You want a dog and it should be a Great
Often called the
Apollo of dogs, the Great Dane can trace its
paw prints as far back as time of the
Egyptians. Drawings of dogs resembling Great
Danes were found on Egyptian monuments
dating from 3,000 B.C., and artefacts found
in Babylonian temples built about 2,000 B.C.
include a relief-plate showing Assyrian men
walking huge, Dane like dogs on stout
leashes. The dogs depicted have the same
massive body and long, powerful legs as
today's Great Dane.
believe that all Dane-type dogs originated
in the highlands of Tibet. There is great
similarity between the Tibetan Mastiffs that
lived at the base of the Himalayas and the
Dane like dogs of the Assyrians. The
zoologists' belief gains credibility in that
the earliest written report of dogs strongly
similar in type to the Great Dane appeared
in Chinese literature in 1121 B.C.The highly
cultured Assyrians traded their dogs to the
Greeks and Romans along with other goods
they manufactured. The Romans in turn bred
the Assyrian dogs to British dogs they also
acquired. Thus it appears both the Tibetan
and English Mastiffs are forbears of the
There was some debate as to whether the Irish
Wolfhound or Irish Greyhound played a secondary role in the Dane's
development. The French naturalist Comte de Buffon, who lived during the
1700s, thought the Irish Wolfhound was the primary ancestor of the Dane
because the Celts had taken some of the huge dogs from the Romans and
English to Ireland where they were bred to the native Irish Wolfhounds.
But Baron Georges Cuview, an anatomist who lived from the late 1700s
thought it was the early result of an English Mastiff and Irish
The earliest Dane like
dogs were called Boar Hounds, for the prey
that hunted, but by the 16th century they
were known as English Dogges.
Around 1680, when German noblemen were breeding
great numbers of the dogs, the biggest and most handsome dogs were kept
inside their homes. These dogs were called Kammerhunde, meaning Chamber
Dogs. These pampered pets wore gilded collars trimmed with fringe and
padded with velvet.
Buffon gave the breed the name it's known by
today. While travelling in Denmark, he saw the slimmer variety of the
Boar Hound, which shared more similarities with the Greyhound. Buffon
remarked that the Danish climate had caused the Greyhound to become a
Grand Danois. Thereafter, the dogs became known as the Great Danish Dog,
with the heavier dogs sometimes called Danish Mastiffs.
The Danish name stuck-despite the fact that
Denmark had nothing whatsoever to do with the development of the breed.
Most fanciers today credit Germany with the
well-balanced, elegant Great Dane as we know it. It is known that
German nobility imported these English Boar Hounds until the 17th and
18th centuries, by which time they had developed their own breeding
stock and no longer needed the imports.
In 1880, a Dr. Bodinus held a meeting in Berlin
where judges and breeders agreed that the breed as developed by the
Germans was distinctly different from the stockier English Mastiffs and
would henceforth be known solely as the Great Dane,
or German Dog. The Great Danes Club of German
was founded, and the name Great Dane took hold in parts of Europe.
The Germans had a hard time convincing other
countries to accept the breed name, however. The Italians to this day
call the breed Alano, which means mastiff. In England, the United States
and other English-speaking countries, the dogs are called Great Danes.