Great Dane

Although the Great Dane is classified as a working breed, it is many years since they were used as working dogs and now they are better known as family pets. However, these gentle giants do make good guard dogs and their size is intimidating to strangers.


This dog's ancestors were giant war dogs from Asia Minor, probably originating from ancient Egypt. They were used as war dogs by Attila the Hun and fought against wild animals in Rome's Coliseum. Medieval pictures depict them in their fighting gear, consisting of an armoured coat with spikes. The modern Great Dane was developed in the 1500s in Germany for hunting wild boar. However, from 1882. when the Breed Club was formed, the breed changed course and became a pet and guard dog.

In spite of its immense size and fighting past, the Great Dane is a gentle giant. Like many large breeds, its life expectancy is not long: only 10 years.


This is a courageous, devoted but sensitive breed which belies its bloodthirsty past. Extremely family oriented, Great Danes are easily trained and very obedient. Although large, they are not clumsy and don't take up too much space. However, a big house and garden are best. Seriously fond of their family's children, they will defend them if danger threatens.

must know

Hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, bloat and eye problems are all under investigation in this giant breed.


The Great Dane is a majestic yet elegant dog with a soft expression and an athletic body with a look of "dash and daring". Colours range from brindle with stripes to fawn-light to dark, blue-light to dark slate, black or harlequin with black or blue patches which appear torn. Dogs are a minimum of 76cm (30in) in height while bitches are a minimum of 71cm (28in).

Strangers 4/5

Suspicious nature, will guard owners

Temperament 4/5

Friendly, outgoing, favours children

Exercise 4/5

Puppies not too much; adults plenty

Grooming 1/5

Minimal: weekly brush and polish with hound glove

Other dogs 4/5

Gets on with others


A deeply affectionate big dog caring for its family

General care

These dogs need only gentle exercise when they are young and their bones are still growing. The amount of walking and running you give them can be built up gradually over time to develop their muscular athletic body. A fully-grown adult dog will demand plenty of walks and free running. Never play fight with this breed as you are unlikely to win and could get hurt. A weekly good brushing will keep the coat lustrous; the ears need cleaning at the same time.

Gallery of Great Dane