At the Warlord’s Behest

He might have been the earliest animal rights person on record, and was certainly that in his own country of Japan. Born in 1646, Shogan Tsunayoshi was also known as Inu Kobu, or Dog Shogun. He forbade the mistreatment and killing of animals, and discouraged hunting.  He was especially touchy about dogs. People deemed negligent or cruel towards dogs, or failing to care for strays were either crucified or had their heads lopped off.  His shorui awaremi no rei, or Laws of Compassion for Living Things, was rooted in his belief that he would earn spiritual compassion “brownie points” if he gave compassion to animals, and because he was born in the zodiacal year of the dog, this was particularly true regarding dogs.

Needless to day, after the shogun’s death, hunting was renewed and flourished, and the “art” of canine wrestling became popular. Trainers of these dogs lived charmed lives, and their training techniques involved a whip used to punish a stubborn dog, and a lighter whip that made more noise than sting. It was into this climate that the modern Akita was born. Earlier during the shogan’s reign, a war lord had gotten on the wrong side of him, and disfavor lead to banishment to northern Honshu were he lived out his life as a provincial ruler. The war lord’s new life enabled him to pursue interests heretofore unavailable to him, and one of those interests was dogs. He encouraged the land barons to compete in breeding their family hunting dogs to create the keenest, largest, most fearless, robust, and companionable dog possible.

They did, and the dog they developed was named after the northern province of the war lord’s homeland, Akita. Or so the story goes.

Image: Sleeping Akita Inu by Ri-hime

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