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Danish Dogs, Great Danes, Danish Farm Dogs, Danish Broholmer
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Great Danes

We love Danish Dogs so much that we developed an entire web site dedicated to Danish Dogs, and especially Great Danes.  Read on for more information about this magnificent breed, also known as the Deutsche Dogge, German Mastiff, and the “Apollo of all Dogs.”

If you are interested in learning more about other Danish Dogs, please visit our profiles of other dogs, such as Danish Swedish Farm Dogs, Danish Broholmer, Great Danes, Old Danish Pointers, and Old Danish Chicken Dogs.

Great Dane

Great Dane

Great Dane History

The origin of the Great Dane is the subject of much debate.

We know that the image of a dog very similar in appearance to the Great Dane of today was printed on some Greek money dating back to 36 B.C.  We also know that in 407 A.D. German Gaul and part of Italy and Spain were invaded by an Asiatic people, known as the Alans, who brought with them powerful mastiff-like dogs. In Germany, especially, this large breed of dogs, which was capable of overcoming bears and wild boars, was much admired.  Thus, the Germans began a process of breeding these dogs.  It is believed that these dogs were crossed with Irish Greyhounds resulting in the beautiful, large, thin, agile dog known as the Great Dane today.

Other accounts of the origins of the Great Dane included sources that say that dogs similar to Great Danes were known in Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome.  Various sources report that the Great Dane was developed from the medieval boarhound, and of the Mastiff and Irish wolfhound lines.  Still other reports indicate The Bullenbeisser may be the direct ancestor of the Great Dane.  These reports indicate that The Bullenbeisser is composed of about 40% of the Great Dane’s  make-up.  According to Barbara Stein, “The breed originated in Germany, probably from a cross between the English mastiff and the Irish Wolfhound.”

Notice we made no mention of Denmakr.  So why are Great Dane’s called ‘Danes’?  What makes them Danish?

The Great Dane can be clearly traced back that this breed originated in Germany, not in Denmark as often mistaken by its Anglo Saxon name. In 1749 Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon used the name “le Grand Danois,” which means “Great Dane”. Up until that time the hound was referred to in England as ”Danish dog.”  However, according to Jacob Nicolay Wilse, the Danes called the dog “large hound,” a terminology continued well in to the 20th Century.  Many hypothesize, that, although the breed did not likely originate in Denmark, and most likely originated in Germany, the reason the name ‘Great Dane’ stuck in the English and French languages were for political reasons.  The English, French, and other cultures, simply did not want to credit Germany with the origin of the breed.

The reason why in Anglo Saxon and French speaking countries refer to the German Mastiff still as Great Dane are political reasons of historical issues especially during the unification of Germany by Prussia and Bismarck.  In Germany however, the breed was call the “Deutsche Dogge” (German Mastiff).  It was decided during the German Dog Exhibition in Hamburg Altona that the Germans should be united for naming the dog and they called it “Deutsche Dogge” (German Mastiff) at a time when Germany united and Prussia became a European Power in defeating France. Therefore it is clear that Britain and France did not want to call the dog ” Great German”.

The precursors of today’s Great Dane are the old “Bullenbeisser” as well as the so-called “Hatz- and Sauhunde” (hounds), which are a cross between the strong Mastiff of the English type and a fast and nimble Greyhound. At first, big and strong dogs that did not necessarily belong to a certain breed were considered as Danes. Later on, names like Ulmer Dane, English Dane, Danish Dane, “Saupacker” (wild boar hunt) and big Dane described the different sizes and colors of this type. In 1878 a committee of seven, consisting of committed breeders and judges with the chairman Dr Bodinus, decided in Berlin to unite all varieties of the above-mentioned types under the term “Deutsche Dogge” (German Dane, ie Great Dane). Through this the foundation for the first German dog breed was made. In 1880, on the occasion of a dog show in Berlin, a standard for the Great Dane was determined for the first time. Since 1888, the “Deutsche Doggen Club 1888 e.V.” is in charge of this standards and repeatedly modified it since. Today’s edition fulfills the demands of the F.C.I.

In August 2004, a Great Dane named “Gibson” from Grass Valley, California was recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s tallest dog, measuring 107 cm (42.2 in) at the withers.

Great Dane Appearance

The Great Dane is a large dog that combines nobility with robustness and power, swiftness, and elegance. It has a long narrow head with an accentuated frontal stop and a rather large nasal canal. Its neck is long and muscular and its front legs are perfectly straight. It has muscular thighs and round feet with short, dark nails. The Great Dane’s tail is medium-length, reaching to the point of the hock. Its eyes are round and usually dark – with a lively intelligent expression. Its ears are either cropped rather long, pointed, and carried erect, or left natural. Its well developed white teeth must close in a scissors bite. All Danes have short, thick, shiny, close-fitting hair. The color of the coat indicates the variety, fawn, brindle, black, blue, mantle harlequin and sometimes merle. Although not a recognized color, Great Danes sometimes have a chocolate color as a result of a recessive gene.  Merle is a common result of harlequin breeding, but it is not a recognized color.  Blue Great Danes sometimes have lighter eyes.

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. White markings at the chest and toes are not desirable and considered faults.
  • 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.
  • Mantle (in some countries referred to as Bostons due to the similar coloration & 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 dog shows, and they are not pursued by responsible breeders. These colors include white, fawnequin, merle, merlequin, fawn mantle, and others. These are sometimes advertised as “rare” colors to unsuspecting buyers.

Cropping of the ears is some what common in the United States, but much less so Europe. In some European countries such as the UK, Denmark, Germany, parts of Australia, and in New Zealand, the practice is banned, or controlled to only be performed by veterinary surgeons for health reasons. The original purpose of ear cropping was to cut the ears so that wolves and wild boar (often the objective of Great Dane hunts) would be unable to grab hold of the ear. Now, however, it is used for looks in showdogs or to protect the dog in case it gets in a fight with another dog.

Great Dane Temperament

The Great Dane is large and imposing.  But it is dignified, kind, sweet and affectionate.  It is best described as a gentle giant.  It is playful and good with children. They are not overly aggressive at all and are often thought of a gentle giant.  However, given their imposing size, stature, and loud bark, they can be trained to be excellent guard dogs.

Great Danes enjoy being around people. They don’t bark too much and only become aggressive when need be – such as in a guard dog situation.  The Great Dane’s size can strength can sometimes be problematic though.  Although they are very kind and not agressive at all around young children, if they get excited or happy, they can easily knock a young child over if they barrel by the young child or run to ‘greet’ the child.  Also, around Christmas time, it is not uncommon for the Great Dane’s powerful tail to break Christmas ornaments as it wags its tail excitedly in Christmas glee.   The Great Dane is steady and dependable. It is brave and loyal too. Because of its giant size and powerful body, it should be thoroughly trained when young so it will be well behaved and won’t cause problems once it is fully grown.

The Great Dane was bred to hunt wild boar and guard estates. They are generally friendly with other dogs and non-canine pets.  However, care must be taken if you have small pets such as hamsters or pet birds.   Great Danes can be protective and make good guard dogs.   They are robust, alert and agile when needed to be. Some Great Danes though can have dominance issues, and can be aggressive with other dogs, or chase small animals.

Great Dane Height, Weight

Height: Male 30-34 inches (76-86 cm.) Female 28-32 inches (71-81 cm.)
Weight: Male 120-200 pounds (54-90 kg.) Female 100-130 pounds (45-59 kg.)

Great Dane Health Problems

Be careful to buy from a conscientious breeder. Buy only from OFA certified stock. Great Danes are also prone to bloat, tumors, heart disease, and tail injuries.

Great Danes should not be jogged with until they are at least one year old.

Great Danes, like most large dogs, have a slow metabolism. This results in less energy and less food consumption per pound of dog than in smaller breeds.

Another potential problem to be aware of is hip dysplasia. Typically an x-ray of the parents can certify whether their hips are healthy and can serve as a guideline for whether the animals should be bred and are likely to have healthy pups.

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and many congenital heart diseases are also commonly found in the Great Dane.

Great Danes also suffer from several genetic disorders that are specific to the breed. For example, if a Great Dane lacks color (is white) near its eyes or ears then that organ does not develop and usually the dog will be either blind or deaf.

Great Dane Living Conditions

The Great Dane will do okay in an apartment if it is sufficiently exercised. It is relatively inactive indoors, but it will fare best with access to a back yard. Although Great Danes have a slow metabolism they need daily exercise.  At the very least, a daily long walk is ideal.  A common misconception is that they are slow and docile and don’t need walking; this is incorrect and in most cases Great Danes are full of energy and need regular walking.

Great Dane Life Expectancy

Great Danes are not known for their longevity.  The average lifespan is under 10 years, which is not particularly long for a dog.  Great Danes generally live 8-10 years, but with responsible breeding and improved nutrition they can live to be 12-14.

Great Dane Grooming

Great Dane’s smooth short-haired coats are easy to groom. Comb and brush the coat with a firm bristle brush and dry shampoo when necessary. Bathing this oversized breed is a large undertaking.  So be sure to try and groom the dog daily.  Nails must be kept trimmed. This breed is an average shedder.

Group
Mastiff, AKC Working

Recognition

CKC, FCI, AKC, UKC, KCGB, CKC, ANKC, NKC, NZKC, CCR, APRI, ACR

Below is the Official American Kennel Club Great Dane Breed Standard

General Appearance
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. It is always a unit-the Apollo of dogs. A Great Dane must be spirited, courageous, never timid; always friendly and dependable. This physical and mental combination is the characteristic which gives the Great Dane the majesty possessed by no other breed. It is particularly true of this breed that there is an impression of great masculinity in dogs, as compared to an impression of femininity in bitches. Lack of true Dane breed type, as defined in this standard, is a serious fault.

Size, Proportion, Substance
The male should appear more massive throughout than the bitch, with larger frame and heavier bone. In the ratio between length and height, the Great Dane should be square. In bitches, a somewhat longer body is permissible, providing she is well proportioned to her height. Coarseness or lack of substance are equally undesirable. The male shall not be less than 30 inches at the shoulders, but it is preferable that he be 32 inches or more, providing he is well proportioned to his height. The female shall not be less than 28 inches at the shoulders, but it is preferable that she be 30 inches or more, providing she is well proportioned to her height. Danes under minimum height must be disqualified.

Head
The head shall be rectangular, long, distinguished, expressive, finely chiseled, especially below the eyes. Seen from the side, the Dane’s forehead must be sharply set off from the bridge of the nose, (a strongly pronounced stop). The plane of the skull and the plane of the muzzle must be straight and parallel to one another. The skull plane under and to the inner point of the eye must slope without any bony protuberance in a smooth line to a full square jaw with a deep muzzle (fluttering lips are undesirable). The masculinity of the male is very pronounced in structural appearance of the head. The bitch’s head is more delicately formed. Seen from the top, the skull should have parallel sides and the bridge of the nose should be as broad as possible. The cheek muscles should not be prominent. The length from the tip of the nose to the center of the stop should be equal to the length from the center of the stop to the rear of the slightly developed occiput. The head should be angular from all sides and should have flat planes with dimensions in proportion to the size of the Dane. Whiskers may be trimmed or left natural. Eyes shall be medium size, deep set, and dark, with a lively intelligent expression. The eyelids are almond-shaped and relatively tight, with well developed brows. Haws and mongolian eyes are serious faults. In harlequins, the eyes should be dark; light colored eyes, eyes of different colors and walleyes are permitted but not desirable. Ears shall be high set, medium in size and of moderate thickness, folded forward close to the cheek. The top line of the folded ear should be level with the skull. If cropped, the ear length is in proportion to the size of the head and the ears are carried uniformly erect. Nose shall be black, except in the blue Dane, where it is a dark blue-black. A black spotted nose is permitted on the harlequin; a pink colored nose is not desirable. A split nose is a disqualification. Teeth shall be strong, well developed, clean and with full dentition. The incisors of the lower jaw touch very lightly the bottoms of the inner surface of the upper incisors (scissors bite). An undershot jaw is a very serious fault. Overshot or wry bites are serious faults. Even bites, misaligned or crowded incisors are minor faults.

Neck, Topline, Body
The neck shall be firm, high set, well arched, long and muscular. From the nape, it should gradually broaden and flow smoothly into the withers. The neck underline should be clean. Withers shall slope smoothly into a short level back with a broad loin. The chest shall be broad, deep and well muscled. The forechest should be well developed without a pronounced sternum. The brisket extends to the elbow, with well sprung ribs. The body underline should be tightly muscled with a well-defined tuck-up.

The croup should be broad and very slightly sloping. The tail should be set high and smoothly into the croup, but not quite level with the back, a continuation of the spine. The tail should be broad at the base, tapering uniformly down to the hock joint. At rest, the tail should fall straight. When excited or running, it may curve slightly, but never above the level of the back. A ring or hooked tail is a serious fault. A docked tail is a disqualification.

Forequarters
The forequarters, viewed from the side, shall be strong and muscular. The shoulder blade must be strong and sloping, forming, as near as possible, a right angle in its articulation with the upper arm. A line from the upper tip of the shoulder to the back of the elbow joint should be perpendicular. The ligaments and muscles holding the shoulder blade to the rib cage must be well developed, firm and securely attached to prevent loose shoulders. The shoulder blade and the upper arm should be the same length. The elbow should be one-half the distance from the withers to the ground. The strong pasterns should slope slightly. The feet should be round and compact with well-arched toes, neither toeing in, toeing out, nor rolling to the inside or outside. The nails should be short, strong and as dark as possible, except that they may be lighter in harlequins. Dewclaws may or may not be removed.

Hindquarters
The hindquarters shall be strong, broad, muscular and well angulated, with well let down hocks. Seen from the rear, the hock joints appear to be perfectly straight, turned neither toward the inside nor toward the outside. The rear feet should be round and compact, with well-arched toes, neither toeing in nor out. The nails should be short, strong and as dark as possible, except they may be lighter in harlequins. Wolf claws are a serious fault.

Coat
The coat shall be short, thick and clean with a smooth glossy appearance.

Color, Markings and Patterns
Brindle–The base color shall be yellow gold and always brindled with strong black cross stripes in a chevron pattern. A black mask is preferred. Black should appear on the eye rims and eyebrows, and may appear on the ears and tail tip. The more intensive the base color and the more distinct and even the brindling, the more preferred will be the color. Too much or too little brindling are equally undesirable. White markings at the chest and toes, black-fronted, dirty colored brindles are not desirable.

Fawn–The color shall be yellow gold with a black mask. Black should appear on the eye rims and eyebrows, and may appear on the ears and tail tip. The deep yellow gold must always be given the preference. White markings at the chest and toes, black-fronted dirty colored fawns are not desirable.

Blue–The color shall be a pure steel blue. White markings at the chest and toes are not desirable.

Black–The color shall be a glossy black. White markings at the chest and toes are not desirable.

Harlequin–Base color shall be 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 gray patches, or a white base with single black hairs showing through, which tend to give a salt and pepper or dirty effect.

Mantle–The color shall be black and white with a solid black blanket extending over the body; black skull with white muzzle; white blaze is optional; whole white collar is preferred; a white chest; white on part or whole of forelegs and hind legs; white tipped black tail. A small white marking in the blanket is acceptable, as is a break in the white collar.

Any variance in color or markings as described above shall be faulted to the extent of the deviation. Any Great Dane which does not fall within the above color classifications must be disqualified.

Gait
The gait denotes strength and power with long, easy strides resulting in no tossing, rolling or bouncing of the topline or body. The backline shall appear level and parallel to the ground. The long reach should strike the ground below the nose while the head is carried forward. The powerful rear drive should be balanced to the reach. As speed increases, there is a natural tendency for the legs to converge toward the centerline of balance beneath the body. There should be no twisting in or out at the elbow or hock joints.

Temperament
The Great Dane must be spirited, courageous, always friendly and dependable, and never timid or aggressive.

Disqualifications
Danes under minimum height.
Split nose. Docked Tail.
Any color other than those described under “Color, Markings and Patterns.”

Approved March 8, 1999
Effective April 28, 1999

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