AKITA VS SIBERIAN HUSKY
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Now, the first thing these breeds have in common is their ancient history: Siberian Huskies are amongst the oldest dog breeds on the planet. However, the Akita might be even more ancient: Researchers suggest that they have been around even prior to recorded history.
Back in Middle Ages, the privilege of owning Japan’s pride and joy, the majestic Akita dogs, was exclusively reserved to the Shogun. These rulers of Japan liked their hunting expeditions, and they daringly went after large game, such as elk, bear, and wild boar. Of course, catching such dangerous prey was no easy feat. Luckily for the Shogun, the huge, muscle packed Akitas of the time had what it took to assist them.
Bred for agility and endurance, these intrepid dogs tracked down the animals for the hunters and flushed them out. But not only that – working together in a pack, the Akitas kept the prey animals in check until their owners could arrive to kill them. Quite obviously, such a task required not only courage, but also considerable strength – not only because of the ferocity of the game pursued, but also because of the rough, mountainous and icy terrain the dogs had to work in.
After World War II, US soldiers brought several of these fearless hunters back with them to the United States. But it was not until the early 1980’s that the breed spread to many other countries of the world.
Now, let’s look at where the stunning Siberian Husky came from. As its name suggests, its history began in Siberia. In 1908, the first Huskies were brought to Alaska as competitors in sled-dog races.
Today’s Siberian Huskies have been developed from the native sled dogs originally bred in North-East Siberia. These dogs are said to have been around for thousands of years. And the indigenous people of Siberia, called the Chukchi, had good reason to perfect their canines through selective breeding: There survival depended upon these dogs. Without the sleds, they would have starved to death, as there was no other way for the hunters to take food back to their families.
In the 1930’s, 12 of these Siberian sled dogs were introduced into the United States. Soon, this extraordinary “new” breed became popular in other countries as well. It is said that “every single Siberian Husky in the world has ancestry going back to the handful of dogs [who were] imported into the US in the early part of the 20th Century.”
DIFFERENCES IN LOOKS
In their outer appearance, both these archaic breeds have many similarities. This is especially the case for the slightly smaller and lighter Akita Inu - with the American Akita being larger and bulkier. Both breeds have beautiful, thick and plush coats that come in a variety of colours, such as red, brindle, sesame, fawn and white. Other physical traits shared by both kinds are their small, erect, triangular-shaped ears and their curly, brushed tails. In their overall appearance, both the Akita and the Husky are well-proportioned, with their bodies showing the promise of immense strength and agility.
Now, how can you tell the Husky and the Akita apart? Despite all similarities, there are a few distinct features, most notably, the eyes: Huskies often come with stunning ice blue eyes, or with one blue and one brown eye. As well, the Husky is smaller and lighter than the Akita, with males standing between 53 and 60 cm at the withers (that is, between 21 and 23 inches) and females being slightly smaller. Their weight can range from to 20 to 27 kilos (which is between 45 and 60 pounds), again, with females being a bit smaller.
Akita Inus, also known as Japanese Akitas, are considerably taller and heavier than Siberian Huskies, with breed standards only allowing dark brown eyes. Adult males stand at up to 70 cm tall (which is around 28 inches) and weigh between up to 50 kg (or, 110 pounds), with the females being a bit smaller and lighter. Their American cousins are usually taller and considerably heavier than Japanese Akitas.
INTELLIGENCE & TRAINABILITY DIFFERENCES
And now, we’re going to see how intelligent and trainable these striking working dog breeds really are. And whilst we can say with assurance that both are very smart – this intelligence does come with a price, so to speak: They both have a strong tendency to think and act independently. In fact, these amazing dogs are so very independent and aloof that they sometimes seem to act more like cats than like typical dogs: To say they have a stubborn streak and are hard to train, is an understatement.
This independence is deeply ingrained in the Husky, and can be traced back to their past as sled dogs: Since the beginning of recorded history or even before, the indigenous people of Siberia had to rely on these dogs. Without them, there was no way to get meat from their hunting expeditions to their families. Such journeys were extremely dangerous, as the heavy sleds could easily break through thin layers of ice, dragging men and dogs to a terrible death in freezing cold waters. As it was humanly impossible to predict the thickness of an ice sheet laying ahead, the Chukchi-people had no choice but to rely on their dogs’ instincts. The decisions to halt or deviate from a certain route was, therefore, not made by the musher, but by their lead dogs. The men had learned to trust their dogs, which, no doubt, has saved countless lives over time.
And that is precisely why Siberian Huskies are very used to thinking for themselves and to evaluating situation before making their own decisions. Of course, this presents us with a dog who does not at all feel the need to please their owner. This is not to say that Huskies cannot be trained to decent levels of obedience. But it takes a lot of skill and patience on the part of the handler.
The Akita is no less of an independent thinker, albeit for different reasons: Their role as hunting assistants in ancient Japan who had to take on large, dangerous game laid the foundation for their own personal streak of independence or, put in less kind words, stubbornness. Like Huskies, Akitas had to work in a pack without much interference from their humans, because the hunters had to rely on the dogs to find, flush out, and hold the game.
As we can see, each breed’s historical context explains its independent streak. And whilst this apparent stubbornness does not make educating those amazing dogs any easier, it does make any successes we do achieve in training all the more rewarding!
And this brings us to the main differences in temperament. Again, due to their history, both dogs are used to performing in packs. However, the Siberian Husky is the better team player of the two, as Akitas can be quite dog aggressive. To survive in the harsh Siberian climates, Huskies absolutely had to cooperate with other dogs, and even today, this tendency to play nice with other canine prevails. Back in the day in Siberia, the survival of men and dogs strongly depended on the sled dogs working together perfectly with each other and with humans. And because they are generally so nice towards humans even today, Huskies are not the best guard dogs.
However, in the absence of calm, consistent leadership, Siberian Huskies can develop aggressive behaviour – and the same very much applies to Akitas. Another feature both breeds share is their extreme prey drive. Huskies are given to hunt just about everything, even birds, and can cover enormous distances whilst doing so. Which, obviously, puts the dogs at great danger and, again, emphasises the need for strong leadership. Also, Huskies are veritable escape-artists who can easily overcome even tall fences and enclosures that would hold any other dog. They love to run – so much so that electric fences usually will not hold them: A Husky will often rather take the pain of crossing the threshold of the electric fence than forego an opportunity to run and roam.
Akitas also have a tendency to embark on unauthorized hunting-expeditions when taken off the leash before they have mastered the recall-command. But what makes them going off worse than a Husky is their dog aggression. Especially American Akitas are powerful fighters, and other dogs will not fare too well in a confrontation with an Akita. Which means that Akitas need lots and lots of socialization throughout their entire lives. Only through socialization and the most consistent leadership will Akitas become safe dogs. Huskies, on the other hand, are easier to handle. In general, these smaller dogs are more mellow and forgiving than the Japanese hunters.
With the right socialisation and training, both breeds can become devoted family dogs and do well with children – however, it is best not to choose either breeds if you have very small children in the house.
EXERCISE AND GROOMING DIFFERENCES
Both breeds need large amounts of physical exercise and mental stimulation to become perfect canine companions: balanced, well-behaved and well-rounded. This is especially important if you keep them in the house most of the time: Both the Husky and the Akita can get destructive when under-stimulated, that means they can use their pent-up energy to take apart your furniture, rip up your carpets or gnaw on your doorframes. Bored Huskies not only can do similar amounts of damage, but with an added vocal background of loud howling.
Due to their nature as sled dogs, bred to run hours upon hours without tiring, Huskies need far more exercise than Akitas. So much so that normal walks will not satisfy them. Unless you actually work them as sled dogs, you could teach them to simply run next to a bicycle – or, you could engage together with them in so-called draught dog sports, such as canicross, dogscooting or bikejoring. Sled dogs are perfect for these kinds of canine activities.
And even though Akitas do not need to run as much as Huskies, they do need regular long walks, vigorous runs and plenty of playtime with their owners. When provided with sufficient mental and physical stimulation, both of these dogs will be quite happy to relax indoors for hours at a time.
When it comes to grooming, again, both breeds are very similar, as they come with thick, plush double coats. To keep these luxurious coats clean and shiny, and to minimize shedding, regular brushing is needed, at least two to three times a week. A pin brush, paddle brush as well as a comb with wide-set teeth are the best tools to use for the rich coat of these glorious dogs. Outside of shedding season in spring and autumn, both Huskies and Akitas hardly shed. The Akita is an especially clean breed: Believe it or not, Akitas do actually groom themselves like cats – they meticulously lick their fur.
And this pretty much wraps up our discussion of these two stunningly beautiful dog breeds who have so many characteristics in common – starting from their amazingly beautiful looks and reaching all the way to their loyal, yet aloof character.