Europe's Wild Boar were the most powerful, savage, and well-armed of the Continents big game. To tackle this animal, the Germans needed a dog that was fast, agile, strong, and super tough. That is exactly what they created with the early Dane, a super Boar Hound.
Ear cropping soon followed as many dogs would suffer shredded ears from the razor sharp tusks of the wild Boar. Cropped ears were originally cut short and pointy, unlike the long show cut often seen today.
Recently, ear cropping has become a very controversial subject and ironically, it is now illegal in Europe.
Boar hounds of the past were physically different in size and structure than today's Great Dane. As detailed by Great Dane history, the early Dane dog was shorter, heavier, stocky and muscular, resembling more a Mastiff than a Great Dane.
About the mid 1600's, these super Hounds were being bred in great numbers. Many German noblemen would take the biggest, most intimidating dogs and keep them at their estates. These select dogs would enjoy the spoils of noble life and were referred to as Kammerhunde, or Chamber Dogs. Wearing collars lined with velvet, this era of Great Dane history began the metamorphosis of the breed from mighty hunter, to companion and protector.
In 1880, a meeting was held in Berlin where judges and breeders agreed that the German breed was now distinctly different, taller, leaner, and more chiseled than the imported English Mastiffs.
Eventually, importing Mastiffs ceased and the Germans now concentrated on there own newly recognized breed. More similar in apperance to the Great Dane of today, this breed was named "Deutsche Dogge", or "German Dog". The Deutsche Doggen Club of Germany was founded, and the new breed name spread across Europe.
Germany was proud of its Great Dane history, in 1876, the Deutsche Dogge was elected the Countries National dog.
Interestingly, the name "Grand Danois" was given by French naturalist Comte de Buffon during his travels in Denmark. French were also calling it dogue allemand, or "German Mastiff." Although the Danish made no contribution to the breeds development, for some reason the name stuck.
The rest is history!
Today's Great Dane
Over time and through selective breeding, Danes have been transformed into the regal, chiseled, well-mannered Giants we know and love today.
Great Danes can still be found in Germany pacing the grounds of estates and mansions. Germans take great pride in the Dane, locally referred to as the "German Mastiff",or "Deutsche Dogge".
Although classified by the AKC as a working breed dog, the Great Dane is primarily a companion animal.
"With great confidence a Great Dane remains calm and respectful, even in a classroom full of admiring fourth graders"
In addition to companion dog, the Great Dane is also used for therapy and service work.
The gentle confidence the breed exhibits helps it remain calm and easy even among large groups of people.
This solid sturdy giant also serves well as an assistance dog. The Dane's well-mannered personality, along with its tall, sturdy foundation, make it a wonderful candidate to assist people with mobility problems.
There are some Great Dane clubs that run the Dane in agility trails and lure coursing. The occasional dog has even been know to excell in schutzhund training, however, I wouldn't recomenned it :)