historically, little is known about Japan, and even less is known about the history of the Akita.  Legend has it that 500 years ago, the Japanese equivelent of a Baron fell out of favor with the Emperor of Japan.  He and his family were exiled to one of the outer isles of Japan.  This island was overrun with Yezo Bear (a bear indigenous to Japan weighing up to 500 kilos). 
  In order to deal with this problem, He decided to create a new breed of dog, combining, 2 types of wolf, an ancestor to the modern Mastiff, a Japanese spitz, as well as several other breeds.  With this new massive breed of dog, he was able to eradicate the great Yezo Bear on the island.  These giant dogs closely resemble the bears that they were bred to hunt.  The black mask pinto akitas especially look like an adolescent Yezo bear, most likely this is not a coincedence.  
                  Yezo Bear of Japan

Meides' Onyx

 Several years later the baron made a gift of many of these dogs to the Emperor.  The Emperor was so taken with these dogs, not only did he give the Baron his land and position back, but he decreed from that day forth that each of his Samurai warriors was to keep his dogs.  It is said that for 5 centuries this amazing dog became an integral part of Imperial Samurai culture, and only Emperor’s Samurai were allowed to keep them

 Whether or not they were bred by samurai, one thing is certain, they act like the samurai that may have bred them.  They are fearless, and their loyalty is unparalleled. In fact legend has it  that the Imperial Samurai were so enamored with these dogs that they actually believed that if one them died dishonorably, sometimes he would 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, thus regaining his honor.  It is easy to see where this myth originated when you have had the chance to know one of these dogs.  They are so human, and noble, it is easy to believe that the spirit of the Samurai dwells within them.   To this day the Akita remains the most potent symbol of good luck in Japan.

There is much controversy surrounding  the modern history of the Akita. 

At the turn of the 19th century, Emperor Taisho(pictured to the right with 2 of his dogs), who was particularly partial to these giant akitas,  decreed that all Japanese, not just royalty could keep these dogs, making a gift of them to the Japanese people.  

  These dogs were so good with children that in the fishing villages of Japan mother and father would go fishing, and the Akita would stay home and care for the children, protecting them and preventing them from leaving the house. 

        Emperor Taisho pictured above with his 2 dogs in 1899  
           Akita pictured with 2 children 1927
Around the turn of the 20th century dog fighting was very popular in Odate province, this lead to the importation of foriegn breeds of dogs for crossbreeding in an effort to create a better fighting dog.  This crossbeeding resulted in the deterioration of the classical types of traditional Japanese dogs.  

Dog fighting was so popular at the time that it became a social problem in the society of the time. There were organizations that organized large events and charged admission.  It had become a booming business as a spectator sport. and was eventually banned by the local government in 1909.

In 1914 the Emperor held an exhibition for Odate Inu dogs in Tokyo.  After this exhibition, people in the Odate region began to see the damage that all of the dog importing was doing to the traditional breeds of Japanese dog.  In fact The original strains of Odate Inu(the dogs that would later be known as Akitas) had all but disappeared.

One of Emperor Taisho's dogs(pictured 1919) 

  In 1915 the mayor of Odate started a movement to stop interbreeding and preserve the original strains of Japanese dog.  This led to legislation being passed in 1919 to protect the Japanese Dogs in the province of Akita, and declare these dogs as a natural monument of Japan.  This cause was championed by Dr Shozaburu. Watase in 1920.  It wasn't until 1931 that 9 dogs were finally declared as natural monuments, found by a restoration team headed by Dr. Tokio Kaburagi.  At this time new legislation was passed which named these dogs the Akita Inu for the first time. 
 Unfortunately this reprieve for the Akita proved to be short lived, as war was brewing in Japan.  The Japanese Armed Forces  began collecting and confiscating dogs, using their pelts to make coats and their meat for food.  Many Dog owners turned their dogs loose in the wilderness rather than turning them over to the Japanese war machine. By the end of World War II the Akita was almost extinct in Japan, it is estimated that less than twenty pure Akita dogs remained in Japan.
 There is a story told by many US veterans of World War II that when the American soldiers occupied Japan the Akitas came out of hiding from the hills of Japan and befriended the soldiers.  Whether or not this is true, one thing is certain, the American soldiers smuggled hundreds of Akitas out of Japan upon their return to the US.  It is these dogs which primarily became the foundation for the AKC Akita, also known as the American Akita
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