The Great Dane dog breed is arguably the tallest breed around, one of these dogs measuring 44 inches at the withers, and holding the world record for height. Originally known as Deutsche Dogge in the country of their origin, and called German Mastiff by others, these dogs could hunt big game, thanks to their speed, strength, and courage. They were used for hunting wild boar in particular, and were also called boarhounds.
These dogs make great companions and family dogs because of their affectionate nature. Being mild-mannered with moderate exercise needs, they are not difficult to maintain.
The Great Dane dog breed originated in Germany, but there’s evidence that large dogs of this type has been around in Egypt as far back as 3,000BC. The Molossian hounds of ancient Greece and some Scandinavian dogs of 5th century AD had very similar stature as that of the Great Dane. A combination of the Molossian hounds and Greyhounds might have resulted in this large breed sometime in the 14th century and was referred to as the German Boarhounds by the English.
These dogs were originally hunting dogs as they had plenty of courage and stamina to hunt wild boars and other bigger game. But they found favor with the European aristocracy in the 17th and 18th centuries because of their massive and imposing appearance which added to the status of the people who owned them.
These dogs were introduced to the United States towards the end of the 19th century. There was an attempt by the German authorities to make Deutsche Dogge the official name of the dog, but the anti-German sentiment during the World Wars undermined it. How they came to be officially known as Great Dane is not clear, but they have no Danish ancestry to speak of.
These very large dogs typically measure not less than 30 inches at the withers, and weigh 120 pounds or more, even though females usually have a smaller and lighter build. The short-haired coat shows off their smooth, muscular body to advantage. The coat colors and patterns vary considerably, including, fawn, black and blue colors and, brindle, harlequin, and mantle patterns.
Great Danes have triangular folded ears, but those used in boar hunting always had their ears cropped. This practice is continued in some countries for aesthetic reasons, as the cropped ears are then trained to stand erect, giving the dogs a more alert look. But many other countries such as Germany, Australia and the United Kingdom have banned ear cropping. The tail is thin and long.
These dogs are courageous and dependable as might be expected from dogs of this stature, but what is surprising is that they are unexpectedly gentle and extremely friendly. They get along very well with people, kids and other pet animals. However, because of their large size, they can be quite intimidating, especially for small children. Also, unless socialized well from early on, these dogs can react aggressively around strange people and unfamiliar circumstances.
These dogs are very affectionate and show their attachment to their owners by leaning on them, or even sitting on them, making them the biggest lapdogs.
Grooming and exercise
The short coat of the Great Dane dog breed is quite easy to maintain as it requires only an occasional light brushing. However, these dogs may need a bit of cleaning up, as they drool a lot.
The exercise needs of these dogs can be met with 2-3 brisk walks every day. Free access to a protected yard is ideal for this dog to spend time in during the day. But they are not a breed for outdoor living. They have to be housed indoors with the family at night.
Common health issues of Great Dane dog breed
The Great Dane dog breed is a robust breed with very few health problems. However, this breed is affected by several heart disorders, including cardiomyopathy, earning the epithet ‘Heartbreak breed,’ which also refers to its short life span of 6-8 years. They are prone to gastric torsion and hip dysplasia as well as osteosarcoma, a cancer that kills many of them. Being a fast-growing giant breed, Great Danes have certain skeletal disorders such as Hypertrophic osteodystrophy and Wobbler’s syndrome. Regular health checkups and timely medical intervention may help these gentle giants lead a long and healthy life.