Where Do Great Danes Come From?

Question: Where do Great Danes come from?

Answer: Very little is known regarding the exact origins of Great Danes but it is believed that the breed first developed and flourished in Germany. The Germans claimed the Great Dane as a national breed in the 19th century and it has become common knowledge that their country is where Great Danes come from.

It is believed that the Germans imported dogs that were similar to modern day Great Danes in the 17th and 18th century. The dogs were imported from Denmark thus they were referred to as Danish Hounds or Boarhounds.

An engraving from 1686 illustrating a wild boar hunt in Denmark shows dogs that are very similar to modern day Great Danes:

great dane origins

This proves the theory that Dane-like dogs might have been imported to Germany and developed through several breeding programs into the modern day Great Dane.

An account by the American Kennel Club reads that:

No one is quite sure how or why Great Danes, a German breed, came to be associated with Denmark. (In Germany they’re known as the Deutsche Dog, or “German dog.”) We do know that once upon a time, German nobles used Danes to hunt ferocious wild boars. Later, Danes became famous as protectors of their home and loved ones, a job they are still happy to perform.

American Kennel Club

It is believed that Great Danes became very popular in Germany when Prince Otto von Bismarck began housing many of them as his own personal pets.

Great Danes started migrating to other countries in the 1800s but their popularity in German is still common knowledge today.

History Of Great Danes

The Great Dane was originally a hunting and fighting dog due to its strength and size. It was a very aggressive and harsh dog with a very wild temperament.

Excellent breeding programs transformed the Great Dane into a gentle and friendly dog that is suitable for families and very good with kids.

great dane history

Before Great Danes inherited their beautiful name they were known by many names that are no longer common today. They were known by names like German Mastiff, German Boarhound, English Dogge, Ulmer Dogge and Deutsche Dogge.

An account by Wikipedia records that:

In 1878, a committee was formed in Berlin which changed the name of the “Englische Dogge” (English mastiff derivatives) to “Deutsche Dogge” (German mastiff), this being the Great Dane. This laid the foundations from which the breed was developed. During the 19th century, the dog was known as a “German boarhound” in English-speaking countries. Some German breeders tried to introduce the names “German Dogge” and “German Mastiff” on the English market, because they believed the breed should be marketed as a dog of luxury and not as a working dog. However, due to the increasing tensions between Germany and other countries, the dog later became referred to as a “Great Dane”, after the grand danois in Buffon’s Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière in 1755.


It is believed that Great Danes might have existed 2,000 years ago and dogs similar to the breed belonged to an Asian tribe of Assyrians who used the dog for hunting wild boar and other large animals.

Great Danes were originally bred for hunting, fighting and security due to their strength, endurance, size and boldness.

Other theories suggest that Great Danes must have been originated from dogs similar to Mastiffs that were present in England during the 1500s. The Greeks, Romans and Persians also kept Mastiff-like dogs that are believed to have been the foundation for breeding the modern day Great Dane.

There is no formal documentation on the actual origins of Great Danes but the Assyrian theory is believed to be closer to the actual origin story.

What Are Great Danes?

great dane

Great Danes are a large dog breed that can grow to a height of 30 inches from the ground to the shoulders. The dog breed can weigh between 100-200 pounds when they are fully grown.

The Great Dane was originally bred for hunting and fighting due to its size and power. Earlier versions of the breed were aggressive dogs but selective breeding and training has led the Great Dane to have a gentle and friendly temperament which makes them great family dogs.

There are mainly six Great Dane colors which are recognized by the American Kennel Club. The coat colors are:

Selective breeding has led to some rare colors like merle, fawnequin and white. Great Danes are definitely a great choice for anyone looking for a dog breed that has been carefully bred for good qualities throughout history.

When Did Great Danes Come To America?

The first Great Dane recorded to be owned by an American was one called Prince who was owned by Francis Butler in New York. The Great Dane Club of America was formed in 1889 so the breed might have been introduced to the country a couple of years before the formation.

A German import called Juno was the first Great Dane champion to be registered by the American Kennel Club. The dog was owned by the Osceola kennel from Wisconsin.

Ear cropping became very common in the United States since many Great Danes usually returned with torn or mangled ears when hunting wild boars and other large game animals.

The practice has been banned in other countries like the United Kingdom and most European nations but it is still being practiced in the United States today.

Although Great Dane ear cropping is no longer being done mostly for hunting purposes, many pooch owners do it for styling and beautifying their dogs.

When Did Great Danes Come To The United Kingdom?

The introduction of Great Danes in the United Kingdom was very slow but that ceased to be the case as years progressed. In the UK, Great Danes were originally referred to as the German Boarhound until 1894 when the Great Dane name was introduced in the English Stud Book.

The first Great Dane breed classes in the UK began at the Alexandra Palace show in January 1897. The breed began to grow in popularity and the Great Dane Club for the country was formed by Mr. Adcock in 1883.

King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra who were great admirers of Great Danes also visited many show circuits of England. It is said that they loved the breed due to its beauty, size and power.

There are also several pictures of Prince George with Great Danes:

prince George with a Great Dane

It is believed that the rise in popularity of Great Danes among social elites in the United Kingdom might have attracted the masses to admire the breed even more.

Many families started keeping Great Danes as pets and guard dogs due to their defensive temperament.

So, Where Exactly Do Great Danes Come From?

where do great danes come from

Great Danes are believed to have been first developed in Germany where the Germans bred the dog for hunting, fighting and security. Dane-like dogs were imported from Denmark to German were several breeding programs led to a dog that is similar to the modern day Great Dane.

The breed became very popular in Germany when Prince Otto Von Bismarck started housing many Great Danes as his own personal personal pets.

The dogs were then introduced to other countries like the United States Of America and United Kingdom in the 1800s and its world wide popularity has been growing ever since.

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