Often called the Apollo of dogs, the Great Dane can trace its paw prints as far back as time of the Egyptians. Drawings of dogs resembling Great Danes were found on Egyptian monuments dating from 3,000 B.C., and artifacts found in Babylonian temples built about 2,000 B.C. include a relief-plate showing Assyrian men walking huge, Dane like dogs on stout leashes. The dogs depicted have the same massive body and long, powerful legs as today's Great Dane.

Some zoologists believe that all Dane-type dogs originated in the highlands of Tibet. There is great similarity between the Tibetan Mastiffs that lived at the base of the Himalayas and the Dane like dogs of the Assyrians. The zoologists' belief gains credibility in that the earliest written report of dogs strongly similar in type to the Great Dane appeared in Chinese literature in 1121 B.C. The highly cultured Assyrians traded their dogs to the Greeks and Romans along with other goods they manufactured. The Romans in turn bred the Assyrian dogs to British dogs they also acquired. Thus it appears both the Tibetan and English Mastiffs are forbears of the Great Dane.    

There was some debate as to whether the Irish Wolfhound or Irish Greyhound played a secondary role in the Dane's development. The French naturalist Comte de Buffon, who lived during the 1700s, thought the Irish Wolfhound was the primary ancestor of the Dane because the Celts had taken some of the huge dogs from the Romans and English to Ireland where they were bred to the native Irish Wolfhounds. But Baron Georges Cuview, an anatomist who lived from the late 1700s thought it was the early result of an English Mastiff and Irish Wolfhound cross.

The earliest Danelike dogs were called Boar Hounds, for the prey that hunted, but by the 16th century they were known as English Dogges. Around 1680, when German noblemen were breeding great numbers of the dogs, the biggest and most handsome dogs were kept inside their homes. These dogs were called Kammerhunde, meaning Chamber Dogs. These pampered pets wore gilded collars trimmed with fringe and padded with velvet. Buffon gave the breed the name it's known by today. While traveling in Denmark, he saw the slimmer variety of the Boar Hound, which shared more similarities with the Greyhound. Buffon remarked that the Danish climate had caused the Greyhound to become a Grand Danois. Thereafter, the dogs became known as the Great Danish Dog, with the heavier dogs sometimes called Danish Mastiffs. The Danish name stuck-despite the fact that Denmark had nothing whatsoever to do with the development of the breed.

For centuries now, these large, sturdy, strong jawed dogs, had been widely known and were renowned for their courage, stamina and hunting prowess. However, they had out-lived their usefulness in many areas as war dogs and were now being bred to serve other purposes. For example, we now see their strength and stamina becoming useful as draft animals and put to harness in small carts and yet again, working for their living. Most notably in many Mediterranean countries where still today, large dogs are used to pull milk wagons and other small carts for their owners.    

Most fanciers today credit Germany with the well-balanced, elegant Great Dane as we know it. It is known that German nobility imported these English Boar Hounds until the 17th and 18th centuries, by which time they had developed their own breeding stock and no longer needed the imports. In 1880, a Dr. Bodinus held a meeting in Berlin where judges and breeders agreed that the breed as developed by the Germans was distinctly different from the stockier English Mastiffs and would henceforth be known solely as the Deutsche Dogge, or German Dog. The Deutsche Doggen Club of German was founded, and the name Deutsche Dogge took hold in parts of Europe. The Germans had a hard time convincing other countries to accept the breed name, however. The Italians to this day call the breed Alano, which means mastiff. In England, the United States and other English-speaking countries, the dogs are known as Great Danes. Fanciers also like to call the Great Dane the “Apollo of the Dog World” which is a charming but unofficial title.


Danes from the late 1800's


Great Dane from the 1900's


A noted breeder of Harlequins, Richard Perner of Schoneberg, with three of his famous Harlequins, Pan1, Rex-Perner and Rex11-Perner


Ger.Am.Ch.Etfa vd Saalburg. 1925. Bred by Carl Farber in Germany, she was later exported to the US and became the foundation bitch for Margaret Hostetter's new "Ridgecrest" kennel. She was considered "the" standard to judge others by during her lifetime.


Ch.Kay Rio's Pan. 1951. Kay Kinosita's beloved "Petah" One of THE greatest - and one who left a huge imprint on the breed.

Image Courtesy
The Great Dane in History and Art

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