Akita Inu or Akita Ken is the largest breed of dogs that originate from Japan. All Japanese native dog breeds are classified under the spitz type. They all carry the same conformations of a typical Akita, which are the wedge-shaped heads, the bear-like face, the inverted triangular eyes, the box-like bodies, and the tail that curls tightly over the back.
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Because the conformations for all native breeds are the same, the dogs are usually classified into sub-groups that dictate pre-destined size. The largest breed is called Akita Inu. The breed for medium-sized dogs is called Kai dog, Kishu, Ainu dog or Shikoku. The smallest breed is called Shiba Inu, which literally means 'brushwood'.
Akita Inu stands at 24 to 28 inches or 60 to 71 centimeters at the withers, and may weigh up to over 120 pounds. It is a powerfully built dog, with excellent chest musculature and a robust girth. It is considered one of the largest breed of dogs in the world, but it is not classified among the giant breeds like the Great Dane, the Irish Wolfhounds and the St. Bernard.
The Kai dog, on the other hand, only stands at a maximum of 22 inches at the withers and weighs no more than 55 pounds. Shiba Inu, the smallest of all native breeds stands only between 14.5 to 16.5 inches, and weighs only 23 pounds.
Although the first descendants of the Akitas were far smaller than the modern breed today, these dogs were really bred for power. They were used as hunting dogs by the matagi or Japanese ancient hunters. The dog breed was called Matagi Inu back then, and as historical records show, the Matagi Inu stood only at 20 inches at the withers, and weighed somewhere in the vicinity of 60 pounds. Their basic physique, which was comprised of a muscular front section and box-like body, was required to bring down large game like wild boars, deer and even bears.
Through the years, the Akitas gradually became larger and brawnier through selective breeding. They became so revered in Japanese history that their "evolution" was faithfully chronicled. And yet the Akita's seemingly untapped strength is balanced by their laid-back temperament, and their reputation for loyalty.
The American Akita, also known as the Great Japanese Dog, is larger than its Japanese counterparts. In fact, the evolution of the American Akita has taken a different turn from that of the Akita Inu.
After World War II, returning US soldiers brought purebred Akitas back to the country. They were imported as fighting dogs, and to further strengthen the breed's ferocity and body mass, the first few Akitas were mixed with German Shepherds, Rottweilers and Bull Mastiffs. Within two generations of mix breeding, the American Akitas looked very different from the Akita Inu.
Akita Inu is revered for their 4 standard colors like red fawn, sesame, brindle and white. They also have white triangular patches of hair on their faces, necks, chest, body and tail. The American Akitas, on the other hand, come in all shades and color patterns, with some even wearing masks. They have also lost the bear-like face of their predecessors, and now resemble the facial features of the German Shepherd breed.
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