The Akita is an ancient breed native to Akita city in the Tohoku region of Honshu, Japan. The Akita has been a symbol of health and prosperity and bears the status of an imperial symbol and guard. The breed's history began in 1630 when Matagi Inu breeders started crossing their dogs with other breeds indigenous to the Akita region. The resulting breed was known as the Odate Inu, which were crossbred with dogs native to other regions of Japan and larger European dogs, leading to the modern day Akita. In 1931 the Akita was designated as a national monument and became the national dog of Japan. The breed was established as a purebred line at that time. The Akita came to the United States when Helen Keller received one as a gift in 1937. After World War II the breed nearly disappeared as the breed's fur was used for combat clothing and owners tried to protect the dogs by crossbreeding with German Shepherds. Selective breeding began in 1945 to eliminate German Shepherd traits and return pre-war breed characteristics. In 1972 the breed received American Kennel Club recognition.