By Langley Cornwell
Many years ago I rescued a dog that looked like a mix between a yellow Labrador retriever and a Samoyed. Her coat was longer than a Lab and she had a dense undercoat, especially around her neck and chest. In fact, she looked (and acted!) like she had a lovely mane. Her ears were perky and triangular shaped and her tail was long and luscious, and curved over her back.
She was knock-down gorgeous. Out of all the dogs I’ve lived with, there’s never been another one that literally stopped traffic like this sweet pooch. Everyone we passed commented on her beauty and asked what type of dog she was. Upon learning that she came from an animal shelter, I was often told that she “had a lot of Spitz in her” or that she was a “Spitz type” dog.
At the time, I wasn’t clear on whether the term Spitz was an officially recognized dog breed, or if the designation was an umbrella term that referred to specific types of dogs. Turns out, Spitz is not an official dog breed. It’s more of an identifying term for a certain type of dog.
By Linda Cole
In the Akita’s native country of Japan, the breed is considered a courageous and loyal national treasure. In fact, he is so loved there that an Akita statue is given to the parents of newborn babies to signify health, happiness and long life, and to the sick for a speedy recovery. The Akita is the largest of six national dog breeds of Japan. To preserve the breeds, all six were designated precious natural resources of Japan under the Cultural Properties Act of 1936, which gave the breeds official recognition and protection.
The Akita origins are in the Odate region of the Akita Prefecture, located in the northern rugged mountains on the main island of Honshu. At one time the Akita was called the Odate Dog, but the breed name was changed when the dogs were given protected status. This is an old breed descended from spitz-like dogs with a history that goes back to at least the 1600s, and possibly even farther.
A favorite of the Imperial family and ruling class, the Akita became the “royal dog” of the ruling elites, and they were the only ones who could own this powerful breed. Special leashes for each dog symbolized his rank and the importance of his owner. Elaborate ceremonies were performed for the care and feeding of the Akita. Centuries old sketches depict the breed standing with their royal owners, dressed in lavish ceremonial robes.
Bred as a hunter of big game like wild boar, elk and the huge Yezo bear, the dogs hunted in pairs, usually a male and female. The female nipped at an animal from behind while the male attacked from the front to bait their prey and hold the animal until hunters arrived. The Akita was also used as a guard dog, protecting family members and property. The bravery and size of this dog makes him a force to be reckoned with, and he continues to perform hunting and guard dog duties in his native lands. The dog can also be trained to retrieve waterfowl, and is an able and agile tracker with cat-like movements.