The Great Dane is a large dog breed 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 world record holder for tallest dog was a Great Dane called Zeus (November 22, 2008 – September 3, 2014), who measured 112 cm (44 in) from paw to shoulder. Their large size belies their friendly nature, as Great Danes are known for seeking physical affection with their owners.
History[edit | edit source]
Dogs resembling the Great Dane have been seen on Egyptian monuments dating back to 3,000 BC.
Extremely large boarhounds resembling the Great Dane appear in ancient Greece; in frescoes from Tiryns dating back to 14th–13th centuries BC. The large boarhound or Molossian hound continues to appear throughout ancient Greece in subsequent centuries right up to the Hellenistic era. The Molossian hound, the Suliot dog and specific imports from Greece were used in the 18th century to increase the stature of the boarhounds in Austria and Germany and the wolfhounds in Ireland.
Bigger dogs are depicted on numerous runestones in Scandinavia, on coinage in Denmark from the 5th century AD 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 BC going forward through to the year 1000 AD.
Hunting Dog[edit | edit source]
In the middle of the 16th Century, the nobility in many countries of Europe imported strong, long-legged dogs from England, which were descended from crossbreeds between the English Mastiff and the Irish Wolfhound. They were dog hybrids in different sizes and phenotypes with no formal breed. These dogs were called Englische Docke or Englische Tocke - later written and spelled: Dogge - or Englischer Hund in Germany. The name simply meant "English dog". After time, the English word "dog" came to be the term for a molossoid dog in Germany and in France.
Since the beginning of the 17th Century, these dogs were bred in the courts of German nobility, independently of England.
The dogs were used for hunting bear, boar and deer at princely courts, with the favorites staying at night in the bedchambers of their lords. These Kammerhunde (chamber dogs) were outfitted with gilded collars, and helped protect the sleeping princes against assassins.
During the hunt for boar or bears, the Englische Dogge was used after the other hunting dogs to seize the bear or boar and hold the animal in place until the huntsman killed it. When the hunting customs changed, particularly because of the use of firearms, many of the involved dog types disappeared. The Englische Dogge became rare, and was kept only as a dog of hobby or luxury.
Name Change[edit | edit source]
In the 19th century, the dog was known as a "German boarhound" in English speaking countries. Some German breeders tried to introduce the names "German Dogge" and "German Mastiff" on the English market, because they believed the breed should be marketed as a dog of luxury and not as a working dog. However, due to the increasing tensions between Germany and other countries, the dog later became referred to as a "Great Dane", after the grand danois in Buffon's Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière in 1755.
Breed Description[edit | edit source]
Coat and Colors[edit | edit source]
There are three colour varieties with five to six (depending on the standard) show-acceptable coat colors for Great Danes:
- Fawn and Brindle
- 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 stripe pattern.
- Harlequin and Black
- 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.
- Grey merle (Grautiger) dogs are acceptable in conformation shows under the F.C.I. as the grey merle dogs can produce correctly marked black/white harlequin dogs, depending on the combinations. The aim for deleting the color grey merle as a disqualifying fault is to provide a wider gene pool. Their status is that they are "neither desirable nor to be disqualified". Consequently this color must never obtain the highest grading at dog shows.
- 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.
- Blue: The color is a pure steel blue. White markings at the chest and toes are not desirable and considered faults.
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.. The breeding of harlequin, merle and especially white (homozygous merle) Great Danes is controversial, as these colors are associated with the merle gene. In some European countries, such as Germany, the mating of two merle specimens is forbidden by animal protection laws, because this will produce a litter of puppies with a quarter of "double merles", which are often deaf or blind.
Temperament 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."