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The Great Dane is one of the largest dog breeds known with a male Great Dane called George one of the tallest dogs in the world, measuring in at an amazing 7 feet and 2 inches from nose to tail.
There is some speculation as to the origins of the Great Dane but a theory stems from their appearance in literature around 3000BC. Dogs similar to Greats Danes can be seen on carvings on Egyptian monuments built around this time. Over the next several hundred years, it is thought that these Mastiff like dogs were cross bred with Irish Grey Hounds, producing a giant but slimmer breed than pure Mastiff.
It is also possible that these large Mastiff dogs were brought to Europe by the Romans. Over several hundred years the Celts cross bred these giants with Irish Wolf hounds with people in Germany adding their hunting hounds into the mix, utilising them to hunt large and dangerous wild boar.
It is probably true that both versions of this Great Dane history are accurate and contributed to the dog we now know today.
Average height to the withers: Males should not be less than 30 inches and females not less than 28 inches.
Average weight: 54kg upwards for males and 45kg upwards for females.
Apart from its great height and long, strong legs, the Great Dane is a noble looking dog and very well proportioned giving a surprisingly graceful impression. This is a tall dog with a moderately deep chest and a square appearance. The head is rectangular in shape with ears which are large, triangular and floppy. The tail is broad at the base, tapers to a point, and reaches the hock joint.
The fur is short and soft with colours of fawn (tan) with a black mask; black; blue; black-and-gold arranged in a brindle pattern (golden yellow background with black striping); mantle (black with white trim, including a white collar, chest, and leg markings); and white with black patches (harlequin). Although white and merle dogs are possible, they are not permissible in the show ring. Harlequins should have true black ragged patches but not Dalmatian like spots.
A true gentle giant, the Great Dane has a playful, easy nature which can give way to bouts of silliness both as a pup and as an adult. This can cross over into clumsiness and given the size of this breed accidents can occur, especially with smaller children. This is something that would rarely happen in aggression as the Great Dane has one of the most genuine temperaments of all dogs. They are also usually well behaved with other animals and dogs.
It goes without saying that this is a breed which must receive good training and socialisation as they can be quite dominant and when given their size this is not a good thing - a lot of Great Dane owners have lost their meals off their plates from the table due to a lack of training!
They have a bark that matches their size - huge and loud and many people who do not know them may find this intimidating, however, there is usually nothing to worry about at all, even when they are in the role of family 'protector'.
This breed due to its size, will inevitably take up a certain amount of space so they are not recommended for life in a small flat needing a garden and their own area to feel comfortable.
The average life span of this breed is around 10 years. The breed is susceptible to hip dysplasia and bloat. Bloat is a medical emergency that can cause horrible pain and proves fatal in an estimated 40% of all cases. It is a gastric dilation of the stomach caused by an unusual accumulation of gas/liquid. This can be dangerous enough in its own right, but sometimes it leads to a second stage called volvulus, which is a stomach twisting or torsion. This shuts the stomach off from the rest of the body and prevents any of the accumulated gas or fluid within to escape. The stomach continues to expand, setting off a catastrophic series of events that in most cases can only be averted with emergency surgery.
As a short-coated breed, the Dane needs little grooming but may get cold in winter, so should not be left outdoors for extended periods. The Great Dane can seriously impact the family budget. This dog needs larger dishes and beds, more food, a higher dose of medicine and usually costs more to insure, for example. Bigger usually means more expense, so a prospective owner needs to think carefully before making the decision to get a Great Dane.