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Home > Dogs > 10 Fascinating Great Dane Facts: Origin, Appearance & More

10 Fascinating Great Dane Facts: Origin, Appearance & More

a great dane dog lying outdoor

Great Danes are a popular dog breed in the US. These giant dogs make a strong impression as soon as they walk into a room. Though they have an intimidating size, they’re actually quite friendly and eager to please, and they have a reputation as the gentle giants of the dog world.

There’s much to love beyond this dog breed’s giant size. Here are some of our favorite, fascinating facts about the Great Dane.

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The 10 Facts About Great Danes

1. Great Danes Don’t Originate From Denmark

Great Danes are an ancient breed that has been around for more than 400 years. Most historians believe that they’re descendants of Mastiff-like dogs and that they originate from Germany.

It’s unclear as to how these dogs started being called “Grand Danois,” which is French for “Big Danish.” While the rest of the world will refer to them as Great Danes, Germany calls this breed the Deutsche Dogge, or the German Mastiff.


2. Great Danes Weren’t Always Gentle Giants

Great Danes were originally bred as working dogs and guard dogs. They used to hunt wild boars and also guarded carriages and large estates. Their original line of work required more aggressive temperaments than the easygoing natures that they’re known for today.

Eventually, breeders bred Great Danes to have more friendly and gentle temperaments. Their fierce reputation shifted, and they’re now wonderful and doting companions. Despite no longer being hunting dogs, Great Danes still have a good amount of energy and require daily exercise.

woman and her great dane
Image Credit: Yuri Nunes, Shutterstock

3. The World’s Tallest Dog Is a Great Dane

It’s no surprise that a Great Dane is the Guinness World Record holder for the largest dog in the world. Not only are these dogs large in size, but they also have very long limbs.

Zeus, the tallest dog in the world, lived in Otsego, Michigan. He was 44 inches from foot to withers and could reach 7 feet and 4 inches when on his hind legs.

Zeus passed away in 2014. The current tallest living dog in the world also happens to be a Great Dane named Zeus. This Zeus lives in Bedford, Texas. He stands at just a little over 41 inches.


4. Great Danes Were Once Believed to Keep Evil Spirits Away

During the Middle Ages, people believed that large Great Danes were able to keep evil spirits and ghosts away. This belief encouraged them to be kept in large estates and roam around freely.

Great Danes also became popular ghost-hunting companions because they were known to have the ability to sense ghosts. The famous Scooby-Doo was partially inspired by this myth and was drawn as a Great Dane.

Some people also believed that Great Danes could protect them from having nightmares. So, some owners would always make sure to have their Great Danes sleeping beside them every night.

blue great dane
Image Credit: verky01, shutterstock

5. There Are Many Famous Great Danes

Great Danes are so popular that many end up on the big screen. Many are familiar with Scooby Doo, but several other celebrity Great Danes include Marmaduke and Astro from The Jetsons. The unnamed dog from Little Rascals is also a Great Dane.

Many celebrities also seem to be fans of these giant dogs. Cameron Diaz, Adam West, Kendall Jenner, and Jayne Mansfield have all cared for Great Danes.


6. A Great Dane Is the Only Dog to Have Ever Joined the Royal Navy

The only dog to have ever been enlisted in the UK’s Royal Navy was a Great Dane named Just Nuisance. He was stationed in South Africa and served with HMS Afrikander from 1939 to 1944.

Just Nuisance became a mascot that gained the favor of many sailors. His giant frame would block the gangplank, which is how he got his name. However, he’d often brighten people’s days and escort drunk soldiers back to their bunks.

The main reason Just Nuisance was enlisted into the Royal Navy was so that he could ride public trains. Despite being in the navy, he never went out to sea. Instead, he raised morale and also went on fundraising campaigns.

great on rocky cost
Image Credit: JulietAS, Shutterstock

7. A Great Dane Was Awarded Two Blue Cross Medals

Juliana is a Great Dane that lived in the World War II era. She saved her family’s life by defusing a bomb in her house by urinating on it. This act awarded Juliana her first Blue Cross Medal.

Juliana received her second Blue Cross Medal for animal bravery just 3 years after her first one. She sensed a fire and alerted the customers in her owner’s shoe shop. Her story remained largely unknown and forgotten until her portrait and second medal were discovered much later. These items were auctioned in September 2013 and sold for £1,100.


8. The Great Dane Is the Official Dog of Pennsylvania and Germany

The Great Dane was proudly declared the official dog of Germany in 1876 and is affectionately called the German Mastiff in this country. It’s believed that many of the characteristics the Great Dane is known for today were developed in Germany.

Regarding Pennsylvania, a portrait of a Great Dane was found in William Penn’s reception room. William Penn is the founder of Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania named the Great Dane as the official state dog in 1965.

female great dane
Image Credit: David Pegzlz, Shutterstock

9. Great Danes Naturally Have Floppy Ears and Long Tails

Great Danes are traditionally known to have cropped ears and docked tails. However, they’re actually born with floppy ears and long tails. While these modifications can be done for cosmetic reasons, they can have practical purposes as well.

Cropped ears can help improve hearing or prevent hunting dogs from getting bitten. Great Danes also have long and powerful tails that can cause muscle strain, abrasions, and other injuries from Happy Tail Syndrome.

Since Great Danes no longer hunt, it’s becoming more common to see them with uncropped ears. Many people are also refraining from docking their tails unless it’s becoming a serious health issue.


10. Great Danes Love People and Are Extremely Sensitive

Despite their large size, Great Danes aren’t outdoor dogs. They require human companionship and love nothing more than spending their entire day with their favorite humans.

Great Danes are also very sensitive to the tone of voice, so they don’t respond well to harsh training and treatment. They do best with training methods that include a lot of encouragement and positive reinforcement.

These dogs are friendly and want to get along with everyone. They’re known to be gentle with children and able to live harmoniously with other smaller pets.

black great dane dog cuddling with owner
Image Credit: Roger costa morera, Shutterstock

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Great Danes have a remarkable history with humans and have done some amazing things throughout the years. These dogs have helped people in so many ways, and anyone with a Great Dane in their life is lucky to know such a wonderful dog breed. We know that these dogs will continue to be loving companion dogs, and we’re looking forward to learning more about them and living alongside them for many more years to come.

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Featured Image Credit: Emma Forsyth 88, Shutterstock

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