Color, size and body structure are the elements that differ in regard to the American VS the Japanese Akita. All are patterned, with exception of a solid white.
The Japanese Akita is white, red or brindle. To fit standard conformation, the red or brindle must have Urajiro markings. This means white markings on the cheeks, face under the belly, under the tail and on the inside of the legs. They do not have a black mask.
The colours of the American can be any of a wide variety…Most will be a 2 or 3 part combination of the following:
Black – This is a bit rarer than others. With most, there is some shading or the undercoat will be of a different hue.
Black Brindle – This dark coat will have striping. Some are so dark that the dog will be labeled as a solid.
Blue Brindle - -Technically labeled a fawn brindle, this pattern is when the base coat is a very pale fawn and the stripes are a beautiful pastel greyish blue. It is very rare.
Brown – Deep chocolate hue…If much lighter, the dog would be fawn.
Brown Brindle - This term refers to an Akita who has black stripes on a solid brown base. When the brindling is very heavy, it can cause the brown to appear to be black.
Brindle – This describes a pattern - It is striping against and on top of a solid color. When both are very dark, it may be hard to notice unless looking close.
Fawn – This covers a range of tones in the tan spectrum…from pale to light.
Fawn Brindle – Black stripes on a fawn basecoat.
Pinto – This is actually a term that describes certain placement. The body will be a primary color and the dog will white that covers no more than 2/3’s of the dog. For a very correct pinto, there will be large, evenly placed patches over the head and more than 1/3 of the body. If the head is the same as the markings, this is called “self masked”. There is often some freckling as well.
Red – A brown/tan with deep, rich reddish tint and tone.
Red Brindle – This refers to black striping on a red base
Silver – A shiny grey
Silver Brindle – This is black striping on a silver background. Some mistake this and fawn brindle….However this will not have any fawn or any reddish tint on the stripes. This is also sometimes confused with the blue brindle, however if there is no hint of fawn, then it cannot be a blue brindle.
White – May be solid, but most often mixed. Pure with no additional is linked to hearing impairment, deafness in 20% (this includes other breed as well such as the Boxer)
The aspect of Akita coloring in regard to overlays refers to a solid base coat with a different color falling on the tips of the guard hairs (the outer layer of fur).
The overlay on an Akita describes those who have a base color BUT with black coloring on the tips of the guard hairs (the outer layer of fur).
This overlay can appear on the following bases:
Many Akitas will have 2 distinct colors, but since one is on top of the other, they appear to be blended….also known as shaded.
When you first look at the dog, you may jump to the conclusion that you are looking at black colouring….But when taking a closer look, you will see that there is a lighter hue underneath. It is quite beautiful.
The following combinations are common:
• Black w/ brown undercoat
• Black w/ red
• Black w/ fawn
• White w/ red
There are various types that an Akita can have. This refers the area around eyes, just as you would envision a mask to be. The following are typical colorings of this type of marking:
Black – Most, no matter what the coat, have a black one. It is the most typical of all markings.
If an Akita has no white markings, other than a very small amount of the chest, paws and/or tip of the tail, and has a black mask, this would be the appropriate label for the dog.
Black Mask / White Marking – This is in addition to the main coat. The markings can fall anywhere, usually on the chest, stomach, back and/or front legs and tail (full or tip).
Black & White Mask/ White Markings – This will be a combination and the markings will be as described above.
White - This will be present, most often, on reds or brindles.
This term describes the dog who is predominantly white, but has a secondary color (usually on the head and sometimes additionally on the body).
Eyes and Nose
Eyes – Most are dark brown
Nose – Most are black…Some whites have brown, although black is preferred.
The JKC’s Decision to Ban Certain Colors
In 1991, the Japanese Kennel Club caused an uproar when they proposed to the AKC that the American colors be banned from competition. They wanted to limit acceptable colors to white, brindle and self mask (Being the same as the base of the body), reds with white mask & points (but not white markings).
The proposal would have disallows 99% of American or British bred dogs.
During that time of this controversy, breeders began to import the type favored in Japan. There, the white/ red mask was and still is the most popular. Considered rare there, it was actually present in the States for quite a while.
How Physical Traits are Linked
Certain Akita colors are linked to specific genetic and physical characteristics.
While no definitive study has been done, coat color often seems to be connected to physical features and perhaps, to genetic characteristics.
The clear fawns, golden fawns and shaded silvers almost always have excellent coat texture with proper density.
Black coats are often a softer, shiner texture and often lack a thick undercoat.
The S Gene?
The white mask that is associated with white masked reds, is not actually white. It is a very light cream. It is not the same hue as white muzzle markings, blaze, or stripe found on a dog with an otherwise black mask. Also, it is not linked to the spotting “S” gene which is creates a white body and leg markings. The light cream is a reverse of the Siamese gene, which darkens the extremities and face where body temperature is naturally cooler. The pattern is the result of a temperature sensitive variety of the enzyme tyrosinase, which produces either 2 basic pigmentations: black/brown or yellow/red.
Where the dog’s body is warm, the tyrosinase enzyme breaks down and the melanocyte (melanin-producing cells) scarcely make any pigment at all. It is thought that the reverse pointed Akita has disproportionate amount of melanocyte or has a reverse temperature-sensitive tyrosinase enzyme.
Many puppies are born very dark, but then lighten as they mature. Some changes rapidly take place within a week of birth…For example, puppies who are born black may change to a dark chocolate or even become shaded by the time they are 1 week old.
Deep chocolate pups may continue to lighten until they are fawn or they may even change to a rich red by the age of 3 years.
Grizzled pups with distinctly black guard hair will most often become shaded silver or silver fawn.
The parts of the coat that are white at birth, will not change, however, the white can become tarnished, blotched or ticked over the course of the first 3 years of life.
White blazes, collars and other markings become uniformly smaller as the Akita’s body grows, but the colored patches on pintos will spread and become further apart as the pup changes into adult.
Biscuit colored Akitas are often mistaken for “off-whites” or whites with biscuit ears. There is a unique genetic difference in creams, which is now believed to be caused by too much agouti peptide, which blocks the melanocyte receptors that determines the depth of color.
Biscuit or creams are diluted reds, whereas fawns (beige/brown tones) are a diluted brown…which is a diluted black.
It is important to allow your puppy or older dog fresh air and sunshine…And they often are not happy when cooped up for too long. A daily walk is best…And some time outside is a good idea to keep the dog happy and healthy. With this said, many do not like direct, hot sunlight. They more often than not, prefer shaded areas outdoors. In fact, regular extended exposure to direct light and actually affect the coat, sometimes causing it to have a rusty tint.
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