The Great Dane: Majestic, Sweet and Noble
by Marjorie Dorfman
Where does this regal breed known as the "Apollo of all dogs" come from and why isnt it Denmark? In what ways are Great Danes unique from other large working breeds of dogs? Read on for some interesting facts about a very dignified and sweet creature.
No one can say for sure where these great dogs originated, but there are several theories, the oldest of which dates back to ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Incised on some Greek money dating back to 36 BC is the image of a dog that greatly resembles the Great Dane of today.
Several sources claim that the Great Dane was developed from the medieval boarhound and other Mastiff and Irish wolfhound bloodlines, which would make the breed more than 400 years old. An Asiatic people known as the Alans invaded German Gaul and parts of Italy and Spain in 407 AD. They brought with them mastiff-like dogs. A process of selective breeding began in Germany where these powerful dogs that could stand up to boars and bears were very much admired. When crossed with Irish greyhounds, the resulting dog was the animal that is known today as the Great Dane.
Having nothing at all to do with Denmark, how this fine creature got its name is an enduring mystery. The Danish influence on the breed was present but certainly minor, and according to the best guesses of breed historians, many German dogs were exported to Denmark, where they were in turn sent all around the world labeled as Grand Danios or Great Danes. Although these hounds were highly prized, it is believed that it was King Christian VI, ruler from 1730-1746, who sent some of these dogs from his royal kennels to England where the name took root. To this day, the issue sparks debate, for German enthusiasts still insist the Great Dane should be referred to as "Deutsche dogge".
The Great Dane is the largest of hunting dogs and although a working breed, it is known for its elegance, dignity, strength and regal appearance. It is unique in that its conformation must be so well balanced as to never appear clumsy, and it moves with an unparalleled grace and long stride. Great Danes are known for their sweet and friendly temperaments, but they are also spirited and very courageous in the face of danger. Their physical prowess coupled with their mental predisposition renders them a majesty that no other breed of dog in the world possesses.
They are playful dogs, very patient with children and need to be surrounded by those that love them. They are not barkers, per se, but they do make good watchdogs and are known to be aggressive when the circumstances require it. Because of their giant size, these dogs need to be trained when they are young, especially not to lean against people. Same sex dogs are sometimes aggressive, but usually get along well if raised from puppy-hood.
There are six show-acceptable coat colors for Great Danes. These include: fawn, brindle, blue, black, harlequin and grey/merle. The head on the Great Dane is rectangular and finely chiseled, and the nose is always black. Eyes are deep-set and very dark with a lively, intelligent expression. Ears are of moderate thickness and high set, folding forward and close to the cheek. A Great Danes neck is always firm, well arched, long and muscular and the tail is broad at the base, tapering uniformly down to the hock joint. The coat is short and thick rendering a smooth and glossy appearance. The average life expectancy of a Great Dane is ten years.
Great Danes are prone to very specific health problems that are common among the larger breeds including Bloat, congenital heart disease and hip dysplasia. They are well worth the care and attention they deserve and require.
Do YOU have what it takes to provide a home for a Great Dane?
Did you know . . .?
See these related articles:
Living With Animals: A Wonderful Madness
Try Greyhound And Leave The Lovin To Us!
The Miniature Italian Greyhound: La Dolce Dog
The Kerry Blue and The Water Spaniel: Two Irish Treats!
Erin Go Woof: The Story of The Irish Setter
A must see for dog training equipment:
Sport, schutzhund, police, military and enthusiasts. Trusted dog training equipment brands. Highest quality and affordable.
For all lovers of the Great Dane:
Great Danes of Today
by Beryl Lee Booker
A very scarce early work on the Great Dane which is both expensive and hard to find in its first edition. Vintage Dog Books have republished it as a Breed Classic, using the original text and photographs, and it is a must have for all lovers of the breed. This is a fascinating read for any Great Dane enthusiast or historian of the breed, but also contains much information that is still useful and practical.