For other uses, see The Great Dane (disambiguation).
A Harlequin Great Dane
Country of origin
120-200 lb (54-91 kg)
100-130 lb (45-59 kg)
30-34 in (76-86 cm)
28-32 in (71-81 cm)
Classification and standards
Group 2 Section 2 #235
Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)
The Great Dane, also denoted as Grand Danois, is a German breed of domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) known for its giant size. The name of the breed in Germany is Deutsche Dogge (German Mastiff). They are known for their enormous bodies and great height.
The Great Dane is one of the world's tallest dog breeds; the current world record holder, measuring 112 cm (44 in) from paw to shoulder, is "Zeus". Their large size belies their friendly nature, with Great Danes known for seeking physical affection with their owners.
1.1 16th - 18th Century,
1.2 19th Century,
1.3 A claim of other origin of the breed,
2.1 Coat colors,
5 Popular culture,
6 See also,
8 External links,
9 External links,
This section may require copy-editing. (July 2013)
Dogs resembling the Great Dane have been seen on Egyptian monuments dating back to 3,000 BCE.
Extremely large boarhounds resembling early Great Dane type appear in ancient Greece, in frescoes from Tiryns dating back to 14th-13th centuries BCE. The large boarhound or Molossian hound continues to appear throughout ancient Greece in subsequent centuries right up to the Hellenistic era. Later on the great hound of Epirus becomes known as the Suliot Dog. The authors David Hancock, John William Carleton, Charles Hamilton Smith & Sir William Jardine, Desmond Morris, W.H. Lizards (quoted by Juliette Cunliffe), Μ.Β.Wynn (quoted by Desmond Morris), Lord Truro (quoted by D. Hancock) all mention the great descendant of the Molossian hound, the Suliot dog and specific imports from Greece (two engravings exist illustrating these dogs ) that were used in the 18th century to increase the stature of the boarhounds in Austria and Germany & the wolfhounds in Ireland.
Bigger dogs are depicted on numerous rune stones in Scandinavia, on coinage in Denmark from the 5th Century ACE and in the collection of Old Norse poems, known in English as Poetic Edda. The University of Copenhagen Zoological Museum holds at least seven skeletons of very large hunting dogs, dating from the 5th Century BCE going forward through to the year 1000 ACE.
16th - 18th Century:
In the middle of the 16th Century the nobility in many countries of Europe imported strong, long-legged dogs from England, which descended from crossbreeds between the English Mastiff and the Irish Wolfhound. They were dog hybrids in different sizes and phenotypes and no formal breed in the understanding of our days. This type was called "Englische Docke", "Englische Tocke" - later written and spelled: "Dogge" - or "Englischer Hund" in Germany. The name originally meant simply "English dog". In other continental European countries arosed similar terms, too. The English word "dog" became after time the term for a molossoid dog in Germany and in France, too.
Since the beginning of the 17th Century, these dogs were bred independent on the courts of the German nobility.
″Es kommet solche grosse Art von Hunden eigentlich aus Engelland oder Irrland, welche grosse Herren vor diesem anfänglich aus solchen Ländern mit vielen Unkosten haben bringen lassen, sie werden aber jetziger Zeit nicht mehr so weit gehohlet, sondern in Teutschland an grosser Herren Höfen von Jugend auf erzogen und zur Pracht erhalten, auch nach ihrer Grösse, guten Gewächs, Schönheit und Farben unterschieden und aestimieret.″
″Such big kind of dogs comes actually from England or Ireland, which have been initially brought to big nobleman from those countries with much costs, but they were in this time not more fetched so far-off from, but in Teutschland (Germany) at the courts of big nobles from youth on nurtured and in finery obtained, and in size, good growth, beauty and colors distinguished and held in esteem.″
The name "Englische Dogge" stayed common till into the 19th Century. In the course of the centuries this designation wasn't anymore understood as designation of origin, but should characterise this dog type as something special and distinguish it's idiosyncrasy. In this way were the kennels named as "englische Stall" (English stable) and the (local) keepers "englische Hunds-Jungen' (English dog-keepers boys). Similarly were to other dog types given the names of other countries, without that there had to be a real relationship or ancestry,
They were kept as dogs for the hunt on bear, boar and deer at princely courts, where the most beauty and strongest as 'Kammerhunde" (chamber dogs) with gilded collars stayed at night in the bedchamber of their lord. For the dogs were made big sleeping-places with paddings or bearskins. They should protect the sleeping prince against assassins. The second most beauty were named "Leibhunde" (favourite dogs) and gets silvered collars. All the rest remained the "Englische Docken". They get no special collars and were kept in the "englische Stall" (kennel).
This grading of in three tiers "separated" and "esteemed" dogs, gives reason to think, that the pure breeding was done in this way and that it was taken more care to the more purebred animals. But the ordinary "Englischen Docken" were so valuable, too, that they weren't to reckless utilized.
On the hunt for boar were at first the Saufinder sent out, they had find the wild hogs and to draw attention of the Saurüden to these by barking. The Saurüden drove the wild hogs out of the forest on a clearing. This part was the most dangerous and very lossy, which is why this dog type wasn't really bred. If available, could come in addition the Courshunde, with what were mostly meant mixed breed dogs of different dog types. Mix-breeding of different dog types was done often in earlier times. Another term for mixed breed dogs of this kind was Blendlinge.
Not until then were the "Doggen" chased on the wild hogs, which had knock them down and seize them, until it was killed by a huntsman. For their protection wore they armors of thick lined cloth, which were at the side of the belly strengthened with whalebone.
On the hunt for bears were at first the Baerenbeisser's used, to weary the bear. After that were made use of the "Doggen" as on the hunt on boar.
When the hunting customs changed, particularly because of the use of firearms, the Danes were no longer needed. Many of those involved dogs types, such as the Saufinder or the Baerenbeisser disappeared. Also, the Great Dane became more rare and was kept only as a dog of hobby or luxury. Mainly in rural Württemberg it stayed as the Ulmer Hund or Ulmer Dogge.
In the mid-19th Century it found with beginning of the pedigree breeding and founding of kennel clubs under the names 'Ulmer Dogge" und "Dänische Dogge" bigger interest, again. In the English speaking countries was it originally denoted as "German boarhound". In the studbook of England was the name "German boarhound" not before 1894 changed in "Great Dane". Some German breeders tried to introduce the Names "German Dogge" or "German Mastiff" on the English market, because this breed should be marketed as a dog of luxury and not as a working dog. Nonetheless these names were not accepted. "Dogge" sounded to strange and on the upcoming rivalries of nations no one wanted to have a German dog or even a so-called "Reichshund".
Instead the name "Great Dane" became popular, after the "grand danois" in Buffon's Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière in 1755. But it's dubious if this was ever a molossoid doge type or if such dog as a constant dog type existed. In the same work of Buffon is another dog depicted, the "le dogue de forte race". Translated in English it means "the Mastiff of the heavy breed" and it could be translated in German with "Grosse Dogge" (Great Mastiff), which was the type of the "English dog" on the continent, of Mastiff and Irish Wolfhound origin, in Germany known as "Englische Docke".
Around the turn of the 18th century existed in Germany several landraces or regional breeds of this "Englische Dogge". The southern variation was known as Ulmer Dogge (Mastiff from the Ulm area), mostly massive, the color black or white and black "getigert" (spotted or mantle). And in northern and middle Germany the dogs were often (so) called Dänische Dogge (Danish Mastiff), which were often fawn, isabelle or brindled ("gestromt") colored and were mostly a bit minor in size and weight compared to the Ulmer landrace. Other generally names were Saupacker ("boar-seizer") or Hatzrüde ("chasing dog"). The separation in landraces was common for all "breeds" of dogs in this times, because no formal standardized breeds existed.
On the first bigger German dog show in 1863 in Hamburg were eight as "Dänische Doggen" and seven "Ulmer Doggen" denoted dogs exhibited. This separation was iterated in 1869 on the dog show in Altona. Though none of this dogs came from Denmark or had a stammer from there. First in 1876 the adjudicators suggested to the breeders to agree among themselves on the name "Deutsche Dogge" (German Mastiff), because the dogs were scarcely to distinguish.
On 12. of January, 1888 in Berlin was the "Deutsche Doggen Club" founded. It was first Kennel Club in Germany ever.
Nevertheless the name "Deutsche Dogge" became common in Germany only after considerable time. The breeder Otto Friedrich, from which "Tyras II.", the successor of Bismarcks favourite dog came from, sold still in 1889 both varieties under their former names.Leonhard Hoffmann denoted it still in year 1900 the "Ulmer Dogge", "today's so called Deutsche Dogge".
Otto von Bismarck owned Danes since his youth. He wasn't able to leave back his Dane "Ariel", when he left for Göttingen in 1832 to study law. Later, in the time of German Empire, were this animals occasionally denoted as Reichshunde.
A claim of other origin of the breed:
It can be assumed that Frederick VII, between 1848 and 1863 the King of Denmark, Duke of Schleswig and Duke of Holstein read about Buffon's "grand danois". He gave order to search for suitable dogs and to establish a breed if possible. With that was commissioned a councillor of state Klemp. In a prize essay "The mammalians of the Danish and Norwegian state" from 1834 the Danish professor Melchior had described the "Large Danish dog, the butchers dog". Dogs from this kind were collected in Schleswig-Holstein and Denmark to start this breed. This breed was later named as "King-Fredrick-VII-Breed" or the "Jägerpri(i)s" after his hunting château. Later were this breed brought into the Zoological Garden of Copenhagen / Zoological Museum of Kopenhagen. The most representative male dog was the famous "Holger", who fathered the most of the puppies.
The breed of the large, yellow Danish dog was a refinement of well-shaped and sturdy butchers dog.
This breed must have become rare in later times.
"Around 1855 decided the possessor of Broholm, a von Sehested, to collect the remains of the Danish dog, to preserve the breed and to spread this dog generally in this country. This task wasn't easy, because not much breed-material existed and it wasn't fully clear how this dog had to look like..."
However this doge type was further developed. "Puppies were given for free to people in Denmark, who were willingly to help this undertaking. So arose the Broholmer dog, over 20 years were spread more than 150 puppies in the country."
In 1886 at a dog show in Copenhagen was established a breed standard, but this dog was named "Large Danish dog", too.
With that is shown, what's the truth in the claim, the Great Dane would be a breed of Danish origin. Why should the breed of this Large Danish dog, butcher's dog or the Broholmer have been undertaken, when there had been existed a "grand danois" with the attributes of the German breed? Because there was none. In the late 18th and the early 19th Century existed no Buffon's "grand danois" and no German "Englische Dogge" in Denmark. If a breed had existed, it was extincted before.
Nonetheless it is very probable, that the Danish nobility in 16th and 17th Century imported "English dogs", too, as the nobles in most continental European countries did. And it isn't improbable, that the Broholmer is a far cousin of the German "Dogge", because it may be the descendant of a Danish "English dog".
The "Large Danish dog" gets later the name "Broholmer" from the estate of Broholm, but some Danish breeders, which had bought "Dogge"s in Germany, claimed at the end of the 19th Century that these were the "Large Danish dog" of Danish origin. This claim was strictly refused.
In Germany, of course, the position, that the Great Dane is a German breed, was never abandoned. This continued with the rise Nazi Germany. In December 1936 the Danish national kennel association "Dansk Kennel Klub" was put on notice in writing that Germany demanded the cessation of usage of any words not identifying the hound as of German origin on the forthcoming General Assembly of the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) in Paris 22 July 1937. After World War II The Secretary General of the FCI Baron A. Houtart writes a letter, copied to the Danish national kennel association. The letter is dated 15 November 1948 and says in French:
"Pour la F.C.I. cette race a toujours été et reste encore une race nationale danoise ; seul le standard déposé par le Dansk Kennelklub est officiel à ses yeux"
"As far as the FCI is concerned, this breed The Great Dane has always been and shall remain a Danish breed; only the standard provided by the Danish national kennel association is the official one in our view." The original letter is kept with the FCI and the Great Dane Club of Denmark.
However, today the FCI designates the Great Dane as German breed. The Broholmer is known as the Mastiff of Danish origin. In 2010 the Danish Kennel Club challenged this estimation.
As described by the American Kennel Club:
The Great Dane combines, in its regal appearance, dignity, strength and elegance with great size and a powerful, well-formed, smoothly muscled body. It is one of the giant working breeds, but is unique in that its general conformation must be so well balanced that it never appears clumsy, and shall move with a long reach and powerful drive. The Great Dane is a short haired breed with a strong galloping figure.
In the ratio between length and height, the Great Dane should be square. The male dog should not be less than 30 in (76 cm) at the shoulders, a female 28 in (71 cm). Danes under minimum height are disqualified.
From year to year, the tallest living dog is typically a Great Dane. Previous record holders include Gibson, Titan and George however, the current record holder is a black Great Dane named Zeus who stands 112 cm (44 in) at the shoulder. He is also the tallest dog on record (according Guinness World Records), beating the previous holder who was a blue Great Dane named George, who stood 110 cm (43 in) at the shoulder.
The minimum weight for a Great Dane over eighteen months is 120 lb (54 kg) for males, 100 lb (45 kg) for females. Unusually, the American Kennel Club dropped the minimum weight requirement from its standard. The male should appear more massive throughout than the female, with a larger frame and heavier bone.
Great Danes have naturally floppy, triangular ears. In the past, when Great Danes were commonly used to hunt boars, cropping of the ears was performed to make injuries to the dogs' ears less likely during hunts. Now that Danes are primarily companion animals, cropping is sometimes still done for traditional and cosmetic reasons. In the 1930s when Great Danes had their ears cropped, after the surgery two devices called Easter Bonnets were fitted to their ears to make them stand up. Today, the practice is common in the United States but much less common in Europe. In some European countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Germany, parts of Australia, and in New Zealand, the practice is banned, or controlled to only be performed by veterinary surgeons.
There are six show-acceptable coat colors for Great Danes:
Fawn: The color is yellow gold with a black mask. Black should appear on the eye rims and eyebrows, and may appear on the ears.,
Brindle: The color is fawn and black in a chevron stripe pattern. Often also they are referred to as having a tiger-stripe pattern.,
Blue: The color is a pure steel blue. White markings at the chest and toes are not desirable and considered faults.,
Black: The color is a glossy black. White markings at the chest and toes are not desirable and considered faults.,
Harlequin: The base color is pure white with black torn patches irregularly and well distributed over the entire body; a pure white neck is preferred. The black patches should never be large enough to give the appearance of a blanket, nor so small as to give a stippled or dappled effect. Eligible, but less desirable, are a few small grey patches (this grey is consistent with a Merle marking) or a white base with single black hairs showing through, which tend to give a salt and pepper or dirty effect., Merle Great Danes (Grautiger) are acceptable in conformation shows under the F.C.I.. Their status is that they are "neither desirable nor to be disqualified".,
Mantle (in some countries referred to as Bostons due to the similar coloration and pattern as a Boston Terrier): The color is black and white with a solid black blanket extending over the body; black skull with white muzzle; white blaze is optional; whole white collar preferred; a white chest; white on part or whole of forelegs and hind legs; white tipped black tail. A small white marking in the black blanket is acceptable, as is a break in the white collar,
Other colors occur occasionally but are not acceptable for conformation showing, and they are not pursued by breeders who intend to breed show dogs. These colors include white, fawnequin, brindlequin, merle, merlequin, blue merle, fawn mantle, and others. Some breeders may attempt to charge more for puppies of these "rare" colors. However, the breeding of white (homozygous merle) and merle Danes is particularly controversial, as these colors are associated with genes that produce deafness. Although they cannot be shown, white or merle Danes can usually still be registered as pedigree dogs.
The Great Dane's large and imposing appearance belies its friendly nature. The breed is often referred to as a "gentle giant". Great Danes are generally well disposed toward other dogs, other non-canine pets, and familiar humans. They generally do not exhibit extreme aggressiveness or a high prey drive. The Great Dane is a very gentle and loving animal and with the proper care and training is great around children, especially when being raised with them. However, if not properly socialized a Great Dane may become fearful or aggressive towards new stimuli, such as strangers and new environments.
Great Danes are a breed recommended for families provided that they get trained early and onwards, regarded by animal experts due to their preference for sitting on and leaning against owners as 'the world's biggest 'lapdog.'
Like most dogs, Great Danes require daily walks to maintain their health. However, it is important not to over exercise this breed, particularly when young. Great Dane puppies grow very large, very fast, which puts them at risk of joint and bone problems. Because of a puppy's natural energy, Dane owners often take steps to minimize activity while the dog is still growing.
Given their large size, Great Danes continue to grow (mostly gaining weight) longer than most dogs. Even at one year of age a Great Dane will continue to grow for several more months.
Great Danes, like most giant dogs, have a fairly slow metabolism. This results in less energy and less food consumption per pound of dog than in small breeds. Great Danes have some health problems that are common to large breeds, including bloat (gastric dilatation volvulus(GDV)). The average life span of Great Danes is 6 to 8 years. Like many larger breeds, Great Danes are at particular risk for hip dysplasia.
Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and many congenital heart diseases are also commonly found in the Great Dane, leading to its nickname: the Heartbreak breed, in conjunction with its shorter lifespan. Great Danes also may carry the merle gene, which is part of the genetic makeup that creates the harlequin coloring. The merle gene is an incomplete dominant, meaning only one copy of the gene is needed to show the merle coloring; two merle genes produce excessive white markings and many health issues such as deafness, blindness, or other debilitating ocular issues.
Fang, Hagrid's dog from the Harry Potter series, is a boarhound, another name for Great Danes. Though in the movie, the role was played by a Neapolitan Mastiff.,
Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel was nicknamed the "Great Dane".,
The Great Dane was named the state dog of Pennsylvania in 1965.,
Scooby-Doo, the famous Hanna-Barbera character, was based on a Great Dane by animation designer Iwao Takamoto. Takamoto based his illustrations on sketches given to him by a Hanna-Barbera employee who bred this dog. Scooby closely resembles a Great Dane, although his tail is longer than the breed's, bearing closer resemblance to a cat's tail.,
The athletic teams of the University at Albany have been known as the Great Danes since 1965. Damien The Great Dane has been the mascot since that time. In 2003, the school added Lil' D, a smaller Great Dane, to help Damien entertain the crowds.,
Astro, the dog in The Jetsons.,
Brutus in The Ugly Dachshund, a Great Dane raised by a Dachshund mother.,
Marmaduke is a newspaper comic strip drawn by Brad Anderson from 1954 to the present day. The strip revolves around the Winslow family and their Great Dane, Marmaduke.,
Singer, the main but tragic hero of The Guardian, a novel by Nicholas Sparks.,
Elmer, a Great Dane in Oswald the Lucky Rabbit by Walter Lantz,
In each film version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles, a Great Dane was cast as the cursed hellhound that kills the Baskerville family.,
Ace the Bat-Hound, from the Batman TV series, was depicted as a Great Dane mix.,
Ben, Hōgen, and Genba from Japanese anime and manga, Ginga Nagareboshi Gin and Ginga Densetsu Weed.,
Just Nuisance who was the only dog to be officially enlisted in the Royal Navy. Done mainly as a morale booster for World War II enlisted troops, Nuisance proved to be a lasting legacy of the small Cape Town suburb of Simons Town.,
Chestnut: Hero of Central Park revolves around the inventive ways the Great Dane is kept hidden from his new owners.