Appearance of European vs American Great Danes

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Last Updated on February 11, 2020

Expertly bred European and American Great Danes seem adequately equivalent. Considering, the Great Dane breed standards for both the European(F.C.I.), and American Great Danes(A.K.C.) are identical. An insight to European vs American Great Danes is indispensable for acquiring a standard Great Dane dog. Anyways, well bred Great Danes whether they are of European or American origin would bear negligible differences.

The European vs American Great Dane dogs that exist as of today, explicitly show the disparity between the Great Dane breed standards in the two parts. The Great Danes of European origin tend to hold more bones, skin, and lips. Whilst, American Great Danes appear sleek with a somewhat small head. Besides, It is not rational to label either locality’ Great Dane as a pseudo Great Dane, utterly. 


The Great Dane breed;

Great Dane is a breed mix of three different dogs. Which are;

  1. Mastiffs
  2. Greyhounds
  3. Irish wolfhound

Each of these dogs has its own distinctive attribute. Such as;

  • Mastiffs are strong owing to their muscle mass.
  • Irish Wolfhound has height as its signature trait.
  • Greyhounds is renowned for its fast speed.

The aforementioned qualities made these dogs the perfect option for creating a capable Great Dane breed.

Historically, the Great Dane dogs were employed to hunt wild boars. The dogs acquired traits, as mentioned below to make the hunt exercise efficacious.

Great Dane was bred to have the vigour of a Mastiff to tear the hunt down, and hold it down for the hunter to appear and grab it. The Great Dane holds speed of a Greyhound to chase down the game. The height of an Irish Wolfhound furnished the Great Dane with an unrivalled control over the hunt game.

Previously, the Germans tend to breed a lighter Great Dane dog for steepy regions and heavier dog for the plain areas. According to the surroundings, the Great Dane breeding fluctuated. 

Given a Great Dane’s character is a combination of some strong breeds of dogs each having its own distinctive appearance. This might be a reason behind varied differences in European vs American Great Danes in the synchronous world. Besides, the penchant of judges conducting club events also affects the preference of Great Dane dogs for standard vs hyper type in European and American regions. 

The Great Dane breed standard calls for a Great Dane dog residing in between both versions. Namely, classic standard type which is closer to American Great Danes, and much heavier hyper type which seems related to European Danes.


European Great Dane photo from (beefcakedanes)

The European vs American Great Dane breed differences:

European and American Great Dane dogs are separated as such based on their locality. The Great Dane dogs which originally belong to Europe and are bred in Europe solely with European Danes are called as European Great Dane dogs.

Whilst, American Great Danes are the dogs which exist in america. The American Great Danes are bred with American Great Danes only. Though, at some point these dogs were brought from Europe, as the Great Dane dog breed is an European breed of canine. 


Phenotype of European vs American Great Danes

Ever since Great Dane breed origin some minimal differences in appearances have been observed. Although, these contrasts were never this accessible as in the contemporary European vs American Great Danes like we behold.


There are indubitably, some striking differences in appearance of European vs american Great Danes. The major variations between European vs american Great Danes are as follows:

European Great Dane dogs

The Great Dane dogs from Europe display a fair amount of Mastiff dog’ character through their appearance. 

  • European Great Dane dogs are the real giants. The dogs are bigger as compared to american Great Danes in their inclusive comparison.
  • The European Great Dane dogs possess a heavier head which is square shaped. The particular head and body ratio of an European Great Dane make its head looks somewhat short. 
  • Big lips, that are more hanging are trademark of European Great Dane dogs.
  • Euro Danes have extra droopy eyes.
  • Thick, substantial necks are also commonly found in Great Danes bred all over the Europe.

American Great Danes

American Great Danes predominantly displays greyhounds’ characteristics more.

  • The American Great Danes hold sleek existence as compared to their European counterparts. 
  • American Great Dane’ head is proportional to its stature but in comparison to an European Great Dane its head piece is rather small. American Great Danes’ heads are more streaked with rectangular shaped. Furnishing an American Great Danes with somewhat regal headed look viz a viz an European Great Dane.  
  • Those Great Dane dogs who are of American descent seem lighter on their feet.

Weight of European vs american Great Danes 

Weight of the dog varies for European and American Great Danes. An European Great Dane vs American Great Dane tends to be heavier and bulkier in its appearance and stature.


European Great Dane photo from (

European Great Danes

An European Great Dane typically weighs in 180 lbs. Though, these huge canines have potential to surpass the range at 220-240 lbs.

American Great Danes

The highest weight for American Great Dane dogs is calculated at 125-135 lbs.

Physique of European vs American Great Dane Dog 

Physique of the Great Dane dogs when distinguished as European vs American Great Danes can be classified as:

  • European Great Danes possess massive bodies. The European Great Danes are heavier, displaying more skin all over
  • Whereas, American Great Danes physique resembles more to the greyhounds. I.e, American Great Danes possess lighter bodies. 

European vs American great Dane: Temperament

Great Dane dogs innately possess playful and goofy temperament. There is a distinctive difference between European vs American Great Dane’ temperament.

Hence it can be reasoned that the temperament of Great Dane dogs also get changed with its origin.

European Great Dane

European Great Danes are affectionate and exuberant dogs. The European Great Dane’ temperament allows them to retain their comfort zone.

The dogs would not be seen leaping over. But can be observed running in circles in a playful manner.

An European Great Dane usually drapes itself while sitting on a chair or a couch. Given to the dogs’ added calmness of temperament European Great Danes hold an amazing temperament.

American Great Dane 

Whilst American Great Dane dogs appear added active, incline towards lunges. Sitting like a human on couch is usually expected from the American Great Dane dogs.


(American Great Dane)

Ear cropping in European vs American Great Danes:

Great Dane ear cropping trend deviates considerably in European vs American Great Danes dog owners. The practice is quite popular in the U.S., marking ear cropping as a way to differentiate the dogs as European vs American Great Danes. 

European Great Danes

European Great Danes hold mainly floppy, natural ears. Given the Great Dane ear cropping practice is prohibited in various European countries. Additionally, European Great Dane owners consider Great Dane ear cropping cruel and ruthless. Therefore, celebrated show champions hold natural Great Dane ears.

American Great Danes

On the other hand, American Great Danes are majorly cropped ear canines. Great Dane ear cropping is more of a cult in america. It is not frequent to find a Great Dane with natural floppy ears in the US.

Let alone, being a champion of an American dog show, Great Danes having natural floppy ears would be rarely found even competing for the title.

Lifespan variation in European vs American Great Danes

Overall body mass is directly related to lifespan of a breed. The lower the weight of a dog longer would be its life span. Within the Great Dane breed body masses for European and American Great Danes differ considerably. Furnishing the Great Dane dogs with varied longevity of life.

Lifespan of European Great Dane

The European Great Danes hold shorter life spans as compared to american Great Danes. Usually, the Great Dane originating from Europe would die at 6 years of age. They might live up to 8 years, if fortunate enough.

Lifespan of American Great Dane

An American Great Dane is reported to have lived longer. The American Great Dane life span could expand to even 9-10 years of age. Some Great Dane dog parents have claimed that their american Great Danes have lived up to 13 years as well.

Deviations from the Breed Standard in European and American Great Danes:

At the same time European and American Great Dane dogs both can be seen deviating from the breed standards. For instance,

  • Almond eyes are a Great Dane breed standard. Yet both regions Great Dane dogs possess droopy eyes, that is regarded as a flaw.
  • Standard Great Dane breed lips should neither be missing flews or saggy. The European Great Dane dogs have more lip than American Great Danes. But too much or too less lips both do not comply with the breed standards.
  • Excessive skin is neither prerequisite for European or American Great Danes. But European Great Danes hold added skin vs American Great Danes.


Historically the Dane has always been classified in the Mastiff or Molosser group.


European Great Dane photo from (beefcakedanes)

European Great Dane dogs

Even the Great Dane in all over the Europe does not hold an identical phenotype. In France a very different type of Great Dane has been accepted as the standard. The dogs exhibit a clear shift towards the hyper-type.

The trend is not unalike in Germany. Even in Germany where the breed was established initially, the Great Dane dogs that would not adhere to breed standards have been allowed to become Champions, Club champions, sires or given approval as popular sires. Although, At times standard Great Dane dogs are also seen competing for those titles.

The other regions got influenced by this drift in Great Dane breed standards. The South , East and South-Western European countries have altered their Great Dane according to the cult towards hyper type Great Danes.

The breed clubs in other – non F.C.I. – countries have managed to retain the Great Dane breed standard quite well for over a hundred years.

In Britain and North America, Australia for instance, such a vast breed type segregation like we see in Europe, does not prevail.

The Nordic countries, within the F.C.I., have expertly maintained the Great Dane breed standard unscathed.

American Great Danes:

Additionally, the trend is shifting from American type Great Danes or classical type towards the European Great Danes even in U.S. From the standard or american type to bulkier or semi hyper Great Dane type. This breeding tendency has produced Great Dane dogs possessing a style appreciated frequently. Conformation judges and the dogma to increment substance to the classic Great Dane dog both favor such Great Danes.

This amalgamation of bulkiness and hugeness complying refinement in great Dane dogs are welcomed. Such great Dane dogs have even won the individuals who would have otherwise preferred standard Great Danes. Coveting euro Great Danes has become a vogue in the U.S.

Great Dane Breed Standards:

Ideally, Great Dane breed encompasses the dogs of sheer parity between power and sophistication. The standard Great Dane dogs are emblem of robustness and grandeur to its pinnacle. The Great Dane breed standards according to A.K.C. and F.C.I. like they are as of now are prescribed to protect this large canine breed form alterations and transformations.

Here is the Great Dane breed description to regulate the breed’ dogs inside predefined paramount, radical and singular limitations.

 “The Great Dane combines in its overall appearance size, power and elegance […]. It does not have the heaviness and clumsiness of the Mastiff, nor the lankiness and light weight reminiscent of the Greyhound’s shape, but holds the middle ground between either extreme”.

Great Dane breed standard interpretation

Further elaboration of the Great Dane breed standard is done by Mr. Gugel. The president of the D.D.C., who is also the breeder of famous Great Dane, Heiko von der Burg Thann. His dog was designated model of excellence for the Club’s hundredth anniversary. He elucidated the following to the standard publication of the Deutsche DoggeN Club 1888 e.V. in 2011:

“The (standard) of the Great Dane stayed the same in most of its parts, even if sometimes with different wording, especially the definition of the general appearance hasn’t changed. But if one compares the Champions of earlier times with the Champions of today one can see obvious differences. The bodies are bulkier today and the heads heavier. We haven’t paid enough attention to the angulations and the movement. So faults appeared which we don’t recognize anymore today. That’s something we have to change together: the officials of the clubs, the judges and the breeders. It is not our task to only manage the breed.

He further propagated;

We have to preserve and promote it and protect it from an over-interpretation of the standard. Expertise and sound judgment is therefore recommended. It was the goal of the founding of the E.U.D.D.C. Club in 1981 to join all friends of the Great Dane for a uniform interpretation of the standard. (…) Judged objectively we haven’t managed to achieve this goal in the last 25 years. Some countries still prefer very different phenotypes.”

(English transcription by Ruth Stolzewski).

Notwithstanding the breed standard type Great Dane dogs existing in various parts of the world as of today depict somewhat sharp dissimilarities. This might be either owing to the differences in understanding or standard ideals.

European Great Dane vs American Great Dane breeding

The Standard and the Hyper type dogs i.e, American Great Danes and European Danes respectively , are scarcely combined in breeding. In practice, there is already a partition in place as European vs american Great Danes. Influenced by breeding selection partiality each side advocating two somewhat antithetical phenotypes. 

There are a few cases reported in European and american Great Danes breeding, of striving to retain standard Great Dane dog. Breeders are endeavoring to slide from the hyper side or European Great Dane of the gulf to standard or american Great Danes.

Attempts are even made to regain the classic Great Dane type wielding standard dogs. Or to establish something in the middle of European vs American Great Dane splitting. Besides, such efforts are less in proportion and are intermittent.

Notwithstanding the occurrence, the rationale behind such ventures could be dubious. As it is unclear if the actual intentions are to restore the breed or to merely gratify the judges. Therefore, European vs American Great Dane breeding inclination might be rather impulsive and shifting gradually following the latest style.

European vs American Great Danes: what is guiding the breed?

General Great Dane breeding preference is altering strongly. There is a propensity from the standard or american types Great Danes’ standpoint to employ European or heavier type Great Danes, to achieve a middle great Dane dog.

Considering the Great Dane’s progress as a breed in Europe, in the previous thirty or forty years, fairly, one can not infer that the journey has been secure, victorious or even fortunate. 

Besides, Great Dane Dane breeding trend is altogether shifting towards the hyper type of the Great Dane. European type Danes are gaining more and more popularity in recent times.  Great Dane dog conformation shows are leading breeders and public inclinations. 

Judging, has evolved into an indispensable principal driver of breeding selections. As usually reckoned, dog shows, their champions, and the judges are what’s guiding the Great Dane breed, a lot more than any other guiding contributor.

Great Dane breed refinement

Great Dane dogs are unique and distinguishable from other dogs. Given the Great Dane dogs are huge, bearing the phenotype alienated in the Great Dane breed standards. Breed standard is what describes a breed, furnishing it with a definite existence.


What a breed is inclusively, is owing to its defining identity, which is at times might be clear even sans written standards, at once. For instance,the Great Dane breed dog can be identified among other canine breeds due to their characteristic features..

Refining a breed

Refining a breed is an arguable point. According to many, one can refine an individual dogs by substituting the flaws in the lineage. For example;

We might improve on the dog’ performance, its structure, or other departments where the particular dog is lacking. This type of refinement calls for strive to increment the quality of dogs inside a breed. Hence, you would obtain a dog holding favored characteristics with the original breed standard. 

Whilst in practicality, one can not refine a breed without changing it altogether.


American Great Dane

Attempts on Great Dane breed refinement:

As aforementioned, a breed can not be refined. All you would do while refining a canine breed is to alter its phenotype. Like very much happening in the case of Great Dane breed. 

European vs American Great Danes bear different phenotypes although both root from the same breed.

Breed standard or type by interpretation is the breed definition. Forwarding rationales like ‘refining Great Dane breed’ would suggest that you are unhappy with the standard Great Dane breed. The attempts to refine or improve a dog breed occurred in the past as well. People improve or refine a breed keeping in eye their individual practical necessities, weather, and performance requirements.

Despite, such endeavors lead to inception of new dog breeds. As mentioned above would alter the phenotype of a dog completely. You would not call two divergent dogs; one previous and the other improved, with the same name. 

Is the breed refinement pragmatic?

Such is the point where Great Dane breed is standing today, the pertinent questions like, is the breed refinement pragmatic? arises. The American Great Danes viz-a-viz Euro Great Dane dogs hold discrete disparity though belong to the same dog breed.

Great Dane standard Breed type, like other dog breeds is accepted very quickly. Thereafter, every step taken to refine the breed had actually caused it to deviate from the standard Great Dane dog. 

The so called refined, moderate, natural and efficient Great Dane dogs are no more than distortion and deviation. Resulted from the vanity and eagerness of people who were not engrossed in complying to the standard.

The farther the Great Dane breed has navigated from the standard, the ill the consequences it depicts. The so called refined Great Dane dogs are lacking in health, capability, temperament, and lifespan vis a vis standard Great Danes.  

Hence, it can be reasoned that refining a breed is not pragmatic. This must be pondered on and accepted. After assigning traits to a breed, once it has established one can not refine or improve the breed without transforming it altogether. 

Rather than refining, restoring and maintenance is required

Rather than attempts to refine Great Dane breed, we must strive to restore and maintain the Great Dane breed in its pristine form. We need to breed sound Great Dane dogs adhering to the standard type, advancing with prudence. Only, this can preserve the standard Great Dane dog breed for generations to come.

Refinement to Breed standards and health

Keeping in view the public’ standpoint, in 2012 The F.C.I’s Standard Commission demanded a revision to breed standard descriptions where health risks could become a potential consequence of the standard’s requisites. People had been reacting very vehemently upon health problems of one or the other breed since the recent tenners. 

Great Dane

Who is responsible for the Great Dane breed variations:

The breed’ major split into European and American Great Danes with numerous local versions, Great Dane breed is facing severe breed’ standard identity crisis. With a plethora of predicaments it already facing, like

  • Great Dane large breed’ associated diseases, namely; bloat, cardiomyopathy, joint and hip dysplasia.
  • A vast variety of coat color each bearing its own health problems.

Every side has contributed in the existing predicament of the Great Dane breed.

Dog owners:

In recent times, the Great Dane breed has become merely a show dog bred with the intent to win over the judges inclinations. Dog owners hols leaning towards a large dog exhibiting their class more than expressing its own breed standard. People are interested in calling their Great Dane dogs champions more than standard Great Dane types.


Breeders ought to understand the high responsibility they bear. Need to realize the paramount significance of breeders in the process of altering a breed as well as possible breed restoration. Breeders ought to breed standard Great Dane dogs focusing on the fields of:

  • Individual Great Dane performance
  • Working capability
  • Physical fitness
  • Health
  • Temperament rather physique
  •  Not only producing only dog show champions.

Even a show dog holding sound standard Great Dane breed temperament, fitness, and performance would have been good. 

Despite, we have bred Great Danes with bulky bodies following popular European Great Dane trend. Although, there are Great Dane breeding conformation systems in Europe as well. But in reality the system has failed given the current situation of Great Dane breeding in European countries. Such Great Dane dogs who lacked in Great Dane breed type, were approved of, won as champions, and suggested for breeding.

Dog shows and judges:

Great Dane conformation dog shows and judges are unable to portray the standard Great Dane type. To some extent they are also responsible for the Great Dane breed variations. Instead of preserving the breed, judges are supporting their vested interests. The shows’ judges who are recruited for the imperative purpose of evaluating the Great Dane dog standards are generally specialists in the breed.

Yet the judges and dog shows are unable to enhance the fitness and life span of Great Dane breed. Even they have not been able to maintain the prior degree of capability let alone improving the Great Dane breed problems. 

Breed clubs:

Breed clubs though are not uniformly existing, must realize their role in preserving the Great Dane breed. To meet the end they need to guide intended breeders, puppy buyers and the public in general. 


Governments can also play a part by inducing pet protection laws. For instance, In Germany  a strong national law for the protection of pets exists. Neutering, spaying, declawing etc. are only allowed in case recommended by a vet. doctor. Ear cropping is also prohibited under “alteration of appearance”.

European vs American Great Danes calls for a split in two distinct breeds

It would be exceedingly destructive to split Great Danes into different varieties. This would limit the genotype of the Great Dane breed, aggravating breed’s health problems. Genetic variety ensures health, fitness, and longevity of an organism. Rather than splitting into two different breeds as European and American Great Danes we must promote open breeding.

Many developing Kennel organisations such as the Kennel Clubs in the Nordic countries, as well as the Scientific Commission of the F.C.I. (the world federation of kennel clubs with 94 national members to date) suggested rather converse idea.

Instead of splitting, retaining related breeds and in-breed varieties like European and American Great Danes, as interlinked genetic pools, with open breeding between them, can build a promising future for the Great Dane breed.

We ought to share the intent of restoring and preserving the Great Dane breed in its standard form.

8 thoughts on “Appearance of European vs American Great Danes”

  1. The “American Great Dane Puppy” pictured is not a Dane. It may be a mix, likely with lab, but definitely not a full Great Dane. This does not represent American Dane puppies at all and should be replaced with an accurate picture.

  2. I have been debating getting an Euro Dane or an American dane for my home as a pet and protector . I am a 61 yr old widow and have the blessing of knowing 2 separate people who each breed one type. I would like to know what type would be best for me?

  3. Being 65, I wont be walking a dog however, I do have a back yard for playtime. Im looking for protection and companionship Do you think a GD is a good choice for me???

    • All dogs need to be walked for at least half an hour twice a day. If you cannot walk a dog you should reconsider if you can really give a dog an adequate life. Dogs live to be walked. They adore the different natural scents. They live to run off the lead and explore. Your playtime is not enough for a small dog. It would be cruel to have such a large and active dog as a Dane and not walk it.

  4. Pingback: Why are all White Great Danes not deaf and blind? - Great Dane k9
  5. We recently adopted a Great Dane boy. He’s approximately a year plus. He apparently “was lost “ most likely due to the fact he was heartworm positive. This guy has been an absolute blessing!! He has the best personality, is eager to please and is absolutely a lover.


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