|Dog (domestic dog)|
The Great Dane is a large sized dog breed originating from Germany. The Great Dane descends from hunting dogs from the Middle Ages used to hunt wild boar and deer, and which were also used as guardians of German nobility. It is one of the two largest dog breeds in the world, along with the Irish Wolfhound.
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. 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 and France. These dogs were bred in the courts of German nobility, independent of the English methods, since the start of the 17th century.
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.
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.
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. During the 19th century, the dog was known as a "German boarhound" in English-speaking countries. 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. However, due to the increasing tensions between Germany and other countries, the dog later became referred to as a "Great Dane", a literal translation of a name used for it in French, "Grand Danois", even though the breed has no known connection to Denmark. In Germany, it remains known as "Deutsche Dogge." In the Scandinavian languages, the French name and pronunciation are used.
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".
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. The Great Dane is a short-haired breed with a strong, galloping figure.
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. 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. He was also the tallest dog on record (according to Guinness World Records), beating the previous holder, the aforementioned George that stood 109.2 cm (43.0 in) at the shoulder.
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. Interestingly, the American Kennel Club dropped the minimum weight requirement from its standard. The male should appear more massive throughout than the female, with a larger frame and heavier bone.
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. 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.
According to the breed-standard, Great Danes have five to six (depending on the standard) show-acceptable coat colours:
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 brindle, blue harlequin or porcelain, mantled fawn, mantled brindle, mantled blue, various merles (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.
The Great Dane's large and imposing appearance belies its friendly nature that can make it a loving, devoted addition to any home. With proper supervision, they are known for seeking physical affection from their owners. The breed is often referred to as a "gentle giant".
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. 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).
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).
Nutrition plays a role in this breed's health. Bloat, or gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), is the greatest killer of Great Danes. To avoid bloat, a rest period of 40 minutes to one hour after meals is recommended before exercise. Their average lifespan is 8 to 10 years; however, some Great Danes have been known to reach 12 years of age or more. Like many larger breeds, Great Danes are at particular risk for hip dysplasia.
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. 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.
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There are some health concerns with certain Danes due to recessive genes and some coat colors are a result of these genes. For instance, genetically white Great Danes are typically vision and hearing impaired.
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