Great Dane Facts: Learn About These Gentle Giants

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Last Updated on December 29, 2022

“The Apollo of Dogs” and “gentle giant” – these are two descriptions that Great Danes are commonly known for that highlights their overall stature, beauty, loyalty and courage.

Get to know the Great Dane breed better and learn everything you need to know about them with the Great Dane facts below!

Great Dane Facts

The Great Dane Breed Overview

Before we get into some interesting Great Dane facts, here’s a quick overview of the breed’s overall appearance and characteristics.

Great Dane Physical Attributes

  1. Floppy Ears (Natural)
  2. Long tail (Natural)
  3. Almond-shaped eyes
  4. Different coat colors, patterns and markings
  5. Short, smooth and shiny coats

Great Dane Size

Weight (Male) 120 to 200 lbs
Weight (Female)99 to 120 lbs
Height (Male)29 to 35 inches
Height (Female)28 to 33 inches

Great Dane Characteristics

Here are the Great Dane’s characteristics, rated from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest.

CharacteristicRating
Friendliness (family)5
Friendliness (children)5
Friendliness (other pets)4
Friendliness (strangers)3
Training3
Barking2
Digging2
Snoring2
Drooling5
Exercise needs3
Grooming2
Shedding3

Great Dane Club Identifications

The Great Dane’s club identification includes the United Kennel Club (UKC) for guard dogs and American Kennel Club (AKC) for working dogs.

Great Dane Facts

Here are some interesting Great Dane facts so you could get to know these huge canines a little better!

1. Great Danes are not ‘Danish’

Great Dane Lying On The Grass
Guy J. Sagi / Shutterstock.com

Contrary to popular belief and despite their name, Great Danes did not originate or do not have any relation to Denmark. They are from and were originally bred by Germans over 400 years ago.

Etymology Of The Breed Name

There is a long history behind the breed name “Great Dane”. However, the etymology of the name came from the French naturalist, Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon’s reference to the breed in a book he published in the 1700s. He traveled to Denmark, saw a Great Dane and dubbed it as ‘le Grand Danois’, assuming that the dog was of Danish origin.

Over the years, the dogs were also called a lot of names such as, Englische Dogge, Deutsche Dogge, German Boarhounds, German Dogge and German Mastiff.

And to this day, while the breed is widely known and called the Great Dane, Germans still refer to it as “Deutsche Dog”.

2. They Were Bred For Hunting

Great Danes were initially bred to hunt wild boars in Europe back in the 1800s. And Great Danes back then were equally brave, ferocious and skilled. They are very different from the modern-day Danes we see.

And since the task of hunting wild boars was dangerous, people used to crop their natural floppy ears to prevent injuries.

3. They Are Giants With A Gentle Heart

Great Dane And Kid Hug At Backyard Outdoor
lunamarina / Shutterstock.com

Among its many characteristics and traits, the Great Dane is known for its gentle and loving disposition. Hence, the befitting title, “gentle giant”.

As hunting wild boars became less popular, the breed’s ferociousness and aggressiveness was bred out of them. The Great Danes we see today have evolved to loving and loyal family companions.

They are sweet and loyal to their owners and are social to other people. As a matter of fact, Great Danes are even great with kids and can be very patient and playful with them.

Furthermore, while not entirely aggressive and ferocious, Great Danes are known to be very loyal and can be protective of the people they love.

4. They Are Not The World’s Tallest Breed

The tallest dog breed in the world is the Irish Wolfhound, as recognized by the AKC. However, it is a well-known Great Dane fact that a Dane holds the record of the tallest dog on earth.

According to the Guinness World Records, the Great Dane named “Zeus” is over 7 feet tall when standing on his hind legs.

5. The World’s Biggest Lapdog

While they’re not the tallest breed in the world, they might hold the record of the biggest lapdog there is. Interestingly, for a dog that can weigh about 200 lbs, most Great Danes love being lap dogs.

These dogs, thanks to their loving nature, have a tendency to cuddle and curl up in beds and couches with people they love, oblivious to the fact that they are huge dogs!

6. Germany’s National Dog

Two Great Dane Dogs With Medals
muroPhotographer / Shutterstock.com

There are over 20 breed of dogs that originated in Germany, and in spite of this, Germany proclaimed the Great Dane as their national breed in 1876.

7. They Are An Official State Dog

Another interesting Great Dane fact is that the breed has been the official state dog of the state of Pennsylvania since 1965. While state dogs are mostly affiliated with the states they came from, Pennsylvania chose the Great Dane breed for many reasons, including:

  • The state’s founder owned a Great Dane
  • The breed’s transition from being a hunting dog to a working dog is a parallel the history of the state

8. They Come in Different Coat Colors

There are 17 Great Dane colors according to the American Kennel Club (AKC). But only seven of them are recognized by the AKC as official coat colors, and they are the following:

  1. Black
  2. Brindle
  3. Blue
  4. Fawn
  5. Harlequin
  6. Mantle
  7. Merle

9. They Have A Short Lifespan

Brindle Great Dane Dog Smile In Front Of A Blue Front Door
Tara Lynn and Co / Shutterstock.com

This might be one of those Great Dane facts that people feel sad about. Great Danes have short lifespans due to their huge size.

On average, the Great Dane lifespan is only 6 to 10 years. Some aren’t lucky enough and don’t reach 7 years old, but there are a few lucky ones that can reach 13 years old.

10. They Can Be Prone To The “Happy Tail Syndrome”

This may not be one of the very well-known Great Dane facts, but apparently Great Danes can suffer from “happy tail syndrome”. This is when the dogs injure their tails when they excitedly wag their tails a few times or with repeated collision over time.

Considering how sweet and loving this breed can be, excitedly wagging their tails at the sight of their owner is a common occurrence. And since Great Danes are huge, their tails can collide with hard surfaces like table legs, walls, etc. over time.

11. They Must Eat In Portions

It might be one of the most well-known Great Dane facts that the breed is prone to bloat. And because of this, they have to eat their meals in portions.

Great Danes have a fairly slow metabolism compared to small dog breeds. While they need a lot of food to sustain their big size, their meals must be given in portions for two or three times a day. And here’s why:

  • Their food consumption per pound of body weight is low as compared to small breeds.
  • They are not as energetic as other dogs.

12. They’re A Famous Character

Scooby Doo Dog In Stamford Downtown Parade Spectacular
Editorial credit: ApinBen4289 / Shutterstock.com

Did you know that Scooby Dog, the famous cartoon character, is a Great Dane? Maybe you’re one of the people who knew this interesting Great Dane fact. But did you know one of the more interesting reasons behind choosing Scooby’s breed?

Great Danes were once thought to ward off evil spirits and ghosts in the Middle Ages. Hence, becoming an ideal partner to a group of kids investigating eerie and spooky occurrences.

13. A Great Dane Became Part Of A Famous Trio

This might be one of the best Great Dane facts you’ll read! Back in 2010, a trio consisting of a goat, a Great Dane and a three-legged Retriever.

It all started when Minneli, the goat, unlatched its home, and releasing Judy, the Great Dane along the way. They were inseparable and were seen strolling around together at a Dallas chapel. Sadly, the three-legged Lucky was left behind and was miserable without the other two.

The duo who eloped was returned to their owner but were later put up for adoption. Many people applied to adopt them, but the couple, Norman and Sandy Williams, eventually got to adopt them. And since then, the three were inseparable.

14. They’re Great Apartment Dogs

While their huge size says otherwise, Great Danes are actually great for apartment living. Many of their characteristics suggest that they are perfect for those who live in apartments. They are docile, sweet, loving, can be easily trained and are not as energetic as other breeds.

They are not very particular with their crates or other surrounding and can easily get cozy on your couch.

15. A Great Dane dog enlisted in Navy

Just Nuisance Navy Sleeping
Credit: Historic UK

A Great Dane, named Just Nuisance, is the only dog ever in history to have been officially enlisted in the Royal Navy. Nuisance was born in the 1930s and grew up in the United Services Institute.

The dog had a special bond with the sailors and even accompanied them everywhere, even the ships. And because he had a habit of following sailors around, he got in trouble for going with them on to trains. Railway officials demanded that the owner should keep the dog under control and pay his train fares.

And the sailors’ solution to this problem is to enlist the dog in the Royal Navy. Because someone who is enlisted in the navy is entitled to free train rides. To make his enlistment official, he signed his papers with his paw mark!

When Just Nuisance died, he was buried with full naval honors at a former South Africa Navy Signal School.

16. The Breed Is A Mix Of Three Breeds

Did you know that the Great Dane breed was originally a “mixed breed”? It is a mix of the following dogs:

  1. Mastiff
  2. Grey hound
  3. Irish wolfhound

Each of these dogs has its own distinctive attribute that the Great Dane breed got from each of them:

  • Mastiffs are strong owing to their muscle mass.
  • Irish wolfhounds are tall.
  • Greyhounds are renowned for their fast speed.

The aforementioned qualities of these dogs the perfect characteristics in creating the Great Dane.

17. A Great Dane dog was given two Blue Cross Medals

In 1941, the Great Dane, Juliana, was awarded a Blue Cross Medal. And it was due to her intelligence that helped her get this award. When a bomb fell in her owner’s house, she peed on it and her urine diffused the bomb.

The same Great Dane was awarded its second medal three years later. This time, she warned officials about a developing fire in its owner’s shoe shop.

18. Great Dane Breed Popularity

Black American And European Great Danes Out In The Field
Degtyaryov Andrey / Shutterstock.com

Great Danes have increasingly become popular through the years. And you must be wondering how popular they are.

According to the AKC’s “Most Popular Dog Breeds of 2021”, Great Dane is currently ranked 17th most popular dog around the globe.

19. It’s A Heartbreaking Breed

As mentioned above, Great Danes live a relatively short life. And while this is due to their size, it’s also because they are susceptible to a number of health issues.

We also mentioned that they are prone to bloat, but they’re also prone to diseases like:

  1. Dilated Cardiomyopathy
  2. Osteoarthritis
  3. Hip dysplasia
  4. Osteosarcoma
  5. Addison’s disease
  6. Wobbler syndrome

They can also suffer from other health issues like:

  1. Ear infections
  2. Hot spot
  3. Diarrhea
  4. Skin allergies

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