The Great Dane, a giant member of the canine family, is easily the most popular of the big dogs in the U.S.
Originally known as the German Boarhound, the modern Great Dane is much more streamlined than his prewar ancestors and more attractive.
The breed was used extensively in the Black Forest in Germany for hunting wild pigs and they required plenty of speed, stamina and courage for this work.
As time went by, their huge size and smooth coats appealed to the public, and the breed made rapid strides as companions and guards.
Like all German dogs, Great Danes are smart, easily trained and make dignified and elegant companions in large homes.
They can be kept clean with a minimum of trouble, having a short smooth coat, and, if given plenty of exercises, are hardy and disease resisting.
A well-built Great Dane is a particularly noble and dignified looking animal.
Although possessed of tremendous size, measuring 33 inches tall at the shoulder and weighing about 130 pounds, he must be free from coarseness and yet have ample bone and substance.
Puppies of the breed require lots of exercises and good food to achieve the desired size and soundness, but when fully matured they can be kept fit on an ordinary large dog’s rations.
If the dog is hunting, he will naturally eat more than the fellow just kept as a house dog or guard.
The Great Dane, in common with other very large dogs, is often spoilt by weak hindquarters. This is usually due to faulty rearing and can be prevented by strict attention to diet and exercise in his early days.
Antibiotic food supplements have proved a real boon to breeders of these dogs and give the pups the “good start” so necessary in life.
American Great Danes are well up to show standard, and it is not at all uncommon to see the “Big Smooth Dog” on top at major American shows.
Character in the breed is most important. The dog must be dignified, utterly fearless and amendable to discipline. Shyness or bad temper cannot be tolerated in a dog of this size.
Harlequins Are Rare
Color is an important feature of the dog. There are five acceptable colors — brindle, fawn, black, blue and harlequin.
“Mismarks” are still seen occasionally but most breeders have eliminated badly colored dogs from their kennels.
These come mainly from the kennels of those who are trying to breed harlequins, the most difficult of all to breed.
The harlequin has a white body color with black or blue patches.
These patches must not be even but have the appearance of being torn.
It is very difficult to breed more than a couple in any litter.
But when a good one with correct markings is produced, the breeder has a dog of which he can be proud.
A well-marked harlequin should be free from marking on the neck.
Blue or wall eyes are quite permissible in harlequins and are frequently seen in blues, bred from harlequin stock.
The desirable dark brown eye is rather difficult to breed in black, blue or harlequin dogs. If the colors are to remain pure, these dogs cannot be mated with fawns or brindles with any degree of certainty that they will not produce “mismarked” stock.
Black and fawn can be mated, but the introduction of fawns into stock when harlequins are wanted is not advised.
Balance With Size
The Great Dane should possess a well-balanced head, clean and fairly narrow skull, ears carried drop fashion close to the cheek, with a well-developed jaw, with a nice square-tipped finish.
The muzzle should be broad and strong and the topline should be parallel with the skull. “Down faced” specimens are unwanted.
The neck is long, slightly arched and free from loose skin.
Shoulders are fine and sloping, body deep, powerful, free from clumsiness and well-ribbed back.
The hindquarters should be strong, with well-developed second thighs, nicely turned stifles, well boned and free from lumps and bumps.
The dog should have plenty of propelling power in his hind parts and should move with freedom and grace.
The forelegs are of fair length, straight, with lots of bone and short strong pasterns. The feet must be deep, well-padded and have strong toenails.
Gentle With Children
Despite his size, a properly built Great Dane is capable of a good turn of speed and many have proved to be capital hunters on all types of game found in the U.S.
They are gentle with children and a well-trained one is big enough to keep unwelcome visitors from the portals of one’s home.
Breeders and judges look for absolute soundness of limb and good, clear coloring. Without these, a Great Dane has very little chance of success in the modern show ring.