It may surprise you to learn that the Great Dane is not really a Danish breed. Dogs very similar to the modern Great Dane can be found on money from Greece dated at 36 B.C. as well as from Egyptian artifacts that date back to 3000 B.C. Very early Chinese literature dating back to 1100 B.C. describes a dog that is almost identical to the Great Dane.
It is believed that the modern Great Dane evolved over time through breeding Mastiffs from Italy with Wolfhounds and Old English Mastiffs. The Greyhound breed was used to further refine the heavy Mastiff type to create the faster, more streamlined body shape of the breed. Originally a hunting dog they were also used as track and watchdogs as well as to haul moderately large dog carts in rural areas.
The Great Dane is truly a gentle giant that can easily measure up to 34 inches at the shoulder and weigh up to 200 pounds. Males are much larger than females but, despite their great size, they are very good housedogs and can live comfortably in an apartment. They need only a moderate amount of exercise a day but it should be longer in duration and the dog should also have to run and play, especially as a puppy and young adult.
As with all giant breed dogs the Great Dane is not usually a dog with a long life span. The average life of these wonderful dogs is about 10 years but some can live into their early teens. They are prone to bloat, a potentially life threatening conditions so it is important to feed smaller meals throughout the day and monitor the dog after eating.
Puppies need to grow slowly and they should not be fed typical puppy kibble that will cause rapid growth spurts and lead to muscle and skeletal problems. Exercise levels and durations need to be monitored with these dogs for the first year of life because of their rapid growth.
The Great Dane, with a short, sleek coat is an average shedder but very easy to groom. The coat colors for the Dane range from fawn to blue, black and brindle. There are also some Danes that are a chocolate color and those that are merle, but these are not recognized colors. Harlequin Danes are striking with their white and black coat colors. While you may see a pure white Dane these dogs tend to have genetic factors that cause deafness and other congenital health issues.
These dogs are great pets for people with the indoor and outdoor space for these dogs. They are wonderful with children and they are playful yet gentle once they get out of the rambunctious puppy stage. Early in life they may not realize their size but with training and socialization they quickly learn. As a breed they are highly intelligent and are easy to train. They are not guard dogs because they are so friendly but their deep bark and huge size makes them excellent as watchdogs.