Akita (dog) is a breed of Japanese working dog, used both as a family guard dog and for hunting. Ancestors of the Akita date to antiquity, and this dog still retains a spiritual significance in Japan. Small statues of akitas are presented at the birth of a child or when a person is ill to express wishes for health and happiness. Ownership was formerly restricted to royalty and the ruling aristocracy, with special provisions for care and feeding and a special vocabulary to be used when addressing or referring to the dogs. From the 17th century, the Akita has been bred and trained to hunt large game and retrieve waterfowl in the mountains of northern Japan. Akitas were first brought to the United States in 1937 by the American author and lecturer Helen Keller; they became increasingly popular in the second half of the 20th century.
The akita is large and powerful, with a massive head; full, broad muzzle; and broad, black nose. The ears characteristically are erect, small in proportion to the head, and carried slightly forward over the eyes. The chest is wide and deep, the neck thick and muscular, and the skin pliant. The large, full tail is curled. The thick double-coat of the Akita (dog), about 5 cm (about 2 in) in length, is straight, harsh, and short. Males stand 66 to 71 cm (26 to 28 in) high; females, 61 to 66 cm (24 to 26 in).