Author & Writer

Akita Coat Colors & Markings

On this page I will be going over the various genetics involved in akita coats.

This includes length, color, and markings!

As people are generally curious about the various coat colors, and markings, and often do not realize what colors the terms are speaking of, I like to have an informational page available.

Akita coats tend to roughly come in three different coat types, though only two are regularly mentioned via breed standard.

The typical akita has what we call a "standard" coat, the preferred coat of the breed, and kind of coat everyone generally things of when someone mentions an akita.

A standard coat is genetically a "short coat" and is the same coat length as say a labrador or American pit bull terrier, despite all three breeds having obvious coat differences in length, texture, and undercoat. This is because the akita is a double coated spitz breed. This gives them the dense fluffy undercoat that makes their fur stick out puffy, unlike the APBT. While it seems longer in the akita, this is still a short haired gene. Most laboratories will classify coat type using "L" as the indicator, though other companies like Embark do not.

L = Standard Coat Type

l = Long Coat Type

But as I said earlier, the "standard short coat" type can actually be split into two sub categories, though this is typically due to the gene for long coat.

A dog that is genetically "L/L" does NOT carry the long coat gene. They have a standard coat, but it is typically on the shorter end, 1-1.5 inches long- with the longer portions being on the tail and neck, and the fur is thick.

A dog that is genetically "L/l" is standard coat, but carrying one copy of the long coat gene. Most dogs carrying this gene are standard coat, but have "better" coat. Their coat is usually 1.5-2.5 inches long- again with the longer portions being on the tail and neck, and more plush. Dogs with this standard coat type tend to do better in the show ring.

Both coat types are standard coats, but if you set the dogs side by side you will see quite the difference. Both coat types are acceptable in the ring and to breed.


Akitas come in a vast variety of color and marking combinations.

The three primary categories of "markings", rather than "colors", are known as pinto, brindle, and masks. I will go into all three in detail, and provide photos as a reference to what I'm speaking of. Visuals are key to understanding markings! 

With that said, the photos on this page are all dogs that belong to us, past puppies of ours, or dogs belonging to personal friends of our. The dogs show may not all be the best looking per breed standard, but as we are showing examples of coats, not structure, that's okay!

Pinto is by far the most complex of the three categories. In other breeds/species pinto is known as piebald, and/or white spotting.

If you search online, you will be hard pressed to find a photo of an akita without ANY white on them. This is because while technically possible, even "solid marked" akitas that are genetically solid often have what is called "residual white". This white is most often a splash of white on the chest, or on the toes.

If you look at the Labrador, you will find that this residual white- although far less often (as the breed does not have the piebald gene), appears in black and chocolate labs as well.

Spotting is a complicated gene. This is because while a dog can only test as one of three results, there are different intensities.

"S" = Solid marked
"sp" = spotting
"S/sp" = Solid carrying spotting

"S" for solid is has no variance past residual white or lack of white.

If we take a look above at Judo, you will see that she has very minimal white on her. As an adult she barely has white hairs on a few toes and on her chest. She is the most solid puppy we produced. She is very likely genetically "S/S" for solid as she was loosely linebred and the majority of the dogs in her pedigree had minimal white.

Her half sister Poppy (the minimal white brindle pictured further down the page) is was also proven via breeding to be genetically "S/S" and unable to produce pinto puppies.

However, when we look at "sp" for spotting, it has several different degrees of spotting that make the amount of white vary greatly. Then "S/sp" is complicated as well, as though still not pinto, these dogs have more white than a dog that is "S/S" solid.

Dogs that are "S/sp" typically have more white than can be considered residual white. We then have what we call "Irish markings", to which there's no true tester for currently. It is assumed that if found it will be listed as "si/si" but particularly in akitas many of the "S/sp" dogs share the same marking patterns. This coat pattern typically presents as high white on legs (to the elbows on front legs, to the knees on back legs) stomach and chest white with clean non-jagged borders, potentially a white collar, and possible white triangle or blaze on the mask. These dogs do not however have to have a white collar or white on the face to be "S/sp" or "si/si". These Irish marked dogs are actually the most popular in the American akita show ring, as the markings are neat, and flashy.

If you look above at Sasha (Left) and Takeshi (Right) you will see that Sasha's fur overall is very short and dense, even on her tail. Takeshi has quite a bit more "puff" to his fur, but this is especially noticable on his tail and neck. This is because Sasha is not a long coat carrier and her fur type is "L/L" while Takeshi, a carrier, is fur type "L/l".

A dog that is genetically "l/l" is a long coated akita, also known as a "wooly" or "moku". This is the third type of coat. Their fur is a minimum 2.5 inches long on the entire body, and up to 5 inches long on the neck and tail. Length can vary between individuals even in long coat. There is no mistaking an adult long coat akita as standard coat. Long coat is a fault, but not a disqualifying fault (ALL dogs have some faults).

If you look above at Attica (Left) and Bear (Right) you'll see that though both are most certainly long coat akitas, Attica has significantly more length to her fur- on her entire body, than Bear who does have very long tail and mane fur but shorter body fur.

In the American akita, long coats are allowed to be bred and shown, though it is not common practice.

In the Japanese akita, long coat- known almost exclusively as Moku, is a disqualifying fault and is not allowed to be bred or shown- in fact, until recent years, they were not even allowed to be registered!

A litter will not produce long coated puppies unless BOTH parents carry at least on copy of the long coat gene. This means that if a dog tests as "L/L" they will never produce a long coated puppy, even if they are bred to a long coat mate- but resulting puppies from "non-carrier x long coat" will result in every single puppy being a standard coat long coat carrier, tested as "L/l".

For example, let's look at the two dogs above. Raja (Left) has far more white than can be considered residual white. While she could fall under the catagory of Irish marked, I do know via breeding that she is "S/sp", though that "sp" could very well be "si". Then we have Neko (Right) who is closest I could find in my loop to true Irish markings. Neko is half brother to our Fen, who might also be considered Irish marked.

The next step up is "sp/sp", which is a genetically pinto/piebald dog.

Akita standard calls for a pinto dog to be no more than 2/3 white, with preference of symmetrical spotting (AKA, spots distributed evenly rather than only on one side of the body, making the other side appear mostly or completely white). This is the midground of pinto.

But as I said, it's complicated.

A dog that you THINK may just be Irish marked could actually be genetically pinto, if the borders are jagged where the color meets the white instead of clean lines. You wouldn't put pinto down on this dog's registration papers, as the dog does not have spots or patches of color on a white base, but the dog will breed and produce as though the dog is pinto, making them "sp/sp".

Ava (below) is the perfect example of this. You would not call her pinto, yet her borders fall outside of solid parameters. Thus she is genetically "sp/sp" and will produce as though she is pinto.

The next level up would be a dog that follows the same pattern as Irish, but has more white. Meaning the white on the legs doesn't stop at the elbows or knees, but goes up to the shoulders/hips or higher. The white collar may be so wide that it's not really a collar anymore, but instead makes the colored head a "hood" and the body color more of a saddle. Depending on the size of the saddle, the individual dog might be registered as pinto, or might not be, but most certainly breeds and produces as a pinto, also making them "sp/sp".

After the above two examples, pinto is obvious.

While standard states no more than 2/3 white, pinto can still be heavily colored as shown above, or very close to solid white.

Some dogs will have huge patches of color white white snaking through them and a colored head. Others will have a white body base with moderate patches scattered across the body and a colored head. Some will have a colored head, a mostly white body, and small-medium sized "spots" scattered across their body, including on the legs and tail.

Let's take a look at spotting progression. In a perfect world these examples would be all be dogs of the same color, and perfectly stacked, but we'll work with what we've got!

In the top row you have Poppy (Left) who is obviously solid marked with residual white. Poppy was proven via breeding to be "S/S" and unable to produce pinto. Then we have Sasha (Center) who has minimal white consisting of "gloves", chin to stomach stripe, tail tip, and though not pictured a pencil thin half collar, who showed via breeding she was "S/sp". Next is Stiles (Right) who can be considered Irish lacking collar and via breeding he is concluded to be to be "S/sp".

In row number two we have Fen (Left) who I consider to be Irish with half collar, and is likely to be "S/sp" as his dam was solid marked and sire a more solidly marked pinto. Next is Hondo (Center) who I would consider a true Irish marked akita- but his stomach borders are not clean, and it is so slight. in using him as a stud, and seeing another litter of his, I can say he is likely "sp/sp" as all of his offspring were pinto or Irish-like to some degree. Then we have Paisley (Right) who has very obvious jagged white-to-color borders, though still not "spotted" despite being "sp/sp"

In row number three we have three obviously pinto dogs- Mia (Left), Kumo (Center, also son of Sasha in row #1), and Heart, in order of increased amount of white. These dogs are all considered acceptable/preferred pintos as they are not more than 2/3 white- though Heart does cut it close.

But pinto does not end there.

You then have "extreme spotting", also known as the mismark pinto, and all of these options are dogs that are heavily faulted in the ring, subject to be excused by a judge, and should only be bred with extreme caution. These are the dogs that are nearly solid white but still have a color patch/blotch/spot or two and more than 2/3 white overall.

The most common form of this pattern is the "hooded" dog, who is solid or nearly solid white other than its darker head, making it look like they are a white dog wearing a hood! Often if these hooded dogs have any more color on them, it appears on their hips or tail. This darker hood can consist of any mask type.

Later on Kylei went on to produce some puppies with even less markings than her, despite being bred to a visually solid dog. This may help to stress to you how strong extreme spotting can be when involved in breeding. Above you see one of her pups, who has even more white than her, and non-symetrical markings.

An "extreme spotted" akita should never be bred to a dog that is pinto to any degree, nor a solid white dog (solid white being a completely separate gene). In reference to breeding to another pinto, this should not be done because ALL of the puppies will be pinto, often most of them also being extreme spotted. Not only is this undesirable for breeding and show, but it also poses a health risk. While the spotting itself isn't hazardous to health, "pigment" can be.

See, if you look at an akita, they have black eyeliner, black lips, and black noses (other than solid white akitas that have more of a brown nose surrounded by black). This is correct pigment. Breed standard disqualifies a dog with "butterfly nose" which is a black nose with patches/spots of missing pigment, meaning those spots are pinkish white instead of black. Missing pigment can cause health issues, especially if this pigment is missing around the eyes or ears. While most first generation extreme spotted pintos have correct pigment, second, third, forth, etc generations can be missing this key pigment because the extreme spotting was bred upon too much. That's not to say that ALL first generation extreme spotted pintos have all of their pigment, because some do not.

This missing pigment presents as chunks/spots of this pinkish white on their eyelids, nose, and lips- these 3 spots are what's visible at least. See, we cannot see where pigment is missing INSIDE the body. This is where problems can occur. Most often this affects the eyes, and the inner ear. If pigment loss is affecting the inner ear, the dog can be partially or fully deaf in one or both ears. Likewise with eyes, they can have vision difficulties, blindness, or even in some cases eye deformities such as in the pupil or a condition in which the eyes are too small, known as microphthalmia (you can read more about this on our health page!). Obviously these are things one wishes to avoid in breeding,, so take care to prevent it.

Now I mentioned above to not breed an extreme spotted pinto to a solid white dog, even though solid white is a completely different gene. Why? Because in akitas, white is a "masking" gene. The dog's white coloring is a body wide "cover" that hides the dog's originally intended colors AND markings. These solid white dogs could genetically be ANY degree of pinto, so it's better to be safe rather than sorry. You can read more about white akitas further down on this page!

After pinto, the remaining sections on markings are far less complex.

Next we will be covering brindle!

Brindle presents as black stripes on a color base- think tiger stripes! Like in tigers, no two brindles have the same exact stripes. With that said, brindle can present at any intensity. Some dogs are mostly colored with minimal thin black penciling stripes over their body. Some have an even amount of color vs stripes. Then others appear to be a reverse brindle- where they're seemingly mostly black with minimal colored stripes. Others are so extreme that for the most part they appear solid black with a sliver of color here and there. But all of the above dogs are brindle.

A brindle dog is NOT a dog that is colored and has black tipping/overlay on their fur. There must be solid stripes through the fur.

To produce brindle akita puppies, you must always have at least one brindle parent. As mentioned above, solid white is a masking gene, so at times a white akita with a brindle parent may be genetically brindle. But if a breeding pair are non-brindle colored dogs, they will never produce a brindle puppy.

An interesting thing about brindles is however, that if you breed two brindle parents together, each brindle offspring has a 25% chance at being homozygous brindle. A dog that is homozygous brindle can only produce brindle puppies, the entire litter will have tiger strips no matter who they are bred to, unless resulting pups are white masking brindle.

Brindle can be any color the akita comes in (silver, fawn, red).

Next we will cover the different mask types of the akita. These are "white mask", self mask, black mask, and b&w mask.

Japanese akitas cannot have a black mask, as via breed standard they have eliminated that gene via selective breeding in those lines. What Japanese akitas DO have is what is called "urajiro". This presents as white/cream on the muzzle, cheeks, eyebrows, chest, lower legs, and sometimes tail.

Though in the USA we often call this "white mask", when there is not a black mask it is actually the absence of a mask entirely, and urajiro is not a mask gene at all as it affects multiple spots along the body.

Next we have the "self mask". This is the absence of black mask, without the muzzle being white. Typically this presents as a red/fawn dog having a mask that is a similar color and shade as the rest of their body. This includes brindle, and a self masked brindle will have a completely striped face. Self masked akitas can ALSO have urajiro present, which will lighten their cheeks, eyebrows, and lower muzzle, but often leave the self colored blaze down to the tip of the nose with it fading out to white/cream around it.

Self masks are almost exclusive to American Akitas or blend lines, sans for brindle Japanese Akitas that can have brindle masks on a base of urajiro.

Black mask is probably the mask you think of when you hear "akita". The American akita most commonly has a solid black mask, thus when you google the breed for photos most will show this mask type. Black mask can have different levels of intensity. Some black masks are limited to the mid to lower muzzle. Others cover the entire muzzle, and commonly the black spreads up the face towards the forehead and ears, fading out around the eyes and cheeks. Others have a modifier that gives black penciling/shading to the color vs white borders on the chest and feet.

A black and white mask is actually a black mask that has white spotting affecting it. Same with a self and white mask. The mask itself is present, the white from spotting simply covering it in varying degrees. Some akitas have the tiniest sliver of white- or even just a few hairs, above the nose. These dogs are still often registered as having black masks despite the slight presence of white. Others can have larger, more noticeable white triangles above the nose. Most of these akitas are registered as b&w mask, but not all. Others have a thin white blaze/stripe going from their nose tip to forehead, while some have wide stripes from forehead down that then climb around to cover the entire front, sides, and bottom of the muzzle (like a Saint Bernard). The amount of white present on a b&w masked dog doesn't always correspond to the amount of white spotting. For example, an extreme white pinto that is hooded (black head, white body) might have a solid black mask, and the wide b&w mask like a Saint Bernard's can be present on an Irish marked dog.

Above you will see a nine week old puppy named Kylei, who was a hooded white masked red!

However this extreme spotting can present as an otherwise solid white dog with an eye patch, half a colored head, only colored ears, etc. The last remnants of color are almost exclusively on the head somewhere, and often not symmetrical.