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Akita Information and historicalAkita Reflections Section


THE HUNTER, MOUNTAIN BEAR AND BOAR

 

The Akita is known as Japan's courageous hunter of mountain bear and boar. Read this short but authentic account of an actual hunt, courtesy World Of The Akita, by Barbara "BJ" Andrews.

 

Those who fancy the Akita praise and sometimes decry his fearless nature without really understanding it.  Sure, he was used for Japan's version of pit fighting, "pitted" against other animals in an area but Akita history also defines him as a courageous hunter of mountain bear and wild boar. This was printed in "The Akita" circa 1962 and I included it in World Of The Akita (TFH Publishers) because it so accurately describes his history. Originally written or submitted by Emile C. Schurmacher, the story is presented unedited.

 


"Driven off their mountain by the rains, the huge bears had taken over the village. There was only one chance to survive: THEY CALLED IN THE AKITAS.

 

The word had spread swiftly throughout northern Hokkaido on that day last spring: notify all owners of Akitas. Their dogs are urgently needed to drive the great killer bears out of Muju.

 

From Teshio and Furebetsu and from as far away as Wakkanai and Soya they soon began to gather. Determined little Japanese with bows and arrows, homemade lances and even a few ancient samurai swords. Businessmen, merchants, farmers, mechanics. Until there were more than 50 of them with their dogs.

 

The dogs were Akitas, an old and native Japanese breed noted, among many other things, for courage in hunting bear and wild boar. Big, sturdy fellows weighing up to 120 lbs. Some of them appeared to be almost as large as their owners, massive and muscular, with well-knit frames.

 

The majority of Akitas were on leads of ordinary chain or leather. Several among them had the green-colored leads of aras, companion dogs. Two of them bore red-colored leads of champions.

 

Men and dogs stood quietly, awaiting the orders of Kano Niyaki, captain of the Teshio police. But for the modern clothes worn by some of the men and the trucks lining up to carry them to Muju the scene might have been enacted a thousand years ago. One thing was certain: not since long before the American occupation had the Japanese responded so picturesquely to a Yezo bear emergency.

 

It was Inomi, the little charcoal burner of Muju, who had fought his way down the swollen Teshio river with a plea for help after the coming of the disastrous spring rains. Two alert Japanese cops found him in the wreckage of his raft on the river shore several miles above Teshio, more dead than alive from exhaustion and starvation.

 

They fed him some rice and tea, his first meal in three days. They took him back to headquarters. There he told his story to Captain Niyaki.

 

It wasn't only that the people of his little mountain village were starving, Inomi explained. That had happened before when the Teshio was in flood and always, somehow, they had managed to survive. This time it was different. Muju was also being menaced by bears.

 

The great Yezos, largest and fiercest of all Old World bears, had come down from the mountains after the violence of the rains made forage scarce. They could not be driven back. They stalked through the village in hordes, raiding the storehouses of everything edible and destroying what they could not eat.

 

One courageous farmer, Adashi Hukura, had tried to drive a 600-pound Yezo away from his door with a pitchfork. The bear's sweeping paw brushed aside the pitchfork as if it were a straw, pulling Adashi toward him. Long fangs, almost as murderous as a tiger's bit through Adashi's skull as if it were a ripe melon. The farmer died instantly.

 

Four others had been bitten to death by the terrible Yezos. One youngster had his head and neck almost torn from his body. Many others were mauled and badly clawed but managed to escape with their lives.

 

Villagers either fled or barricaded themselves in their homes. The bears were in undisputed control of the entire community.

 

Captain Niyaki listened as Inomi blurted out his tale of horror. When it was finished he stared for a thoughtful moment at the ceiling. Then he summoned the town council and asked Inomi to repeat his story. The others listened, and then they too stared at the ceiling and at one another. Captain Niyaki put their perplexity into words:

 

"We can send supplies to Muju. But how can we rid the village of the Yezos? This requires fire arms and since we turned them over to the Americans, there is not even a small rifle in Teshio. Nor a shotgun.

 

"There is a way," suggested Councilman Namura who owned an Akita. "We can hold a bear drive as was done in the old days. Our dogs still possess the courage."

 

So it was that the captain and Namura with Akitas and their owners came to Muju and formed a long line at the edge of the village. Captain Niyaki decided upon the plan of action.

 

"We must drive the Yezos toward the river," he pointed out. "If we let them escape into the mountains they will return to spread new terror after we are gone."

 

Namura paired the dogs off in teams, which is the traditional manner Akitas hunt and fight both bear and boar. When Captain Niyaki gave the order to advance, the dogs, on lead started forward at a brisk gait, heads high and alert, long tails curled over their backs.

 

On that first drive none of the Akitas was unleashed although they tugged eagerly on their leads. The great brown bears with the whitish crescents on their breasts gave ground immediately before the yelling hunters and their dogs.

 

Nine of them, weighing up to 650 pounds, were killed with hunting arrows. They died quickly with the many shafts protruding from their bodies like long porcupine quills. For many centuries the Japanese have been rated as fairly good archers, and since the ban on firearms there had been a keen revival of interest in the sport.

 

The remaining Yezos, eight in number, bolted hellbent toward the other end of the village, heading for the safety of the forests of Japanese cedars and the mountains beyond.  They discovered that their retreat had been cut off by a curving line of men and dogs.

 

Two bears tried to break through that line. One of them was met by the spear of a sturdy little man from Furebetsu named Kurio. It was a six-foot spear tipped with a needle-pointed, razor edged foot-length of scrap metal.

 

Kurio braced his legs and put the head of the spear adroitly into the white crescent of the rearing Yezo. Snorting and howling with pain and fury the bear came right on, impaling himself deeper as Kurio grimly held on.  Suddenly a huge paw lashed out. It caught Kurio on the shoulder, swatting him to the ground stunned and bleeding. It was then that Namura, standing nearby, quickly slipped the lead of his dog, Fuji.

 

The big Akita flashed forward, hurdling Kurio as he lunged. His open jaws snapped shut and his teeth found a deadly grip in the side of the Yezo's neck. Caught by surprise, the bear turned away from Kurio, trying to get at this new menace. Namura came in at a run and drove his own spear directly into the Yezo's heart.

 

The other bear tried to escape through the line past an archer. Before the Japanese had a chance to string his bow two Akitas sped by him. One was owned by a man from Teshio, the other came from Furebetsu. Although they had never hunted together before, the Akitas worked as a superbly coordinated team.

 

The first dog dashed toward the bear as though he was going to jump right for its throat. His charge became a feint and he swerved, nipping at the Yezo's left haunch.

 

The bear swatted out at him and missed - just as the second dog silently leaped and held onto the bear's right ear. The Yezo whirled, roaring with rage. Again the first Akita came charging, this time directly head-on. His front paws shot out, and he braced himself against the Yezo's chest as he completed his upward leap, his fangs buried in the bear's nose.

 

Both dogs held on as spearmen closed in on the bear and quickly killed it.

 

Pursued by Akitas, the other six Yezos retreated toward the Teshio river. Two of them were speedily brought to bay and killed by hunters. Three more were surrounded on the river bank and went down fighting. The last one plunged into the swollen river and, swimming rapidly with the current, was very soon lost from view.

 

So the savage Yezos were driven out of Muju with the help of the Akitas, much as they have been driven out of other villages of Hokkadio for the past ten centuries."

Copyright NetPlaces Network 2000169r1811  http://www.thedogplace.org/Breeds/Akita/Hunter.asp

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