Japanese Akita Vs American Akita: What’s The Difference?

By helloBARK!
Updated on 20 September 2022
Fact Checked

Akita is a Japanese breed of dog that were originally bred for hunting.

These Asian dogs have grown in popularity over the past 100 years to such an extend that you can now find these large canines worldwide.

In fact, the American Kennel Club list the Akita as the 47th most popular dog breed in the United States.

However, there are two different varieties of Akita, which can make researching the breed a little confusing.

There’s the Japanese Akita or Akita Inu and the American Akita or Akita.

In this article, we’re going to look at the two varieties of Akita, including the similarities and differences.

With the introduction over, let’s take a closer look at
the Akita breeds.

Where do Akita come from?

Akita Inu dog lying in the snow (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Akita Inu dog lying in the snow (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Akita are a Japanese breed (not to be confused with the Shiba Inu) that were originally bred to hunt large game such as wild boar, deer and the Yoze bear.

The breed are thought to have been created by an unnamed exiled nobleman. Akita would go on to become desirable dogs amongst Japan’s high-society.

Akita have a huge symbolic meaning in Japan. Newborns are often presented with an Akita figurine to denote a happy and healthy life.

The purebred bloodline started to diminish in Japan at the start of the 19th century due to the arrival of new dog breeds from the western world such as German Shepherds.

A concerted effort was made to preserve and rebuild these numbers. However, the Akita breed was negatively impacted by World War II to leave these dignified dogs on the brink of being wiped out.

An American lady named Helen Keller brought the first Akitas to the USA in 1937 after she was gifted two members of the breed by the Japanese government. Two years later, the AKC established a breed standard for these large dogs.

After World War II, there was a notable divergent between the Japanese Akita and the American Akita.

As we mentioned above, the Akita is the 47th most popular dog breed in the United States as of 2019.

You can also find a lot of Akita Mixes such as the Akita Husky Mix.

What is a Japanese Akita/Akita Inu?

Akita Inu Masami (Photo: @masamiakitainu / Instagram)

Akita Inu Masami (Photo: @masamiakitainu / Instagram)

Japanese Akita can also be called an Akita Inu.

These were purebred Akita as opposed to Akita that had been mixed with another breed.

The most famous Akita Inu is Hachiko, who waited every day for his owner Professor Hidesaburo Ueno at Shibuya Station in central Tokyo even after his master’s death.

Japanese breeders were looking to restore the Akita bloodline as a work of Japanese art or to “National Monument” status.

Hence, the Akita Inu usually has a smaller frame with a fox-like complexion, as opposed to the American Akita.

What is an American Akita/Akita?

As we touched upon above, the first Akitas didn’t make it to the USA until 1937. Keller was presented with two Akitas by the Japanese government.

During World War II, a lot of US servicemen based in occupied Japan came into contact with the Akita breed. Impressed by their physique, some members of the US Army brought these dogs back to the United States.

According to Wikipedia, American service members were typically more impressed with the larger more bear-like fighting Akita or German Shepherd type than they were with the smaller framed and fox-like Akita-Inu; the types of dogs they brought back with them to the US reflected this sentiment.

This could explain the large, muscular frames of the American Akita.

Although the breed standard was laid out in 1939, it wasn’t until 1972 that the American Kennel Club accepted the Akita breed.

How to tell the difference between Japanese Akita/American Akita?

There is a slight size difference between the Japanese Akita and the American Akita.

The Japanese Akita has a size range from 23-25 inches (59-64cm), while they can weigh between 65 and 120 pounds (30-55 kg).

The American Akita can grow to a heigh between 24 and 26 inches (61 and 71 cm) and can weigh between 70 and 130 pounds (32 and 60 kg).

Another notable difference is the head appearance – an American Akita has a bear head but a Japanese Akita has a fox-like head.

While both have triangular ears, the Japanese Akita’s ears will sit slightly more forward but an American Akita’s ears will sit more erect.

The Akita Inu isn’t as muscular as the Akita. They’ll usually have a slimmer appearance and a curled tail that loops over onto their back.

With respect to their eyes, an Akita will have small deep set eyes but an Akita Inu will have more almond-shaped eyes akin to a Husky.

The American Akita looks more muscular and has looser skin than the Japanese Akita.

Both varieties have a double coat and are seasonal shedders. Akitas aren’t considered hypoallergenic.

Japanese Akita colors v American Akita colors

Akita Inu Masami (Photo: @masamiakitainu / Instagram)

Akita Inu Masami (Photo: @masamiakitainu / Instagram)

The American Kennel Club states that an Akita can come in any color. However, the most common are Pinto, Brindle, Solid white with a mask on the face.

The Japanese Akita have a more limited spectrum. These Akita Inu are orange, red or brindle.

Japanese Akita price v American Akita temperament

The Japanese Akita has developed into a companion dog rather than a guard dog. They remain protectors of the home given that’s their nature.

However, the American Akita often serve the purpose of guard dog rather than companion dog. It should be their inherent nature to protect the property.

The Akita Inu has an independent streak that is common with a lot of Spitz breeds. Therefore, the Japanese Akita is sometimes stereotyped as a stubborn dog. They can be aloof or distant with people they don’t know. Having said that, proper socialization and training can help to tackle any potential issues.

The Akita is a smart dog that will need proper training, as with any type of canine. Their natural instinct should be to act as guardians and protectors. Hence, like the Akita Inu, they’ll usually be wary around people they don’t know. They do have a high prey drive, which is hardly a surprise given their hunting background.

As with any dog, you should never leave an Akita Inu or Akita alone with small children or smell pets.

The American Kennel Club lays out in the breed standard that Akitas are known to be intolerant of other dogs of the same sex.

Given their prey drive and potential lack of tolerance, you may wish to avoid bringing an Akita to a dog park or off leash area.

Japanese Akita price v American Akita price

Akita puppies have a price range between $750 – $2000 depending on each breeder. So whether you’re planning to get a Japanese Akita or an American Akita, they’ll be pretty expensive dogs.

The Akita Club of America have a list of breeders who have signed up to their code of ethics. So you can be assured that they’re breeding ethically and responsibly.

The ACA write on their website:

One requirement should be that the breeder belong to a local Akita Club, if possible, the Akita Club of America (ACA), an obedience club, or an all-breed club. Why? Through membership in one or all, the breeder is exposed to others who are also interested in Akitas, and dogs in general, and learns more about his breed, dog care, modern breeding practices, etc.

Japanese Akita on Instagram

Here are two examples of Japanese Akita on Instagram:

1) Masami (@masamiakitainu)

2) Naoko (@naokoa_akita_inu)

American Akita on Instagram

Here are two examples of American Akita on Instagram:

1) Kuma (@kuma_the_akitaa)

2) Akira (@akiramyakita)

Anything else to consider

Regardless of whether you’re buying a Japanese Akita or an American Akita, we don’t recommend purchasing a puppy online, at a pet store or through a third part dealer.

You should always look to see the puppy with it’s mother as well as ask for relevant AKC/UKC documentation and proof of health checks.

You could also consider rescuing an Akita rather than buying a pup.

In conclusion

American Akita duo (Photo: Adobe Stock)

American Akita duo (Photo: Adobe Stock)

We’ve reached the end of our article on Japanese Akita vs American Akita.

As you’ll have learned, there are some differences between these two varieties.

These include size, appearance and temperament.

If you want to learn more, you can also ask an Akita owner on social media for more information.

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