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Breed Spotlight: Great Dane

You’ve seen them. Whether in person or in pictures, the reaction is always the same: “That dog is huge!”

You’re probably looking at a Great Dane!

Want to bring this gentle giant into your family or just love learning about dogs? Here’s our Breed Spotlight on the Great Dane.

The History of the Great Dane

There’s no mistaking a Great Dane for another dog, but they actually have an intriguing history to go along with their massive size. Although it was recognized by the AKC (American Kennel Club) as an official breed in 1887, the exact timing of the introduction of this breed is uncertain. In fact, there were drawings found in Egypt from 3000 B.C. that resemble the Great Dane. These pups were most likely the breed’s ancestors, though they tended to be heavier and more ferocious.

The Great Dane’s appearance as we know it today has probably existed for about 400 years. Originally, they were bred to hunt wild boar in Germany and were most likely a mix between the Irish Wolfhound and the English Mastiff. The traits in Great Danes made them extremely successful in wild boar hunting:

  • Intelligent
  • Powerful
  • Ferocious (at that time)

Today’s Great Dane is different than it was back then. The ferocity needed for hunting was bred out, and gentleness was bred in to create the dog we all know. Now Great Danes are referred to as “Gentle Giants” and known for their sweet temperament and the ability to get along with humans and other animals.

Four years after Great Danes were recognized by the AKC, the was formed.

great dane dogs

The Basics on the Breed


Almost everyone knows a Great Dane on sight. “Large” doesn’t even begin to describe them. Males tend to be 32 inches at the shoulder or higher, while females start at 30 inches. When standing on hind legs, they can reach over seven feet tall! Zeus, a Great Dane from Michigan, was a whopping 7’4”!


This breed weighs between 120 and 150 pounds, but they can easily get up to 200. Their size makes obedience training a good idea, even though they tend to be more relaxed than other dogs.


Great Danes come in a wide variety of colors, including:

  • Fawn
  • Black
  • Tiger stripe
  • Gray
  • White with black patches
  • Harlequin
  • Black
  • Mantle (white with a black “blanket”)

Although their hair tends to be shorter, they do shed quite a bit. Still, they require only weekly grooming.

Life Expectancy

Sadly, since the Great Dane is such a large dog, they have a short life expectancy of 6 to 8 years, with some reaching 10 years old. Thanks to their nature, even the short amount of time with them is a wonderful time.

Why Great Danes Make Great Pets

Friendly and Easygoing

Although their size can be intimidating to some, Great Danes really do live up to their “Gentle Giant” nickname. They are friendly to almost everyone, including pets and other animals. They’re easygoing and extremely patient, even with children. Danes love to play and a need to please makes for much easier training.

Cuddly and Loyal

Beware: Great Danes are lapdogs in jumbo size! Although they absolutely can’t fit in your lap, it doesn’t mean they won’t try. They love being with the family and want to be in the thick of it all. And though they’re happy to meet strangers, they won’t fail to show their courage if they feel the family is in danger. This aspect of the ancient dog was maintained.

This breed tends to be on the quiet side, barking only when absolutely necessary. Obedient and dependable, they make wonderful family companions.

The Cons of Danes

Even though Great Danes make absolutely great pets, it’s important to note that due to their size, they require spacious homes. Although they’re patient and easygoing, when they’re young, they do tend to be quite energetic, partaking in the zoomies.

They should be walked about two to three times each day and receive a fair amount of attention. Left alone for too long, they tend to become barkers, and their barks are booming. A person considering adopting a Great Dane should be prepared to commit time and dedication to their new dog.

great dane dogs

Cool and Fun Facts about Great Danes

There’s more to the Great Dane than its size! Here are some cool fun facts about this dog breed:

  • The Great Dane, although it is a German dog, has a French name in English. It was translated from “Grand Danois” which means “Big Danish.” Even this name doesn’t make sense, as the dog is not connected with Denmark!
  • It’s known as the “Apollo of Dogs” for its impressive size and elegance.
  • There seems to be evidence of a dog resembling the Great Dane in Chinese Literature from 1121 B.C.
  • The Great Dane is ranked the 14th most popular breed in the world by the AKC.
  • Be careful what you leave on the tables! Due to their size, they can easily reach up and grab those snacks.
  • The most famous Great Dane is probably Scooby Doo.
  • Even though Great Danes are known for their height, Irish Wolfhounds tend to be just a tiny bit taller; however, Zeus, the Great Dane, was the tallest dog ever.
  • Juliana the Great Dane won two Blue Cross medals: one for peeing on a bomb that fell in her house in 1941 and the other for warning of a fire. Meanwhile, Nuisance the Great Dane was enlisted in the US Navy!

Great Danes truly are wonderful, one-of-a-kind companions. Courageous but with gentleness bred in, they’re unique family members who love to be in the center of it all. If you’re considering adopting one, take into the time and devotion this breed needs. They require special care, partly due to their size, so further research is essential before you bring one home. If you have the time and room to give this breed, your love and companionship will be paid back tenfold.

If you’ve recently adopted a Great Dane or another dog, it’s time to schedule a vet appointment! Call us at 281-693-7387. We look forward to meeting your “Gentle Giant!”

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The Team @ Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital

Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital serves Katy, TX and the surrounding areas with a dedication and passion for our animal friends that is unmatched. Our veterinarians are highly trained, experienced, and compassionate when it comes to giving your pet the care they deserve. If your companion is in need of emergency care, a dental cleaning, grooming, or just a check-up, we would love to see them! Call 281-693-7387 to make an appointment quickly and easily.

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