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Akita Inu History history

The Akita's ancestors were dogs used by matagi for hunting. These dogs, usually called matagi inu, were not as large as modern Akita dogs. Edo Period
In the Edo Period, Dewa Province (present-day Akita prefecture) was ruled by the Satake clan. Since the Satake were tozama daimyo (considered potentially rebellious), they received severe restrictions by the Tokugawa Shogunate in all military areas. The clan decided to encourage dog fighting around 1630 in order to make it possible for the samurai to retain their aggressive edge in a way that would not offend the shogunate. Dog fighting became especially popular in the Odate area. Dog fighting enthusiasts in the area began to interbreed matagi inu with dogs indigenious to the area. These dogs, which later turned into the Akita, were called Odate inu at that time.

Before World War II
After the Meiji Restoration, people began to breed Akita with many dogs from other regions in Japan, such as the Tosa. The Meiji Restoration also ended Japan's closed door policy, and large, western dogs began to enter Japan. As a result, Akita were also bred with German Shepherds, Great Danes, and Mastiffs. This resulted in the breed losing many of its spitz-like characteristics. Akita were later bred with Hokkaido and Karafuto dogs, which were introduced to mainland Japan after the First Sino-Japanese War.

In the Taisho Period, people such as the mayor of Odate Town began a movement to preserve the Akita breed. By this time, the Akita had began to turn into a mixed breed as a result of excessive breeding with other dogs. Watase Shozaburo, a Japanese zoologist that successfully proposed the Law for Protection of Natural Monuments also worked towards preserving the Akita breed. As a result, the Akitainu Introduction Foundation was created in May 1927 by the mayor of Odate, and nine Akita dogs were designated as natural monuments in 1931. In 1932, the faithful Akita dog Hachiko was featured in an article in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, which contributed to the popularity of the breed. When Helen Keller visited Akita prefecture in 1937, she expressed that she would like to have an Akita dog. An Akita called Kamikaze-go was given to her within a month. When Kamikaze-go later died because of canine distemper, his brother, Kenzan-go, was promptly sent to her. By 1938 a breed standard had been established and dog shows had been held, but such activities stopped after World War II began.

The War and the Aftermath
During World War II, the number of Akita dogs greatly diminished because of the lack of food. There were also orders to capture all dogs except German shepherds, in order to use their fur for warm army uniforms. Many people bred Akitas with shepherds to avoid capture. When the war ended in 1945, there were fewer than twenty purebred Akita dogs in Japan.

However, the Akita became quite popular during the postwar period. Many occupation soldiers liked the Akita, because it was by far the largest Japanese dog. The fact that Helen Keller had an Akita also became well-known when she came to Japan in 1948 and thanked people in Akita for the dogs she was given. Most of the Akita dogs at this time had many German Shepherd-like characteristics. These dogs are currently known as Dewa line, or Dewa type Akitas.

On the other hand, the Akitainu Introduction Foundation was breeding the remaining purebred Akitas in order to omit western dog characteristics and make the breed closer to the original matagi inu. Their efforts created the Ichinoseki line, or Ichinoseki type Akitas, which became recognized as the mainline in Japan by 1955. Although Dewa line Akitas are now rarely seen in Japan, they achieved popularity outside Japan through occupation soldiers who took them back from Japan. The Japan Kennel Club and the FCI consider Dewa line Akitas to be a separate breed, called the Great Japanese Dog or the American Akita.

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