4 min read

5 Fun Facts About Akitas


Written by Jasmine Sawatzky

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 02/28/2023, edited: 03/10/2023


When most people think of an Akita, they picture a cute, bear-like face with erect ears and sharp eyes. Although they’re widely known in Japan, it’s not every day you see one in the US. These striking doggos come from the Spitz family and are muscular, working dogs that were bred in Japan for hunting and guarding. There’s much more to them than meets the eye, and their history is just as intriguing as their appearance.

Whether you are celebrating National Akita Day on March 8th or just love the breed, why not learn a little more about this fascinating pooch to grow your appreciation? Here’s our list of five fun facts about Akitas.

brown and white Akita dog standing on rock

Akitas could house the soul of a samurai

Japan’s history is rich and complex, and the ancient Akita dog breed is intertwined with it. They’re famous for their dignity, courage, and loyalty, to the point where they were made a national treasure of Japan in 1931. 

The Akita breed had humble beginnings in Japan as a common household pet and guardian. As famine and theft were on the rise in the 1700s, they began gaining popularity as protective guard dogs. Gradually, Akitas became a symbol of wealth, and ownership was restricted to samurai and other noblemen. The samurai were so enamored with Akitas that it was even believed that if a samurai died dishonorably, he could be given a second chance by being born into the body of an Akita so he could have the opportunity to die defending the life of his master and regain his honor. Akitas were restricted to aristocracy until the 19th century, when Emperor Taisho changed the law to permit any citizen to own an Akita.

To this day, the Akita has spiritual significance in Japan. When a child is born or if someone is ill, the family will often receive a small statue of an Akita, signifying health, happiness, and longevity.

light brown and white Akita dog with paw on human hand - 5 Fun Facts About Akitas

Akitas are mighty warriors and loyal to the core

Akitas were mighty warriors just like their samurai companions. At the time, they were used as guard dogs to hunt deer, wild boar, bears, and waterfowl. Akita would hunt bears in male and female pairs. An Akita isn’t able to actually take down a bear, but the male would distract the bear while the female ran around and bit at its hocks until the hunter arrived to kill it. You could even help your Akita connect to their roots by teaching them to be a guard dog!

Although it’s now illegal in many cities, in some rural areas of Japan Akitas are still used in dog fighting. Often, an Akita would be mixed with other larger breeds like Tosas and be called Shin-Akitas or “Improved Akitas”.

Perhaps it’s because of their strained history with other animals, but Akitas are often intolerant of other pets. They have a long history of hunting, guarding, and fighting. They can definitely be trained to not be aggressive, but they need an owner who is just like them: dominant, but kind-hearted. Once you get to know them, they’ll show you their silly, affectionate side. They thrive on human companionship and are hardwired to protect the ones they love.

dark brown Akita playing in snow

Akitas thrive in the snow

It’s no wonder your Akita wants to stay outside all day in the winter! The breed originated from the snowy, rural, mountainous regions of Akita and Odate in Japan. Before the breed had an official breed name, they were fondly referred to as “snow country dogs.”

When you’re simply enduring a cold harsh winter, your Akita switches into sport mode. They’re built for snow! They have a dense double coat that keeps them warm and cozy, and they even have webbed toes to help them walk on snow. On a snowy day, you’ll see them chasing squirrels, eating snow, and rolling in the snow as “scrub.”

Your Akita will only love you more if you join them outside for some woofderful snow playtime

famous statue of Hachiko the Akita dog in Japan

Hachiko is a world-famous Akita

The movie “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale” (2009) is based on Hachiko’s true story. The tale began in 1920 in Tokyo, where the faithful pup Hachiko would accompany his owner on his walk to and from the train station every day. Sadly, in 1925, his owner died at the office. The pup waited at the train station for nine years in hopes his owner would return. Hachiko’s extreme loyalty struck a chord with the Japanese locals, who would feed him and befriend him. The story is heart-wrenching, but it’s also a testament to fierce loyalty. Gradually his story spread and inspired people all over the world, even Helen Keller!

Hachiko’s story might influence you to name your Akita after him or even take a visit to Japan. There is a statue of Hachiko outside Tokyo's Shibuya Station to this day, where it stands as a symbol of enduring loyalty.

close-up of Akita puppy face

Helen Keller introduced Akitas to the United States.

Helen Keller is famous for many incredible accomplishments as an author, political activist, and more. One of her lesser-known accomplishments is bringing the first Akita into the United States. Helen Keller grew up with dogs, and despite being blind and deaf, had no trouble understanding them. They brought her great joy and friendship throughout her life. When she traveled to Japan with her companion, Polly Thompson, in 1937, she learned Hachiko’s story. 

Since Helen Keller was so affected by Hachiko’s story, she was given an Akita as a gift from the Japanese government. She found Akitas to be “gentle, companionable, and trusty.” Her puppy Kamikaze-Go was the first Akita to be brought to the U.S. She referred to him sweetly as an “angel in fur”. Sadly, Kamikaze died from distemper at only seven and a half months of age. When the Japanese government heard of her devastating loss, they sent her Kamikaze's brother, Kenzan-Go, the second Akita to live on American Turf.

We hope these five fun facts about Akitas helped to deepen your appreciation for this ancient breed! 

Got a furbulous Akita story to share? Let us know in our comments section below, and tag #wagwalking or @wag on Instagram for a chance to be featured on our feed!

Comments (1)

Chris Wilson


Your article is incomplete and inaccurate. Actually the Akita was bred specifically for the emperor of Japan as a hunting dog to kill bears a group of four would attack the bear in circulating it while disabling it from behind YOUTUBE AKITA KILLSBEAR

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