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The Akita dog is one of the six native dog breeds in Japan.
Impressive in size and stature, the Akita Inu was once a revered animal and Japan where the Japanese believe that Akita Inus are symbolic for a long and healthy life.
Akita Inus were once trained to be fearless hunters and at times would even challenge bears if given the opportunity.
Eventually, the Akitas were trained to be guard dogs as well as fighting dogs.
Due to World War II, many Akitas were either killed or died of illness as a result of the war.
Fortunately, Japanese dog preservationist groups formed to protect and preserve Akitas (as well as other native Japanese dog breeds) starting in the 1920’s.
American Akitas are the result of American efforts to crossbreed the Akita with larger, “mastiff-type” dogs in order to achieve a better “fighting” dog.
Read on to learn more about the differences between the Japanese Akita and the American Akita.
Japanese Akita Inu Vs. American Akita - History
The Akita Inu are descendants from ancient dogs of the Jomon Period (8000 B.C. to 200 B.C.)
Dogs of that period were typically medium-sized dogs that were used for hunting.
The Akita most likely are also descendants of the Matagi dogs that lived in the mountain villages of Akita and Iwate.
Matagi dogs were not medium-sized dogs that were known for their hunting prowess.
The Akita we see today are the result from outcrosses from various breeds over the years such as the Tosa Inu, Mastiffs, and other “fighting-type” dogs.
Akita were in their greatest state of impurity during the early 20th century. That’s when the Japanese formed Japanese dog preservation groups to help bring back the Akita to its original state of purity.
The first Akitas were introduced to the United States during the 1930’s. The famous Helen Keller received two Akitas during that time as a gift from a Japanese town that heard about her interest in the dog.
More Akitas arrived in the states during the 1950s after the war.
Breeders in North America took a different direction in the breeding of their Akitas thus the American Akita was recognized as a distinct breed separate from the Japanese Akita in 2020.
Japanese Akita Inu Vs. American Akita - Appearance
The Main difference between Japanese Akita Inu and American Akita comes down to size.
While a male Japanese Akita Inu can stand at 26-77.5” tall and weigh between 65-75 pounds, a male American Akita Inu can stand between 26-28” tall and weigh between 100 - 130 pounds!
That’s a massive difference in weight!
The reason for the size difference is due to the fact that American Akita Inus were bred to larger, mastiff-like dogs to create a better fighting dog.
It’s been observed that Japanese Akitas look more like foxes while American Akitas look more like bears.
So the best way to tell the difference between the two Akitas is to think of American "Bears" and Japanese "foxes".
The other major difference between the two Akitas is coat colors.
The Japanese Akita Inu coat consists of white, red, red brindle, black brindle, silver bridle
The coats of red and brindle Akitas must include proper Urajiro.
All colors of the Japanese and American Akita should be clear, vibrant, and bright.
The American Akita comes in even more colors than the Japanese Akita.
In addition to white, red, and various brindle colors, American Akitas can also be fawn and even pinto.
The marking on American Akitas should be well balanced with Pinto coated Akitas having markings that cover more than one-third of their body.
Japanese Akita Inu Vs. American Akita -Temperament and Personality
In general the Japanese Akita and the Akita share similar personality traits. After all, both dogs share about 99% of the same DNA.
The main influence on personality for these dogs is the quality of the breeding program as well as thorough socialization and obedience training.
Some Akita dog breeders state that the Japanese Akita has a bit more of “serious” and aloof personality while the American Akita can is a little more gregarious.
Like Shiba Inus, both Japanese and American Akitas are not particularly friendly dogs. So if you ever meet one in person, don’t take it personally that they seem genuinely disinterested in you.
The Japanese Akita inu tends to be more “primitive” and sensitive than the American Akita, likely due to the fact that Japanese Akita Inu are slightly less crossbred than the American Akitas.
Both Akitas are independent, loyal dogs that are usually even-tempered if well socialized as a puppy.
However Akitas can be dog aggressive and can pose a bite threat to families that don’t have experience in managing the breed.
This is why only experienced owners should have Akitas. Akita Inus are large but somewhat primitive dogs that need a confident and competent owner.
Japanese Akita Inu Vs. American Akita - Health and Lifespan
Both the Japanese Akita and the American are fairly healthy large breed dogs that have similar health issues including hypothyroidism, immune disorders, and bloat.
The lifespan of the Japanese Akita is 10-13 years, while the American Akita has a lifespan of roughly 10 - 12 years. (Larger dogs typically have shorter lifespans than smaller dogs).
Akitas in general are not especially active dogs so owners must ensure that they provide enough daily exercise and activity to ensure optimal health.
Since most Akitas are naturally laid back in nature they are less prone to suffer from anxiety issues that other dogs such as Chihuahuas commonly suffer from.
Japanese Akita Inu Vs. American Akita - Grooming
The American Akita is classified as double-coated by most organizations whereas the Japanese Akita is actually classified as a triple-coated dog!
This means both American and Japanese Akitas are very heavy shedders, with the Japanese being the bit furrier of the bunch.
Both Akitas shed or blow their entire coats twice a year for a few weeks. During this time extra grooming and brushing is necessary.
A shedding undercoat can be itchy for a dog so it’s best to brush as needed to ensure a content and happy Akita.
Extra bathing with a good quality dog shampoo and conditioner is beneficial as it’ll help with the deshedding process.
Japanese Akita Inu Vs. American Akita - Costs and Availability
The average costs of both Japanese and American Akitas can range between $2500 - $3500.
In the United States it’s easier to find an American Akita, though Japanese Akitas are often imported as well.
The best way to locate a reputable Akita breeder is to visit the parent club of either the Japanese Akita Club of America or the American Akita Club of America.
It is possible to import an Akita from Japan though extra time and preparation is needed. Most Japanese breeders do not speak English which poses an additional difficulty.
Never ever purchase an Akita from an online puppy broker as these puppies come from puppy mills where health and temperament is nowhere near standard.
Japanese Akita Inu Vs. American Akita - Which Akita is Most Popular?
Naturally it’s likely that American probably like American Akitas more than Japanese Akitas - and vice versa.
However, that’s not necessarily the case.
Both types of Akitas have their fans for different reasons.
The Japanese Akita has that foxier looks that has attracted many fans due to the recent popularity explosion of Shiba Inus.
They also are a lot smaller than American Akitas which make them more compatible for more households.
The American Akita will appeal to true large dog lovers that don’t mind having a “small bear” as a family member.
Their larger size will make them better guard / protection dogs as well.
Not a lot of people will want to mess with such a large, impressive dog with a massive head!
Japanese Akitas with their foxier face that seems to always “smile” are much less intimidating in that area.
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