Great Dane

The Great Dane is a breed of dog known for its large size and gentle personality. The breed is commonly referred to as the "Gentle Giant".

Some sources state that dogs similar to Great Danes were known in Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Various sources report that the Great Dane was developed from the medieval boarhound, and or the Mastiff and Irish wolfhound lines. It is also reported that the Great Dane was developed from mastiff-like dogs taken to Germany by the Alans. The breed may be about 400 years old.

The Great Dane is the large hunting dog of the Danír tribe, ”Dene” in the poem "Beowulf", today’s Danes, Norwegians, Englishmen and her daughters.

In Old Norse (ON) and Old English (OE) the male is always referred to as ”Hund” (in etymology from ”the Hunt/Hunter”) and the bitch as ”grey/grig”. This division can still be seen in the hunting protocols from the Royal Kennels of the Royal Court of Denmark year 1710-36 (may be seen at the National Archives, Denmark).

Thus in Norse and Old English literature, specifically the compilation of sagas known as Elder Edda (Poetic Edda), the hound is named in variations over these words, for example

”hvndar” and ”greyiom” ( Skírnismál , verse 11, Elder Edda)
”mjóhundr/myo hwnd/mjøhund (Scanian Law from 1200/1250)

As the original purpose of the hound was to be able to take on the wild boar, the Deer and the wolf we often see kennings applied that identify Odin’s two hounds as wolfhounds. As the king’s personal hounds it is the very same hound that guards the entrance to the next world in both Denmark and England, the folklore of which forms the basis for ”The Hound of the Baskervilles”.

The large hound, alongside the horse and the raven, is holy to the kings of Denmark and England. We see this both in the common language at the time and in the buried treasure of the kings and queens.

The large hound appears to be a migration dog. It arrives in the landscapes of the Danes in two migrations: Firstly with the Celts in the 5th Century BCE and secondly with the Danes as they begin to settle year 40-77 ACE.

Uniquely The Zoological Museum, University of Copenhagen Faculty of Science has a collection of dog skeletons from both periods and thereafter well in to the Middle Ages. The dogs were buried alongside their owners, male and female, as guiding spirits to the next world. None exists prior to this period. The large hounds are 61-70 cm tall over the shoulder (see the Ladby ship).

The most treasured hound, as is the case with the horse, is the white coloured with black markings. Today we know this hound as ”Harlequin/Harlekin” (English/ Danish). However the origin is ”Herla Cyning” (OE) or ”King of the Army”. The word evolves because the human king is titled Hariwalda (ON/OE), in the new kingdoms in Britannia evolving to ”Bretwalda” or ”ruler of the army/Britannia”. His personal hounds in white are rulers of all dogs.

Two large hounds can be seen on “The Royal Purse Lid” (The British Museum) as guiding spirits to the king buried in Sutton Hoo, East Anglia, presumably (H)Rædwald in the 7th Century ACE.

Likewise the large hound is depicted on the engravings of the Golden horns of Gallehus from Southern Jutland, Denmark dated to the 5th Century ACE and on numerous rune stones and engravings on Viking ships used for burial purposes (see Oseberg ship). The depictions continue uninterrupted in church paintings and murals up until today.

The original large hound was lighter in construction than the current one. We know this both from art and from the royal hunting protocols. We also know what caused this to change, when and how.

Towards the end of the 16th Century the Royal Courts of Denmark introduce the new fashion of the Parforce Hunt – an unnatural hunt where the hunting dogs are no longer allowed to run down and kill the deer. On the contrary the dogs are expected to hunt the deer, knock it down and hold it firm until the human huntsman arrives and then makes the kill.

We can see from the protocols of the Danish court that the large hound is not well equipped to perform this new role in the Parforce Hunt. It is too light in built to hold down a deer or wolf without killing it. To solve this problem King Frederick II of Denmark (regent 1559-1588) sends a ship to London in 1585 to bring back “Englandshvalpe” (English puppies) given to him by Queen Elizabeth I of England (regent 1558-1603). The English puppies are the far heavier English mastiffs. The Royal Tapestry from 1585-6 depicts King Frederik II. with his new “English puppy”. The tapestry can be seen in the National Museum of Denmark. (Source: C. Weismann: Vildtets og Jagtens Historie, Copenhagen, 1931, p. 438-440).

The protocols of the Royal Danish Kennels maintain two separates lines in the kennel in the breeding programme; the Danish and the English line. The cross breeding becomes known as “Blendinge” (same word and meaning as the English word “blend”). This new line of large hounds is the foundation of the present day Great Dane as we see them in Denmark, England and the United States.

The various names used to identify the hound; Great Dane (English speaking world), датский дог (Dahtskeey Dog, Russian), Gran Danés (Spanish and Portuguese speaking world including South America), Grand Danois (French speaking world, Scandinavia in the 20th Century), Tanskandoggi (Finland), Danubius Dog (Hungary), Danua cinsi kopek or Grand Danua (Tyrkey) and Dänische Dogge or Grosse Dänische Yagd Hund (German speaking world up until 1888-9) simply reflects the tribal origin of the hounds (see for instance Dr. Leop Jeps Fitzinger: Der Hund und seine Rassen (1876) and Meyers Konversationslexikon (vierte Auflage, Leipzig, 1888-1889, page 8:799)).

The large hound was imported in to the Roman Empire and thus correctly is referred to as Alano in Italian.

We have a record of the hound acting as a wolfhunter very late in history. Johan Täntzer wrote ”Der Dianen Hohe und Niedere Jagdgeheimnüsz (1682-89 in three books). He worked for King Christian V of Denmark (regent 1670-1699), initially as ”Birdcatcher” (Fuglefænger) at the hunting lodge Jægerborg Castle. Later on, from 1677-85, he acted as Wolfhunter (Ulvejæger) in Jutland, Denmark. He was tasked with controlling the wolf population. He retired as Inspector of the hunting grounds on Amager, Copenhagen and wrote his book on his experiences of hunting wolfs with the large hound in Jutland, Denmark (Source: C. Weismann: Vildtets og Jagtens Historie, Copenhagen, 1931, p. 467-470).

The hound was highly treasured and a tribal competitive advantage. Thus the hound did not exist in Germania until King Christian VI of Denmark (regent 1730-1746) ceased the Parforce Hunt in 1741 and gave away all the large hounds from the royal kennels.

The records from the royal kennel at Jægersborg Castle (see Lauritz de Thurah), Denmark shows us who received the hounds as gifts:

King Frederick I of Sweden – 11 pack of hounds
Markgraf Friedrich (Brandenburg-Bayreuth) – 25 pack of hounds
The Duke of Pløen, Friedrich Carl – 6 packs of hounds
King Charles Emmanuel III of Sardinia – 4 large “Blendinge” (Blended) hounds

(Source: C. Weismann: Vildtets og Jagtens Historie, Copenhagen, 1931, p. 449).

This event distributes the large hound throughout Europe amongst the aristocracy and forms the basis for all later rewritings of history. Up until this event in 1741 the hounds were only to be found in the original landscapes, including Normandy from year 912 ACE (hence why the hound can be seen in hunting scenes on the Bayeux Tapestry depicting year 1064 ACE, prior to The Battle of Hastings).

In 1749 Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon begins publishing his large thesis on evolution called ”Histoire Naturelle, générale et particulière”. His uses the large hound as an example of evolution (Book 4) and since he cannot find it anywhere in France or in Germania he seeks it in its home turf Denmark. It is he who for the first time coins the name ”le Grand Danois”. In the English translation of his work by William Smellie (encyclopedist) the same word becomes ”Great Dane”. Up until that time the hound was referred to in England as ”Danish dog”.

We know from a thesis by the Dane Jacob Nicolay Wilse titled ”Fuldstændig beskrivelse af stapelstaden Fridericia – efter pålidelige underretninger og egne undersøgninger.” and published in 1767 that the Danes called the dog ”large hound”, a terminology continued well in to the 20th Century.

In Germany in 1780 the hound is referred to as ”Grosse Dänische Yagd Hund” or ”Large Danish Hunting Hound”.

The first dog exhibition was held in Hamburg 14-20 July 1863. 8 dogs were called ”Dänische Dogge” and 7 ”Ulmer Doggen”.

As part of the ever increasing German aggression throughout Europe Bismarck insisted on rewriting history and sets up a commission, ”Kynologischer Verein Hektor”, to invent a new origin of the hound, away from the enemies of Denmark and England and to cement it by renaming the dog ”Deutsche Dogge”. This is made public in 1878 and from 1880 it becomes illegal to refer to the dog as anything but ”Deutsche Dogge” throughout the German Reich. Alas no one outside Germany took any notice.

In Spring 1937 the German equivalent of the national kennel clubs, called ”Reichverband für das Deutsche Hundewesen” is put under Nazi control and its activities are now run by the S.A. (Sturmabteilung). Shortly thereafter the Danish national kennel association, Dansk Kennel Klub (DKK), is put on notice in writing that Nazi-Germany will demand the cessation of usage of any words not identifying the hound as of German origin on the forthcoming General Assembly of the International Canine Federation/ Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) in Paris 22nd July 1937.

This resulted in a great deal of activity and the Danes are successful in refuting the German rewriting of history (see the Minutes of the Meeting from the AGM at FCI 22nd July 1937, signed by Le Secretaire General, Baron Albert Houtart). The records of FCI from this meeting shows that all documentation was published in Bulletin Officiel de la Société Canine de Monaco, August 1937.

A board meeting at DKK dated 18th March 1935 approves the following standard for "den danske hund":

Standard for den danske Hund.
(Grand Danois, Great Dane)
Country of origin: Danmark (Denmark)

At some point, either during or immediately after World War II, the country of origin of the hound is changed from the original Denmark to Germany. FCI would appear to no longer have the records that would be able to explain why that might be.

"Ðéah þe haéðstapa hundum geswenced
heorot hornum trum holtwudu séce"
(Beowulf, Old English, written about 755-757 ACE, line 1368-69)

"Though the heath-stepper harrassed by hounds,
The hart with strong horns, seeks the forest
(Modern English translation by Benjamin Slade)

Height and weight requirements for show dogs vary from one kennel club's standards to another, but generally the minimum weight falls between 100 to 120 lb (46 to 54 kg) and the minimum height must be between 28 and 32 inches (71 to 81 cm) at the withers. Most standards do not specify a maximum height or weight. In August 2004, a Great Dane named "Gibson" from Grass Valley, California was recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the world's tallest dog, measuring 42.2 inches at the withers.

There are six show-acceptable coat colors for Great Danes:

* Fawn: Yellow gold with a black mask. Black should appear on the eye rims and eyebrows, and may appear on the ears and tail tip.
* Brindle: Fawn and black in a chevron stripe pattern. Often also referred to as a tiger-stripe pattern.
* Blue: The color shall be a pure steel blue. White markings at the chest and toes are not desirable.
* Black: The color shall be a glossy black. White markings at the chest and toes are not desirable.
* Harlequin: Base color shall be pure white with black torn patches irregularly and well distributed over the entire body; a pure white neck is preferred. The black patches should never be large enough to give the appearance of a blanket, nor so small as to give a stippled or dappled effect. Eligible, but less desirable, are a few small gray patches, or a white base with single black hairs showing through, which tend to give a salt and pepper or dirty effect.
* Mantle: The color shall be black and white with a solid black blanket extending over the body; black skull with white muzzle; white blaze is optional; whole white collar preferred; a white chest; white on part or whole of forelegs and hind legs; white tipped black tail. A small white marking in the black blanket is acceptable, as is a break in the white collar.

Other colors occur occasionally but are not acceptable in the show ring. Because they are not valid for show dogs, they are not pursued by breeders. These colors include white, fawnequin, merle, merlequin, fawn mantle, and others. These are sometimes advertised as "rare" colors to unsuspecting buyers. Any coat that includes "mouse grey" is disqualified from show.

Cropping of the ears is common in the United States and much less common in Europe. Indeed, in some European countries such as Denmark, in parts of Australia, and in New Zealand, the practice is banned, or controlled such that it may only be performed by veterinary surgeons for health reasons. Ear cropping for looks only was never done in England. The original purpose of Ear Cropping was to cut the ears so that the wolf would not be able to grap hold of the ear in defence.This was also used to keep wild boar (often the objective of great dane hunts) from shredding their velvety ears. Now, however, it is used purely for a regal and majestic look in showdogs. The original ear cropping can be seen on the pictures above.

The Great Dane must be spirited, courageous, always friendly and dependable, and never timid or aggressive. They are intelligent, strong dogs that are protective and loyal to their owners. Many are gentle and delicate, although not to the extent of being timid. They take to training well, make good watchdogs and are fairly low maintenance compared to many other breeds.

Great Danes, like most giant dogs, have a fairly slow metabolism. This results in less energy and less food consumption per pound of dog than in small breeds.

Great Danes have some health problems that are common to large breeds. Bloat (a painful distending and twisting of the stomach) is a rare but critical condition that affects Great Danes and results rapidly in death if not quickly addressed. It is a commonly recommended practice for Great Danes to have their stomachs tacked (Gastropexy) to the interior rib lining during routine surgery such as spaying and neutering if the dog or its relatives have a history of bloat.Though some veterinary surgons will not do the operation if the actuall sickness has not occured. Some ways of preventing bloat are having elevated food dishes. This helps to regulate the amount of air that is inhaled while eating. Also, refrain from excercise or activity before and after meals. Another problem common to the breed is in the hips (hip dysplasia). Typically an x-ray of the parents can certify whether their hips are healthy and can serve as a guideline for whether the animals should be bred and are likely to have healthy pups.

The latest epidemiological research by Dr. Larry Glickman at Purdue, and his coauthors, has found that using elevated food dishes actually dramatically increases the risk of bloat.

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and many congenital heart diseases are also commonly found in the Great Dane.

Also, some Danes may develop yeast infections, when not fed all needed nutritional requirements. The yeast infection may also lead to minor recurring staph infections.

Great Danes also suffer from several genetic disorders that are specific to the breed. For example, if a Great Dane lacks color (not white) near its eyes or ears then that organ does not develop and usually, the dog will be either blind or deaf. Many pure white Danes are deaf.

The Great Dane is the state dog of Pennsylvania.

The Great Dane is the team mascot at the University at Albany.

Danes in popular culture

* Hanna-Barbera's Scooby-Doo
* Brad Anderson's newspaper comic character Marmaduke
* Einstein in Disney's Oliver & Company (1988)
* Just Nuisance - A member of the South African Navy
* Ace from Batman Beyond
* Mars and Jupiter, two Great Danes from The Patriot
* Duke and Turk, two Great Danes from Disney's The Swiss Family Robinson (1960 film), where they are able to fight off a tiger.
* Hanna-Barbera's Astro (The Jetsons)
* The Great Dane in G.B. Stern's novel The Ugly Dachshund believes he is a dachshund
* Brutus from Disney's version of The Ugly Dachshund
* The Greater Dane from the 2003 movie "Good Boy!" is a blue male Dane named New Era - Valentino.
* The guard dogs featured in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater are Great Danes.
* Ben, a main character in Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin, was half Great Dane and half Mastiff, but mostly showed Great Dane characteristics. One of his sons, Ken, also half-Dane half-Mastiff, is prominent in the sequel, Ginga Densetsu Weed.
* Hougen and Genba, the primary antagonists in Ginga Densetsu Weed, were harlequin Great Dane brothers.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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