Usually, when people group Akitas together, there is no distinction between the Japanese Akita and American Akita. In the States and in parts of Canada, an Akita may originate in Japan or not. In Japan, however, any dog that is mixed outside the gene pool of the traditional Akita bloodline is not considered "pure," and it is usually classified differently.
Nonetheless, there are now efforts being made to segregate these two subspecies into two separate breeds. The American Akita blood line has taken a different route from the Japanese bloodline, and it ia already mixed with other American breeds, further distinguishing it from the "pure" line.
The typical Akita possesses an almost bear-like head. It has a broad forehead topped with widely-set ears. It has a pair of deep, penetrating eyes, triangular in shape, giving the dog a sharp, intellectual appearance. Its muzzle is rather short, but powerful. It has a compact body which is solid in musculature. Its legs are medium-length, but well fleshed. It also carries a distinctive tightly curled tail.
Originally, the Japanese Akita was bred as a hunting dog for the "Matagi" which were the ancient hunters of Japan. This breed of dog was used to bring down large preys like bears and deer. Eventually, the Akita became domesticated enough that it was used as a domicile or a personal guard dog.
Its keen intelligence, natural beauty and placid nature became legendary. It came to a point where the dog became exclusively used as an Imperial Guard dog for the Royal Palace, and only those who belonged to the higher strata of society could actually afford to keep them.
Even today, Japan considers the Akita Inu as a National Treasure which symbolizes loyalty, devotion and good health. The name comes from the Akita Prefecture, the particular area where the dog is supposed to have originated.
The Japanese Akita comes only in 4 colors: brindle, red fawn, red fawn with black tips (otherwise known as Sesame,) and white. To be classified as a "pure" Akita, there must be triangular patches of whitish hair on the sides of the dog's muzzle. There must also be patches of white (sanding) on the cheeks, chest, body, neck and inner part of the tail. An exception to this rule is the all white Akitas, whose shades of ghostliness come in brilliant white to an almost translucent tan. The black coloration or any black spots or streaks is considered undesirable with the Japanese Akita.
The American Akita, on the other hand, comes in all colors, color combinations and patterns. Some of them have black masks or bear pinto markings. Also, the American Akita has a heavier build, and denser bone structure than its Japanese counterpart.
It is said that American author Helen Keller imported to the States its very first Akita dog. Soon after, military officers who were returning from World War II also brought over more of this breed. These dogs, however, were considered fighting dogs, and were quickly mixed with other fierce dogs like the German Shepherd and the Rottweiler. By 1973, the American Akita has evolved quite differently from its Japanese ancestors.