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Great Dane


Original Works of art

Group: Working
Breed Family: Great Dane

Related to the Mastiff is a breed somewhat misnamed in America and England: the Great Dane. It has little to do with Denmark, for it originated in Germany where it is known as the Deutsche Dogge, or German Mastiff. One of his ancient names, the German Boarhound, evokes his once passionate pursuit of boars. Ancestors of the Great Dane were often used to hunt boars and wild stags in the dark forests of medieval times, when they were protected with armor or strong, padded coats studded with spikes.

The Great Dane is probably descended from the Mastiff. Known as Kammerhunde (or "dogs of the chamber"), they were greatly prized by the German nobles of the seventeenth and eighteenth century for their size and strength, and early examples may be seen depicted in paintings wearing richly decorated collars. Hunting game continued much longer in Germany than in England, for instance, where wild game of this sort was largely extinct by the 16th century. In Germany, the original function of these dogs was continued in the castles of many of the German princes, who used the dogs to hunt wolves and wild boar for sport.

Colonel H. Smith, a nineteenth century writer on dog matters, describes the German Boarhound as "one of the largest breeds known." One presented to the King of Naples, Smith adds, was said to be the largest dog in the world, "standing four feet high at the shoulder," and that one he had seen in Brussels, "marching at the head of the regiment of Cherfayt, was as large as a Shetland Pony!" Sometimes the Great Dane went to war with his master, as did Lord Cadogan’s dog depicted in the tapestry of the siege of Blenheim.

In Germany, it was formerly the custom to call the lighter blue and tiger-spotted animals, "Ulmer Doggen", the heavy, yellow, pale yellow, and pale-yellow dogs, "Danische Doggen" (umlat over a), and the brindle dogs from Wurtemerg, "Hatzruden" (or Boarhounds). In 1879, it was decided to officially re-name the breed the Deutsche Dogge, thereby unifying these three types as well as many of the dogs known as the Boarhound, Hunting Dog, Wolfhound, and the Great Dane. In 1878, the term Deutsche Dogge came to refer to these dogs.


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