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The Great Dane hails from Germany and is a massive, yet graceful, dog breed1. Over 400 years ago, German nobles bred them to help hunt and guard estates2. These nobles used them for big game hunting, like taking down bears and wild boars, impressing with their strength and courage2.

In the 18th century, Great Danes were highly valued as estate and carriage protectors2. They were also the top choice among the upper class for hunting sport due to their unmatched ability to tackle big wild animals2. As time went on, their role shifted from hunting to being adored family pets. Today, they are cherished for being both friendly and gentle, despite their imposing size2.

Key Takeaways

  • The Great Dane is a massive, mastiff-sighthound type dog that originated in Germany over 400 years ago.
  • These dogs were bred by German nobility to hunt bears, wild boar, and deer, as well as serve as guardians of country estates.
  • In the 18th century, Great Danes were prestigious guardians of estates and carriages, and were popular among the upper class for sport.
  • The modern Great Dane breed was developed in the 1800s and has become a beloved family pet known for its gentle, affectionate nature.
  • Great Danes are no longer used for hunting, but they continue to captivate with their awe-inspiring presence and gentle demeanor.

Origins and Ancestry

The Great Dane comes from large hunting dogs created in the Middle Ages in Germany. They were used for hunting bears, boar, and deer. Originally called “Englische Docke,” or “English dogs,” they got their start in England and Ireland.3 The German nobility later bred them, calling them “Kammerhunde” or “chamber dogs.” They were respected, serving as elite companions and protectors.3

Hunting Dogs of the Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, giant dogs were key for hunting across England, Germany, and more.3 Bred to be brave and strong, these dogs helped hunt bears and wild boar. The German nobility greatly valued them for their hunting prowess.3

Evolution from Mastiff and Sighthound Breeds

The Great Dane was shaped by mixing various breeds like the Irish greyhound and Mastins.3 This breeding gave the Great Dane its huge size, power, and hunting skills. The German nobility prized these traits and found the breed appealing.3

Guardians of German Nobility

As hunting changed, the need for certain dogs lessened. Yet, the Great Dane continued to be valuable, symbolizing luxury and status.3 The German nobility cherished these large dogs for their estates. As companions and protectors, they were highly esteemed by the nobles.3

Great Danes: The Gentle Giants

Great Danes are known as the “Apollo of dogs” because of their princely looks and gentle nature. They stand as tall as 35 inches and can weigh up to 180 pounds. Despite their large size, they are friendly and caring.4 Great Danes are great with families, showing love and loyalty.5

The Apollo of Dogs

Their body is square, their neck is long, and their head is shaped like a rectangle.4 Originally, they were hunters and guards, but now they’re cherished pets for their peaceful ways.5

Breed Characteristics and Temperament

Great Danes are huge, yet known for their kind nature, which makes them perfect family pets.4 They’re famous for being both calm and faithful, earning them the name “gentle giants.”5

gentle giants

Breed Development and Standardization

In the 19th century, traditional hunting methods for the Great Dane faded. People then worked to make it a unique breed for Germany. In 1878, a Berlin committee switched the name from “Englische Dogge” to “Deutsche Dogge.” This named the German Mastiff as the Great Dane, starting its journey as a distinct breed. Efforts to sell it as the “German Dogge” in England failed, and the name “Great Dane” stuck. Surprisingly, this name choice had no connection to Denmark, though the breed is now globally known by it.6

Establishing the Breed Standard

In 1881, the German club created the first standard for the breed. Just eight years later, the Great Dane Club of America was founded. This step helped make the Great Dane renowned, and its standards were set by German breeders. They laid down guidelines necessary for developing and standardizing the breed. This process was a vital beginning for regulating the Great Dane’s features and traits.6


Great Danes

Physical Appearance and Size

Great Danes stand out for their huge size. Males can be 30-35 inches tall and weigh 110-180 pounds. Females are a bit smaller, standing 28-33 inches and weighing 100-120 pounds.7 They are often called “the Apollo of dogs” because they look so majestic and elegant.

Colors and Markings

These dogs have a short, sleek coat. It comes in many colors like fawn, brindle, and black. You’ll also see unique patterns such as harlequin, mantle, and blue.7 This variety makes them even more beautiful to look at.

Health Considerations

Great Danes may face some health challenges because of their size. This includes conditions like bloat and heart disease. They can also have issues with their bones, such as hip dysplasia.7 Yet, reputable breeders are committed to tackling these problems. Their efforts help make the breed healthier, with an average life span of 10.6 years.7

Physical traits


The Great Dane is a majestic breed with a long history. They were first bred in Germany to hunt and protect. Now, they are known for being friendly and calm, despite being very large.8 With strong breeding and caring owners, their look and nature have been kept royal.

Great Danes are still impressive and loving dogs, often called the “Apollo of dogs.”8 They may face health issues like bloat and heart problems, but they’re deeply loved for their friendly and loyal nature. With coats in colors like fawn and black, they really stand out.8

Their role as symbols of strength and elegance will always be remembered. These big yet loving dogs are essential parts of many families worldwide.

Source Links

  1. https://www.hillspet.com/dog-care/dog-breeds/great-dane
  2. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/dog-breeds/great-dane-history-the-apollo-of-the-dogs/
  3. http://www.creeddanes.ch/en/the-breed/
  4. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/8-facts-about-great-danes/
  5. https://www.gentlegiantsrescue-great-danes.com/great-dane-videos.htm
  6. https://www.ukcdogs.com/great-dane
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Dane
  8. https://blog.tryfi.com/great-danes-history-impact/

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