How to Identify a Japanese Akita

Ever wonder if an Akita is a Japanese Akita or an American Akita? Outside of the United States and Canada, it is quite easy to figure out if you have a Japanese Akita or an American Akita.

With the exception of the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) and the American Kennel Club (AKC), the Akita is split into two distinct breeds worldwide – the Japanese Akita and the American Akita (although Canada is leaning towards splitting the breeds). Both breeds trace their roots back to Japan and both are considered pure Akitas. In some kennel clubs, the names for the two breeds are reversed depending on which breed was introduced in that country first. Despite having their own breed club, uninformed British Akita owners often contact JACA on Facebook and insist that they have a Japanese Akita only to discover that, no, actually what they have is what we call an American Akita. We suspect that this happens because of the variation in breed names. You see, the British refer to what we know as the American Akita as an Akita, and they refer to a Japanese Akita as a Japanese Akita Inu. Some people actually just call it an inu which makes little sense to the country of origin because inu simply means dog, as in any dog, no matter what the breed. So when Brits go around saying, “I have an inu,” Japanese speakers are thinking, “Yes, you have a dog. But so does that Shiba-inu owner over there.” And then everyone is even more confused. Hopefully, you’ll find the chart below a useful tool. It shows how registering bodies worldwide categorize their Akita breeds.

* At time of publication, these kennel clubs do not recognize the breed split.

Kennel or Breed Club

Akitainu Hozonkai (AKIHO)
FCI (JKC, CKBC, LOI, etc.)
United Kennel Club (UKC in US and Canada)
The Kennel Club UK (KC)
American Kennel Club (AKC)*
Canadian Kennel Club (CKC)*

Japanese Akita is called…

Akita Inu
Akita or Akita Inu
Japanese Akita
Japanese Akita Inu
Akita
Akita

American Akita is called…

No American Akitas in AKIHO
American Akita
Akita
Akita
Akita
Akita

Japanese Akita and American Akita

The photo on the left is of Kenji, a male Japanese Akita and Sumi, a female American Akita. The photo above is of Nabi, a female Japanese Akita and Bearshi, a male American Akita. The sizes and facial features/colors are the most obvious differences between these four dogs of the two breeds.

In the United Kingdom, if your KC pedigree says Japanese Akita Inu, then you know you have a Japanese Akita. If you live in an FCI Country, the Japanese Akita is known as Akita, but a few countries may list it as Akita Inu. As of 2013, the United Kennel Club (UKC) in the US has a Japanese Akita Breed as well. Regardless of where you live, if your Japanese Akita has an AKIHO pedigree, that is as legitimate as it gets.

In the United States, things can get a little confusing. The largest kennel club in the United States, the AKC, considers both Akitas as one breed. However, the second largest American kennel club, the UKC, considers them two breeds. On top of that, the oldest AKIHO branch outside of Japan is located in North America.

What are the words to watch for when looking for a Japanese Akita?

The search for a new puppy can be a long and tedious task. When searching for a breeder with a reputable breeding program, you may find that the breeder wants an application followed by an interview. As the search continues, a prospective puppy buyer starts to develop the urge to settle. That is the moment when mistakes happen. When looking at advertisements, be aware of words and phrases that hint that the puppies are, in fact, American Akitas. Here is an example:

“Parents of the litter are Japanese-style (or Japanese-type) Akita Inus and their parents (grandparents) are 100% imported to the USA and/or are AKC Champions.”

The use of the word style or type followed by statement that parents are 100% import and/or AKC Champions should raise a red flag. In this case, the use of “and/or” is also a hint that these puppies may not be 100% purebred Japanese Akita. Focus on breeders who are willing to show you why their Akitas are, in fact, Japanese Akitas. But keep in mind that a dog being AKC-registered doesn’t necessarily mean that the Akita is a blend. There are breeders in AKC who only have Japanese Akitas, and these breeders will tell you that their puppies are from 100% imported lines and will be able to produce a legitimate pedigree to back up their claim.

So how do I figure out if an Akita is a Japanese Akita?

The most effective way is by looking at an official pedigree. Both JACA and UKC use the following criteria when registering Japanese Akitas:

(a) all ancestors in a three-generation pedigree are registered with the Japanese Kennel Club and/or Akita Inu Hozonkai as a Japanese Akita or trace all their ancestry back to such dogs or (b) all ancestors in a three-generation pedigree were registered as a Japanese Akita within a register created by an FCI Kennel Club since their recognition in October 1998 or the Kennel Club (UK) since 2006 or (c) it has a three generation pedigree which is a combination of the above, provided all eight great-grandparents are either as specified in (a) or (b).

Don’t be afraid to ask the breeder. In fact, make sure you ask these three questions during your search:

  1. “Do you believe in two breeds of Akita?” If the breeder isn’t pro-split, then their Akitas could be blended.
  2. “Do you register your puppies and are they / can they be registered as Japanese Akitas?” Akitas that cannot be registered as Japanese Akitas are a big red flag. Look for a dog with a registration from AKIHO, the UKC, the JKC or an FCI-affiliated Kennel Club but don’t forget there are a few Japanese Akitas in AKC that are registered as Akitas (some might be blends).
  3. “Would you mind sending me a copy of the Sire and Dam’s pedigree?” You don’t need a copy of the official pedigree. Some breeders are hesitant to give official pedigrees. You just need to see if the puppy you are purchasing falls under the guidelines listed above. A sample pedigree or online database will work just fine. For now, we recommend you use the Akita Inu Pedigree website. 

If you are still confused, drop us an email. Send us a photo of your Akita and a copy of his/her pedigree to info@akita-inu.com and we will help you figure it out.