Great Dane
Other names
  • German Mastiff
  • German Boarhound
  • Deutsche Dogge
  • Grand Danois
Height Males 76–90 cm (30–35 in)
Females 71–84 cm (28–33 in)
Weight 50–82 kg (110–180 lb)
Life span 6 years
Kennel club standards
VDH standard
Fédération Cynologique Internationale standard
Dog (domestic dog)

The Great Dane is a German breed of large mastiff-sighthound, which descends from hunting dogs of the Middle Ages used to hunt bears, wild boar, and deer. They were also used as guardian dogs of German nobility. It is one of the two largest dog breeds in the world, along with the Irish Wolfhound.[1][2][3]


Wall painting fragments with a representation of a wild boar hunt. From the later Tiryns palace (National Archaeological Museum of Athens)


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 English Mastiffs and Irish Wolfhounds. They were dog hybrids in different sizes and phenotypes with no formal breed.[4] 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". Since then, the English word "dog" has come to be associated with a molossoid dog in Germany[5] and France.[6] These dogs were bred in the courts of German nobility, independent of the English methods, since the start of the 17th century.[7][8]

The dogs were used for hunting bear, boar, and deer at princely courts, with the favorites staying in the bedchambers of their lords at night . These Kammerhunde (chamber dogs) were outfitted with ornate collars, and helped to protect the sleeping princes from assassins.[9][10]

While hunting boar or bears, the Englische Dogge was a catch dog used after the other hunting dogs to seize the bear or boar and hold it in place until the huntsman was able to kill 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.

In Austria and Germany the Molossian hound, the Suliot dog and other imports from Greece were used in the 18th century to increase the stature of the boarhounds.[11][12][13][14][15][16]

Name change

In 1878, a committee was formed in Berlin which changed the name of the "Englische Dogge" (English mastiff derivatives) to "Deutsche Dogge" (German mastiff), this being the Great Dane. This laid the foundations from which the breed was developed.[17] During the 19th century, the dog was known as a "German boarhound" in English-speaking countries.[18] 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.[7] However, due to the increasing Geopolitical tensions between Germany and France and Britain, the dog later became referred to as a "Great Dane", a literal translation from the new name given to it by the French, Grand Danois,[19] even though the breed has no known connection to Denmark. In Germany, it remains known as "Deutsche Dogge."[20] In the Scandinavian languages, the French name and pronunciation are used.


Fawn Great Dane (female)
Brindle Great Dane (male)

The Great Dane is an extremely large domestic dog of mastiff-sighthound type known for its big size. It is often dubbed the "Apollo of dogs".[21][22]

As described by the American Kennel Club:

The Great Dane combines, in its regal appearance, strength, and elegance with great size and a powerful, well-formed, smoothly muscled body. It is one of the giant working breeds, but is unique in that its general conformation must be so well balanced that it never appears clumsy, and shall move with a long reach and powerful drive.[21] The Great Dane is a short-haired breed with a strong, galloping figure.[23]

In the ratio between length and height, the Great Dane should be square. The male dog should not be less than 30 in (76 cm) at the shoulders, a female 28 in (71 cm). Danes under minimum height are disqualified.[21] Over the years, the tallest living dog has typically been a Great Dane. Previous record holders include Gibson, Titan, and George; however, the current record holder is a black Great Dane named Zeus that stood 111.8 cm (44.0 in) at the shoulder before his death in September 2014.[24] He was also the tallest dog on record (according to Guinness World Records),[24] beating the previous holder, the aforementioned George that stood 109.2 cm (43.0 in) at the shoulder.[25]

The minimum weight for a Great Dane over 18 months of age, is 120 lb (54 kg) for males, 100 lb (45 kg) for females.[23][26] Interestingly, the American Kennel Club dropped the minimum weight requirement from its standard.[27] The male should appear more massive throughout than the female, with a larger frame and heavier bone.[21]

Great Danes have naturally floppy, triangular ears. In the past, when Great Danes were commonly used to hunt boars, cropping of the ears was performed to make injuries to the dogs' ears less likely during hunts. Now that Danes are primarily companion animals, cropping is sometimes still done for traditional and cosmetic reasons. In the 1930s when Great Danes had their ears cropped, after the surgery, two devices called Easter bonnets were fitted to their ears to make them stand up.[28] Today, the practice is still common in the United States, but much less common in Europe. In some European countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, and Germany, and parts of Australia and New Zealand, the practice is banned or controlled to only be performed by veterinary surgeons.


Blue Great Dane
Black Great Dane puppy with cropped ears
Harlequin Great Dane with cropped ears
Grey merle Great Dane

According to the breed standard, Great Danes have six to seven (depending on the standard) show-acceptable coat colours:[21][29]

Other colours occur occasionally, but are not acceptable for conformation showing and they are not pursued by breeders who intend to breed show dogs. These colours include white, piebald, chocolate, smoky fawn or buckskin, reverse brindle or onyx, blue fawn, blue harlequin or porcelain, mantled fawn, mantled brindle, mantled blue, various merles other than grey merle (fawn merle, brindle merle, blue merle, mantled merle, chocolate merle, silver merle or platinum merle and tri-coloured merle), fawnequin, brindlequin and merlequin. The white Great Dane colour is typically associated with vision and hearing impairment, as well as skin cancers.[35]


The Great Dane's large and imposing appearance belies its outgoing and friendly nature that can make it a loving, devoted addition to any home. With proper supervision,[36][37] they are known for seeking physical affection from their owners or non-owners that they know well. The breed is often referred to as a "gentle giant".[21][38]

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.[39] With proper care and training, they are great around children, especially when 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).[40]


Great Danes, like most giant dogs, have a fast metabolism. This results in more energy and food consumption per pound of dog than in small breeds. They have some health problems that are common to large breeds, including bloat (gastric dilatation volvulus).[41]

Nutrition plays a role in this breed's health. Bloat, or gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), is the greatest killer of Great Danes.[41] To avoid bloat, a rest period of 40 minutes to one hour after meals is recommended before exercise.[42]

The average lifespan is 6 years,[43][44] with some reaching the age of 14 years.[43]

Dilated cardiomyopathy and many congenital heart diseases are also commonly found in the Great Dane, leading to its nickname: the heartbreak breed, in conjunction with its shorter lifespan. Great Danes also may carry the merle gene, which is part of the genetic makeup that creates the harlequin coloring.[45] The merle gene is an incomplete dominant, meaning only one copy of the gene is needed to show the merle coloring; two merle genes produce excessive white markings and many health issues such as deafness, blindness, or other debilitating ocular issues. Great Danes can also develop wobbler disease, a condition affecting the vertebral column. Since these dogs grow at a rapid rate, the bones in their vertebrae can push up against the spinal cord and cause weakness in the legs. This can be treated with surgery or may heal itself over time.[46]

Like many larger breeds, Great Danes are at particular risk for hip dysplasia.[citation needed]

Cultural significance

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Harlequin Great Dane (male)






See also


  1. ^ Becker, Frederick (1905). The Great Dane: Embodying a Full Exposition of the History, Breeding Principles, Education, and Present State of the Breed. Read Books. ISBN 1-905124-85-6.
  2. ^ "Great Dane Dog Breed Information". American Kennel Club. Retrieved 16 April 2022.
  3. ^ Top 11 heaviest dog breeds
  4. ^ Ludwig Beckmann (1895). Geschichte und Beschreibung der Rassen des Hundes, Volume 1, p. 6 (in German)
  5. ^ The German standard term for "dog" is Hund; the term Dogge is only in use for dogs of the mastiff type.
  6. ^ The French standard term for "dog" is chien; the term dogue is only used for dogs of the mastiff type.
  7. ^ a b Ludwig Beckmann. Geschichte und Beschreibung der Rassen des Hundes, Volume 1, 1895, p. 7 (German)
  8. ^ Johann Täntzer. "Von den Englischen Hunden" ["On the English dogs"]. In Jagdbuch oder der Dianen hohe und niedrige Jagdgeheimnisse [Hunting-book, or Diana's high and low hunting secrets], Copenhagen, 1682 (in German): "Jetziger Zeit werden solche Hunde jung an Herrenhöfen erzogen, und gar nicht aus England geholet." English translation: "Today such dogs are bred at noblemen's courts, and not at all obtained from England." Cited in Ludwig Beckmann (1895). Geschichte und Beschreibung der Rassen des Hundes [History and description of the breeds of dogs], Vol. 1, p. 7
  9. ^ Johann Täntzer (1682). "Von den Englischen Hunden" ["On the English dogs"]. In Jagdbuch oder der Dianen hohe und niedrige Jagdgeheimnisse [Hunting-book, or, Diana's high and low hunting secrets], Copenhagen. Cited in Ludwig Beckmann (1895). Geschichte und Beschreibung der Rassen des Hundes [History and description of the breeds of dogs], Volume 1, 1895, p. 9
  10. ^ Johann Friedrich von Flemming (1719). "Von denen Englischen Docken" ["On the English mastiffs"]. Der vollkommene teutsche Jäger [The complete German hunter]. Leipzig. Volume 1, p. 169. Archived 6 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine. "... such a chamber-hound is mostly put about with a strong leather collar covered with green velvet, on which there are silver letters or the master's name or arms. ... Such body-dogs are also assigned beautiful collars of red or green plush with brass letters."
  11. ^ Jardine, William (1 January 1840). The Naturalist's Library. Lizards. Archived from the original on 7 December 2017. Retrieved 21 February 2016 – via Google Books.
  12. ^ Hancock, David. "Putting Dogs Before Breeds". Charwynne Dog Features. David Hancock. Archived from the original on 31 March 2017. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  13. ^ Hancock, David. "Hunting Down the Mastiffs of England". Charwynne Dog Features. David Hancock. Archived from the original on 19 November 2015. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  14. ^ Hancock, David. "Great Danes — Giant Hounds...Or What?". Charwynne Dog Features. David Hancock. Archived from the original on 24 July 2017. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  15. ^ Carleton, John William (1839). The Sporting review, ed. by 'Craven'. p. 203. suliot dog.
  16. ^ Morris, Desmond. Dogs – The Ultimate Dictionary of Over 1,000 Dog Breeds. Ebury Press, 2001. ISBN 0-09-187091-7. Page 618.
  17. ^ "FCI Breed Standard Great Dane 2012" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  18. ^ S. William Haas (2003). Great Dane: A Comprehensive Guide to Owning and Caring for Your Dog (Series: Comprehensive Owner's Guide), Kennel Club Books, 2003, p. 13
  19. ^ Sève, Jacques de; Buvée; Lottré; Tardieu, Pierre François; Baquoy, Jean-Charles; Moitte, Pierre-Étienne; Leclerc, Georges-Louis (1755). "Le Grande Danois". Illustrations de Histoire naturelle générale et particulière avec la description du cabinet du roy (in French). Vol. 5. Paris: L'Imprimerie Royale. Pl. XXVI; p. 300. Archived from the original on 22 February 2015 – via Gallica.
  20. ^ "Great Dane". Encyclopædia Britannica. 28 April 2023. Retrieved 15 June 2023.
  21. ^ a b c d e f "Great Dane Breed Standard". American Kennel Club. 1999. Archived from the original on 3 May 2005.
  22. ^ Becker, The Great Dane – Embodying a Full Exposition of the History, Breeding Principles, Education, and Present State of the Breed (a Vintage Dog Books Breed Classic): Embodying a Full Exposition the History, Breeding Principles, Education, and Present State of the Breed Archived 27 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine, Published by READ BOOKS, 2005, ISBN 1-905124-43-0.
  23. ^ a b "The Home for Dog Owners and Those Working with Dogs: The Kennel Club". Archived from the original on 15 May 2007.
  24. ^ a b "Zeus, the world's tallest dog passes away at the age of 5". Guinness World Records. Archived from the original on 12 March 2016.
  25. ^ "Giant George, Guinness World Record, Tallest Dog – giantgeorge". Archived from the original on 12 March 2016.
  26. ^ "Dogs New Zealand -". Archived from the original on 28 June 2011. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  27. ^ Cunliffe, Juliette (2005). The Complete Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. UK: Parragon Publishing. ISBN 1-4054-4389-8.
  28. ^ "Popular Mechanics". Hearst Magazines. 5 December 1934. Archived from the original on 15 February 2022. Retrieved 27 October 2021 – via Google Books.
  29. ^ FCI Breed Standard N° 235 Great Dane (Deutsche Dogge) Archived 6 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine (PDF)
  30. ^ "Official Standard of the Great Dane" (PDF). American Kennel Club. 9 July 2018. Retrieved 11 March 2022.
  31. ^ a b Circular 67/2013 of the FCI, 23/12/2013 Archived 7 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine (PDF)
  32. ^ "F.C.I. Standard N° 235, P. 7" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 25 October 2017. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  33. ^ Tapio, Marjo (25 February 2019). "Great Dane Standard FCI" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  34. ^ MOIZ (12 September 2023). "The Majestic Blue Brindle Great Dane". Pet Reck. Retrieved 21 September 2023.
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  36. ^ Sam (26 December 2022). "All About Great Dane - Pet Paradise". Retrieved 26 December 2022.
  37. ^ Ali, Sagheer (26 December 2022). "ALL ABOUT GREAT DANE". Pet Paradise.
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