10 Akita dog facts that may surprise you

akita dog facts
(Image credit: Getty Images)

You may have heard of them, but you may not know a lot of Akita dog facts.

That's probably because Akitas are not incredibly popular dogs thanks to their reputation for being somewhat intimidating. But the Akita is a lovely breed, full of dignity and courage, and there's a lot of interesting facts about them that you may have never heard. That's what this is here for, to give you some Akita dog facts to help you get to know more about the breed.

Akitas can be aloof with strangers and fiercely independent, but there's a lot more to the breed than just that! Here are ten Akita dog facts that may just surprise you. 

1. Akitas originated in Japan

Akitas originated in the mountains in north Japan, in the snowy lands of Odate, Akita. Their owners trained them to take down large mountain animals like bears, boar, and elks - they even served as companions to samurai! The Akita was declared a Japanese Natural Monument back in 1931, according to Wikipedia.  

2. There are two separate Akita breeds

There are two separate Akita breed varieties: the Japanese strain known as Akita Inu or Japanease Akita and the American strain known as the Akita or American Akita. Breeders are still debating over whether these two are different, but the AKC classified the American and Japanese Akita as two separate breeds back in 2020.

3. Helen Keller brought the first Akitas to the US

Yes, that Helen Keller. According to Psychology Today, Keller was on an extended speaking tour in Japan in the late 1930s when she visited the Akita district and learned about Hachiko, an Akita who would accompany his owner to the train station every day and see him off to work. When his owner died, Hachiko returned every day for almost 10 years waiting for him, and Keller was a fan of their faithfulness. She was given an  Akita puppy named Kamikaze-Go. Sadly, "Kami" died of distemper at a very young age, but the Japanese government arranged to send Keller a new Akita named Kenzan-Go. There are even pictures of Helen Keller with Kenzan-Go resting at her feet!

4. Akitas thrive in the snow

These fluffy dogs were bred in the mountains of Japan, so they're no strangers to harsh winters and the heavy snow and rain that comes with them. They even have webbed toes to help them walk on snow!

5. The Akita was almost lost due to World War 2 

During World War 2, pets were highly discouraged, with countries like the UK sending out a notice telling people to "take their household animals into the country in advance of an emergency. If you cannot place them in the care of neighbours, it really is kindest to have them destroyed" as detailed by the BBC

In Japan, Akitas were slaughtered for their fur, as it served as a lining for the jackets of Japanese soldiers, and for meat for starving families, according to Newsweek. But some people, like Morie Sawataishi, kept their Akitas hidden and continued to breed the dog, saving them from extinction. 

Akita dog facts

(Image credit: Getty Images)

6. Akitas groom themselves like cats

Akitas are really low-maintenance dogs when it comes to grooming. According to the AKC, Akitas groom themselves just like cats. That means you won't have to take care of their luscious coat too much - but keep in mind that they're heavy shedders, so giving them a good brush every day can't hurt. 

7. Akitas are sadly still used in dog-fighting

Since the 1600s, Akitas have been sadly tied in with dog-fighting. Back then, dog-fighting was popular in Japan and although it's illegal in major cities, you may still find it in more rural areas. 

8. Hachiko is a famous Akita

As mentioned before, the story of Hachiko is a legendary one. The Akita would walk with his owner to the train station every day and wait on the platform for him to get home from work. One day, his owner died at the office and never returned, but Hachiko returned there every day where he continued to wait for him. When Hachiko passed away in 1935, a bronze statue was erected in his honor. 

9. There's an Akita museum

Japan's love for Akitas knows no bounds. Founded by the Akita Dog Preservation Society, the Akita Dog Museum is in Odate, Akita, Japan. The museum includes an homage to Hachiko, including a statue that faces his birthplace in the south of Odate, and other nods to the beautiful pups. 

10. Akitas will form strong bonds with their family

Akitas can be strong-willed and somewhat aloof with strangers, but they're incredibly intelligent and can form strong bonds with their families. If given proper training and socialization opportunities at a young age, the majestic Akita can make a lovely family pet. Just look at Hachiko!