The Great Dane is a large breed of dog originally bred in Germany for hunting boar and bears.
Around the middle of the sixteenth century the nobility from many countries across Europe imported strong long-legged dogs from England. They were hybrid dogs of different sizes with no formal breed, these dogs were called Englische Docke or Englische Tocke, later spelled and written as Englische Dogge or Englische Hund in Germany, which meant English dog.
These dogs were bred in the courts of German nobility, independent of the English methods since the start of the seventeenth century. They were used for hunting bears, boar and deer at the princely courts, with the favourite dogs staying in the bed chambers of their lords, helping to protect the Princes from assassins.
When hunting boar or bears the Englische dog was a catch dog, used after the other hunting dogs, to seize the boar or bear and hold it in place for the huntsman to kill. With the invention of firearms, many of this type of dog disappeared, no longer needed the Englische dog became rare, kept only as a dog of hobby or luxury.
In 1878, a committee was formed in Berlin, which changed the name of the Englische Dogge to the Deutsche Dogge, this being the Great Dane, laying the foundation from which the modern breed was developed. Some German breeders tried to introduce the names German Dogge and German Mastiff on to the English market because they believed the breed should be marketed as a luxury dog not as a working dog, however due to increased tensions between Germany and other countries, the dog began to be referred to as the Great Dane.
The Great Dane is known for its large size, the record for the tallest dog ever 111.8cm (46in) from paw to shoulder is held by a Great Dane called Zeus, who unfortunately died in September 2014 aged 5. The tallest living dog is another Great Dane called Freddy who stands 103.5cm (40.7in).
In the ratio between length and height the Great Dane should be square. According to the standard a male dog should not be less than 76cm (30in) at the shoulders and females 71cm (28in), Great Danes under the minimum height are disqualified from shows.
A fully grown Great Dane male should weigh at least 120lb (54kg) and females 100lb (45kg), the male should appear bigger than the female, with a larger frame and heavier bones.
Great Danes have floppy triangular ears, which were often cropped to prevent injuries during the hunt, now that Great Danes are kept primarily as companion dogs cropping is only performed for cosmetic reasons.
According to the breed standards the Great Dane as five to six acceptable coat colours.
Fawn, which is a yellowy gold coat with a black mask, black should appear on the eye rims, eye brows and sometimes the ears.
Brindle, which is fawn and black in a chevron stripe pattern.
Black, a glossy black all over, occasionally with white markings on the chest and toes, though these are considered to be faults.
Harlequin, the base colour is white with black torn patches well distributed over the entire body.
Mantle, black and white with a solid black blanket extending over the whole body, a black skull with a white muzzle.
Blue, a pure steel blue, sometimes with white markings on the chest and feet.
The Great Dane is a friendly dog despite its imposing appearance, which loves physical attention from its owners. A gentle and loving dog, with proper care and training the Great Dane is great around children, especially if raised together.
Like all dogs, Great Danes require daily walks to maintain their health, although it is important not to over exercise them, especially when young. Great Dane puppies grow very large, very quickly which puts them at risk of joint and bone problems.
Given their size, Great Danes continue to grow longer than most dogs, it can take up to eighteen months to become fully grown.
Great Danes like most large dogs, have a fairly slow metabolism, this can result in less energy and food consumption compared to smaller breeds. A common problem among Great Danes is bloat, to help to avoid this, a rest period of forty minutes to a hour after meals is recommended, before any exercise.
The average lifespan is 6 to 8 yrs, however some Great Danes have lived for 10 yrs and over.