Sometimes referred to as the "Apollo of Dogs," the Great Dane was developed in Germany for its graceful appearance, large size, and hunting ability — all important attributes to the landed gentry. These same characteristics have made the breed popular today in America, even appearing in popular culture, such as the Hanna-Barbera cartoon character Scooby-Doo, the newspaper comic character Marmaduke, and Astro in the TV show The Jetsons.
The Great Dane is highly regarded for its majestic appearance and carriage. Along with exuding elegance, its large, square frame gives the dog a powerful gait with easy, long strides. The Great Dane's coat is glossy, short and dense, and comes in various color patterns, including brindle, fawn, blue, black, harlequin, and mantle.
The Great Dane's massive size and spirited demeanor make it a bit difficult to control, especially for very small children. However, proper training and supervision can reform the Great Dane into a well-mannered family companion. It is also friendly towards other pets and household dogs.
Coat care for this breed is minimal. It does, however, need regular exercise, which can be accomplished with a lengthy walk or a fast-paced game. And although the Great Dane looks sturdy, the dog cannot live outdoors. Instead, it is more suited to an equal schedule of indoor and outdoor activities. While indoors, it should be given plenty of space and a soft bed for sleeping.
The Great Dane, which has an average lifespan of 7 to 10 years, may suffer from minor health issues like Wobbler's syndrome, hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD), hypothyroidism, canine hip dysplasia (CHD), and osteochondritis, or major health conditions like osteosarcoma, cardiomyopathy, and gastric torsion. Occasionally, Great Danes have a tendency to drool. To identify some of these issues, a veterinarian may run cardiac, thyroid, hip, and eye exams on this breed of dog. It is also important to note that certain health concerns are more prone in certain Great Dane color varieties.
The Great Dane is believed to be a cross between the Greyhound and Molossus, an ancient Greco-Roman war dog breed. It may have first appeared in Germany during the 1300s and used by the residents to capture wild boar and other prey.
How the breed got its current name Great Dane is quite mysterious, as the breed is not Danish. In Germany, the breed was and is still popularly referred to today as Deutsche Dogge. Meanwhile, the British who came upon the breed named it the German Boarhound, based on its function.
As it became popular in the United States, the Great Dane Club of America formed in 1889 in Chicago. And in 1891, the Great Dane Club of Germany adopted a standard, or official description of the breed. Today the Great Dane continues to be praised in the U.S. for its power and beauty.