Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What Happened to the Akita?

I truly wonder about how this breed has changed so much over the years. It started as a medium sized hunting breed (quite similar to the other Nihon Ken), then morphed into a fighting breed, mixed with all sorts of western breeds, proclaimed a national treasure, and morphed back into looking more like a Nihon Ken (like the dog in the picture above).

Then for some reason it took a turn down a road that turned it into a hyper type breed, of a type that was never before seen in the breed. I hear people overseas get all romantic about the Akita, but I have to say that after owning all the Nihon Ken, in my opinion owning a modern Akita is much more like owning a western (non-native) breed. From a NIPPO member's perspective, and just a general fan of the Nihon Ken, I just scratch my head when I look at the Akita today. But hey, if that's your cup of tea...

As for me, if I prefer Akita of the type in this picture. I took it at the house of a gentleman who's been in the breed for decades, and seen it through its evolution. He was once an AKIHO judge, the head of a AKIHO branch, but gave up breeding them years ago after realizing he could not change the direction the breed was headed. He said he's left it to the younger generation of AKIHO to take the breed in the direction that they see fit. He was still in school during the early days of NIPPO, but had pictures of himself in uniform at some of the earliest shows (when Akita were still shown in NIPPO and AKIHO). He told me that there used to be a lot of very high quality Akita in Chiba prefecture because the fisherman would sail up the coast every year chasing their catch, and then end the season up north in Akita. They'd pick up pups as gifts for their families and bring them home to the fishing villages here. It was a status symbol to have a quality Akita. He also said the medium size breeds are the purest of the Nihon Ken (closer to the original native dogs) because they were hunting dogs deep in the mountains whereas the Akita was in the cities as a guard dog/fighting dog, and the Shiba was also brought to the cities fairly early on as a pet.

The geographic isolation of the medium sized breeds is why they are still today, fairly close to what you can see in the original pictures of the Nihon Ken, while the Akita and Shiba have veered away considerably (the Akita more so).

Anyway, now we've got a breed that is nothing like what it originally was, in form and function. It is a show breed now, no longer being bred or used for its original purposes (hunting/fighting/guard dog).

9 comments:

  1. As an European, my experience of the Akita is that it is very different from western breeds, even the spitz types and more primitive breeds we have. Dog trainers and other dog people I know also agree with this, but you are right, they have changed alot, and I do not think it is for the better.

    I would've loved to be able to hunt with mine, (3year old bitch) , the instinct and drive is absolutely there, but she also have alot of undesired traits which makes her unsuitable. And with hunt I mean Swedish deer and moose, the Akita build and size is not that different from our native hunting dogs so that would not be a problem.

    The Akitas I have seen and read about, appears to have a lot of prey drive and very strong basic instinct, even though they have not been bred for hunting for a long time. I would love to see a line of working/hunting Akita, to me it seems like the potential is there, but lack of knowledge and dedication (of breeders and buyers) drives the breed further away from being useable for any kind of work. Not to mention that their Health appears to be declining as well.

    But what do I know, I only have three years experience of dogs. None the less, I will probably never get another breed than the Akita. It's something about them that just drives me to them like a moth to the flame.

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    1. I would love to see a working line of Akita as well. I think keeping a working breed working is what keeps it honest. You need to maintain a certain amount of correct temperament and structure.
      All of the Akita that have come through my kennel, from a hunters viewpoint, and if I were picking dogs with potential temperament for hunting, I would not keep. Case in point, yesterday I was walking my 2 Akita pups with one of my Shikoku pups. One of the neighborhood cats was sitting on the side of the road, and the Shikoku was completely interested and pulling to get closer. The Akita just glanced at it, and no interest whatsoever. Even when the cat ran off, they weren't interested. Obviously I have heard of many Akita with prey drive, but these are the first Nihon Ken I've owned with 0 prey drive.

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    2. When I buy my next Akita I will look hard for right temperament and skills. I am still in the planning and thinking stage, if I want to commit to try my hand in dog breeding. There is a small breeder not that far from here that has a good breeding par, both parents and offspring are "Easy" to work with, but they seem to lack preydrive. I feel they are a bit too much like our native breeds and working dogs. And those Akitas that have prey drive does not seem to be intrested in cooperation of any kind, and I am not sure they would know what do do if they caught up to a prey.

      My Female has high prey drive, most of the dogs from her breeder do, her aunt catches and kills small animals if they get in the yard. If mine sees a unknown cat, she wants to go get it. Also if she catches the scent or sees a deer, she goes completely into hunting-mode. I did acually try her on a fake bear when she was one year old, but that terrified her. She's very easily scared and spooked, so her temper is not very good. I would like to see how she would react on moose/elk and boar. She has zero fear for horses thou, no matten the size, she mostly ignores them, unless they would get loose and run around, then she startsida barking and want to chase them.

      Now, when I think about it, she showed 0% intrest in cats and/or different animals when she was small. It has come with age.

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  2. How successful is the Shiba Inu Hozonkai (in this page Links list) having Shibas accepted as those shown in photos on its site? It is probably a tough task as their Shibas look bigger and less cuddly than those of Nihon Ken Hozonkai.

    Tim

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    1. They are a very minor (and for all sakes and purposes separate) breed. They are obviously of different type, and are called 'Jomon Shiba'.

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  3. I have been talking with older Japanese Akita fanciers and they share your opinion. It is said that Akita's glory time was in 70s and past 25 years have been total downfall. Most likely the reason is that Akitas are just too big dogs in Japan. I have understood that they are mostly sold oversees, so the breeders are making pups what will sell to show people in EU or US. Just my opinion. But it is said that the people in Akiho dont really care about the breed history.

    And about the hunting instinct.. I'm not a hunter but I have been lucky with my Akitas because they have had good instincts. My old male was good on tracking and his granddaughter continues the career. These dogs are also fearless and protective. My youngest is the hunter, he runs after birds, cats and all other. He goes over the fences or trough the kennel fence... soon we dont have any stray cats :p

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    1. Yes, I've heard the same thing from the older AKIHO members, that the breed really established some good type around the 70's, but it's been pretty much downhill since then.

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  4. Oh, forget to write that my old male and his granddaughter are from old EU lines, so called EuroAkitas and my male is blend from US, so they might be different than the Akitas now in Japan.

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  5. I have a working akita. We have done most dog sports but the only thing that really interests her is exploring and hunting. It doesn't matter what the animal is. Most often it's just cottontails but she has a huge dislike of raccoons after some we were trapping threatened me so they take priority if she comes across one. As a puppy she'd chase squirrels right up their trees until gravity took over. She's cornered a few ground hogs and waited until I got there. She's run down deer a few times but didn't try to stop them.

    It takes a large area to let her off leash though. She'll run out a couple miles and then check back in with me. If she were not brought up on open land she probably would not know to pay attention to where I am. It's more likely she would promptly get lost.

    Unfortunately while she has the attitude she does not have the desired type. She is a bit longer and more streamlined with little urajiro. Still I regret having spayed her. The behavior bred into Akitas seems so unpredictable I will probably never get another.

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