The true story of “Hachiko,” an Akita who faithfully marched to a Tokyo train station every day for nine years to wait for the return of his master who had died, stirred the emotions of Helen Keller when she visited Japan in 1937. The moving account of the strong-willed, fiercely loyal dog led to Keller receiving her own Akita puppy, a gift from the Ministry of Education, as well as credit for bringing the first Akitas to the U.S.

A handsome working breed with upright, alert ears and tail that curls over the back, the Akita today is a large-sized descendant of the ancient dog carved in tombs of seventh-century Japanese people. Named for the Akita prefecture, a rugged, mountainous region in the northernmost province of the island of Honshu where the breed originated, the Akita was selectively bred to hunt large game, including the great Yezo, the largest, meanest Old World bear. The fearless, sturdy, large-boned Akita became known as “matagiinu,” meaning esteemed dog hunter.

In Japan, the Akita has earned spiritual status. When a child is born or someone is ill, they receive a small statue of the Akita signifying health, happiness and a long life or a wish for a speedy recovery. In 1931, the government designated the Akita as a national monument and one of Japan’s national treasures.

A regal, independent dog that is sometimes aloof with strangers, the Akita is affectionate and loving with those he knows and trusts. This highly intelligent breed thrives on human companionship but can be aggressive with other dogs and animals.

An active breed, the Akita takes part in conformation, obedience, rally, and agility, and some are loving, comforting therapy dogs. Males are 26 to 28 inches tall at the withers and weigh from 100 to 115 pounds, and females are from 24 to 26 inches tall and weigh around 80 to 90 pounds.

Source: The Complete Dog Book, Official Publication of the American Kennel Club. i-5 Publishing, Irvine, CA. 2014.