As portrayed by Great Dane history, the Dane of old is certainly not the affectionate companion of today, yet it still maintains some physical traits and instincts of its ancestors. Great Dane history from the 14th century forward reveals that the early Dane was a courageous powerful hunter, capable of great speeds and swift attack.
This muscular dog was developed primarily in England and Germany by combining speed of the Greyhound, with the muscle and strength of the English Mastiff. Many canine historians further link the Irish Wolfhound to early breed lineage as depicted by ancient Great Dane history. See related articles at our "Great Dane Breed Introduction" main page for additional info on ancient Great Dane history.
Europe's Wild Boar were the most powerful, savage, and well-armed of the Continent's 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.
These days 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 more muscular, resembling a Mastiff rather than a Great Dane as we know them.
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 chiselled than the imported English Mastiffs. Over time, importing Mastiffs ceased and the Germans now concentrated on there own newly recognized breed. More similar in appearance 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 Country's 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.
Today's Great Dane
Over time and through selective breeding, Great Danes have been transformed from the fierce hunting dogs depicted by Great Dane history, into the regal, chiselled, well-mannered Giants we know and love today.
Some dogs can still be found in Germany pacing the grounds of estates and mansions. Germans take great pride in their Danes which are locally referred to as "German Mastiff", or "Deutsche Dogge". Although classified by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as a working breed dog, today's 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 often 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. A 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 clubs that run Great Danes in agility trails and lure coursing. An occasional Dane dog has even been know to excel in schutzhund training yet I wouldn't recommend it.
For my family and me excel as companions :)