kal, Henry Cavill’s lovable best friend.
Keep reading to learn more about this big, bold breed.
History & Characteristics
The Akita dog breed is best known for their intrepidity, confident stature, and sense of duty. Originally bred for guarding the noble and royal in feudal Japan, the Akita is dignified and courageous. Historically, Akitas have also helped man hunt and track wild boars, deer, and even sometimes, black bears.
Named after the province of Akita in northern Japan, this breed’s origin is believed to date all the way back to the 1600s. It is said Akitas were introduced to America by Helen Keller, who brought back home an Akita puppy from Shibuya after hearing the story of Hachikō (keep reading to learn more about the story of Hachikō’s unwavering loyalty). Keller described the Akita breed as “gentle, companionable, and trusty.”
On average, this breed will reach 26 to 28 inches in height (male) or 24 to 26 inches (female), and typically weigh between 70 to 130 pounds. Their coats come in a variety of colors, with a variety of possible markings. According to the American Kennel Club, the Akita life expectancy is 10 to 14 years. There are two variations of the Akita breed - the Japanese Akita Inu and the American Akita.
Burly and robust, Akitas can be imposing to some. Though they are broad, alert, soft spoken, and fastidious, don’t be fooled! Akitas thrive on human friendship, are hardwired to defend, and appreciate being affectionate and goofy with their loved ones.
Akitas are fiercely loyal to their humans. It is not recommended that Akitas live with other dogs, as they can become territorial. In terms of affection and young children and/or families, Akitas are a bit more independent than most breeds. These dogs tend to do well with one or two owners and no other pets. Because they are intensely vigilant and protective, they can make great watch dogs. Akitas love to talk, and will vocalize to alert their owners.
Akitas shed often, and need to be groomed frequently due to their double, medium-length coats. Cleanup is necessary when one owns an Akita. These dogs tolerate colder temperatures better than warmer climates. This breed isn’t prone to a lot of genetic health problems. Though they can be a bit high maintenance, owners of the Akita breed contend it is well worth the time and effort.
Akitas appreciate routine, like most dogs. They can be quite playful, but fairly reserved when it comes to strangers. Akitas are highly sensitive dogs, and are less likely to handle chaotic households and/or louder environments well compared to other more “easygoing” breeds. They appreciate wide open spaces and do best when they can spend lots of quality time with their owner(s). Akitas are suckers for wanderlust, and can make great travel companions.
Akitas are right in the middle when it comes to being self-willed or eager to please. They’re pretty high energy, and typically need a job or activity to stimulate them mentally. With the right amount of socialization and training, Akitas can make formidable friends. Akitas are subservient breeds, but need a lot of patience and dedication in terms of their training.
Hachikō was a Japanese Akita dog owned by Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor at the Tokyo Imperial University, in the 1920s. Everyday, Hachikō would meet his owner at the Shibuya Station after his journey home from work. On May 21, 1925, Ueno passed away at work, and never made his commute home. Fiercly loyal and full of an overwhelming sense of fidelity to his owner, Hachikō continued to come to the Shibuya Station every day for more than nine years, patiently awaiting the return of his beloved companion.
Hachikō continues to be remembered for his faithfulness with movies, statues, and books commemorating the dog’s devotion to his friend.
Ever seen British actor, Henry Cavill, on the big screen? He’s a huge dog lover. And not just any dog. Cavill loves Akitas.
Cavill credits his loyal Akita, Kal, with saving his “emotional and psychological bacon.” Cavill brings Kal to movie sets, photo shoots, on road trips, and even international work trips.
The two are inseparable. Cavill has commented that Kal has been a fluffy shoulder to lean on “in those moments where [he] just need[ed] another being around.”
Some Fun Facts
- Akitas are known for “mouthing" and like to carry things around in their mouth. If you have an Akita that grabs your wrist to lead you to his leash or his favorite toy, he definitely loves you wholeheartedly.
- Akitas like to grumble, mumble, and offer their opinion on most matters. Be ready to have a conversation with your talkative pup if you have an Akita!
- Akitas are willful, determined, and rely on friendship with their humans to flourish.
- Japanese Akitas are smaller than American Akitas - as much as 30 or more pounds lighter. In dog shows, the black mask markings of American Akitas are considered a show disqualifier in Japan.
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Admin. “American Kennel Club.” American Kennel Club, 6 Nov. 2017, www.akc.org/dog-breeds/akita/.
“Akita Dog Breed Information, Pictures, Characteristics & Facts - Dogtime.” Dogtime, 2019, dogtime.com/dog-breeds/akita#/slide/1.
Wikipedia Contributors. “Hachikō.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 1 Dec. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hachik%C5%8D.
“Actor Henry Cavill Credits His Beloved Dog Kal with Saving His ‘Emotional Bacon.’” My Modern Met, 10 Dec. 2021, mymodernmet.com/henry-cavill-dog-kal/.