Great Danes are the gentle giants with a reputation for being excellent “nanny dogs” and even better companions of the home. The breed’s loving temperament makes them ideal guard dogs for all types of families – and rightfully so!
However, there’s a lot more to these dogs than just being ridiculously tall. Like, did you know that the Great Danes were believed to repel evil spirits? Or did you know that these ancient dogs once walked with Egyptian pharaohs?
Interested in learning how one brave Great Dane saved her owner by defusing a bomb? In today’s article, we’re counting down ten little-known Great Dane facts that you wouldn’t believe. Read on to learn the most interesting things about Danes.
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10. One of the Great Dane’s coat patterns is regarded as the most difficult color to breed.
It’s well documented by the aristocrats of Europe that the Harlequin Great Dane is the most difficult to breed – at least, to breed correctly. In a nutshell, these dogs are essentially Danes that sport a black and white pattern, like a cow!
And because this coat pattern is exclusive to the Great Dane, it makes a Harlequin Dane arguably some of the rarest dogs on the planet!
But you see…it’s not as simple as breeding two Harlequin Great Danes together. In fact, plenty of Harlequins carry the genetics for other popular colors (such as merle or black), which are more likely to show up in the litter.
So it’s not uncommon for breeders to take several years to be able to determine the ideal breeding combinations. Until then, the breeder will certainly have a ton of mis-marked black, merle, and white Great Danes.
And with how difficult this process can be, it’s not surprising that a Harlequin Dane can set you back upwards of 2500 dollars! But like with all “rare” dogs, reputable breeders are crucial to ensure health isn’t being neglected in the breeding process.
9. Great Danes are (probably) very ancient dogs.
While there are many theories surrounding the origins of the Great Dane, plenty of historians seem to believe that these dogs are actually ancient.
But how ancient, you ask? Well, there’s evidence that suggests that these dogs may have actually been around during 3000 BC. We know this because humans have found Great Danes in carvings on Egyptian monuments built around this period.
Plus, several artifacts found in Babylonian temples built around 2000 BC show these very same dogs. The dogs depicted on the artifacts and monuments show a massive mastiff-type dog with the same proportions and shape as the Great Dane.
However, historians still don’t know for sure whether these dogs are actually the ancestors of the modern Great Dane, or they’re an ancient breed that went extinct.
8. The tallest dog in the world was a Great Dane.
Yes, Great Danes are known for being tall dogs. But believe it or not, they’re not the tallest dog breed in the world. The Irish Wolfhound actually takes that title, beating the Dane by a few inches.
However, when it comes to the single tallest individual dog – a Great Dane named “Zeus” set that world record. Zeus, was a Great Dane that stood 44 inches tall at the shoulders and weighed roughly 155 pounds!
When standing up, Zeus towered over any human at an astounding 7 feet, 4 inches in height! The dog would tower over most people. And for reference, that’s about as tall as Tacko Fall – the NBA’s tallest basketball player currently in 2021.
And with such a tall stature, we can’t think of a better name for Zeus.
7. The Great Dane is the official dog breed of a US state.
Thirteen states of the United States of America have designated an official dog breed. One of which is the historic Pennsylvania. And their choice of breed is none other than the Great Dane.
But why the Dane? Other than the fact that they’re amazing dogs, the biggest reason is that the founder of Pennsylvania, Willian Penn, actually owned a Great Dane.
Even today, a lavish painting of Penn and his Great Dane proudly hangs at the Governor’s Reception Room at the state’s capitol.
Another reason is the Great Dane’s transition from a hunting dog to a multi-purpose working dog. This is a representation of the history of the Pennsylvania communities that transitioned from hunters to industrial, working Commonwealth.
6. Great Danes were once vicious and aggressive dogs.
The modern Great Dane is known for its loving and calm disposition. In fact, these dogs are very often referred to as “gentle giants.” However, this wasn’t always the case.
Before they became companions, or even working dogs, Great Danes were primarily used to hunt boar. Wild boars are not easy to hunt, as they tend to be very aggressive and are often known to charge at predators when being hunted.
That said, the old Great Danes needed to be brave, strong, and aggressive in order to take down such a formidable game. But as the popularity of boar hunting declined over the years, the need for Great Danes was also dwindling.
Breeders knew the only way to keep these dogs alive was to breed them for a calm and gentler disposition. And after several generations of breeding, the re-branding campaign of the Great Dane was a huge success!
5. A champion Great Dane appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
In 1955, a Great Dane named “Autopilot,” became the second dog ever to grace the cover of the Sports Illustrated. In fact, he was the first non-hunting dog to ever appear on the cover.
However, Autopilot wasn’t an ordinary Great Dane. The dog was one of the most decorated show dogs in history, having just finished his championship run in three months.
He eventually went on to win Best of Breed at the 1952 Westminster Dog Show. And since then, the renowned Autopilot has won 50 Best of breed ribbons!
4. Great Danes are the national dog breed of a European country.
Not only are Great Danes the official dogs of Pennsylvania, but also Germany’s national dog! As we discussed, the history and origins of the Great Dane isn’t so clear.
However, Germany is largely credited with developing the modern Great Dane we know and love today. After all, they’re nicknamed the “German Mastiff” for a reason!
The German nobility were so impressed with these dogs that there was a period where Danes were solely used for hunting and guarding.
In fact, it’s believed that the Duke of Braunschweig once assembled 600 Great Danes for a single boar hunt! And in 1876, the Great Dane was officially declared as the national dog of Germany.
3. Great Danes were premiere coach dogs.
So what exactly is a coach dog? No, it’s not a dog that “coaches” its owner. Rather, they were some of the most important work dogs in transportation several centuries ago.
In the 18th century, it was a lot more dangerous to travel the roads, especially if you’re someone of importance and wealth. Who knows what one might encounter on these roads.
To protect the carriages that frequently traveled sparse roads, guard dogs ran alongside the carriages to deter any unwanted thieves or attackers. These are coach dogs.
And thanks to the protective nature of the Great Dane, combined with their strength and stamina, Danes were the dog of choice for carriage work.
This was especially true for Harlequin Great Danes, which were almost exclusively used. While all Great Danes were the same, this coat colored showed the person in the carriage were among the aristocrats.
However, shortly after, Dalmatians replaced Great Danes as the premiere coach dogs. Even so, while the Dane was the dog-of-choice, they were superb at their jobs.
2. Great Danes were believed to repel evil spirits.
Have you ever wondered why Scooby Doo was a Great Dane? Well, this wasn’t a random choice or decision. The cartoon paranormal canine investigator made a lot of sense!
In the Middle Ages, Great Danes were believed to have the power to ward off evil spirits or ghosts. And yes, you read that right – people actually believed in these dogs’ supernatural powers.
And in the past, these dogs were popular ghost hunting companions because they had an uncanny ability to sense ghosts, at least according to Gerald and Loretta Hausman in the book, “The Mythology of Dogs.”
While there’s plenty of evidence that suggests dogs can sense the paranormal, we still don’t know why they believed only Great Danes could repel evil spirits.
What’s even more interesting is that Great Danes were believed to protect people from nightmares. In some cases, owners would bring home Great Danes and have them sleep alongside their bed for this very purpose.
According to dream interpreters of the Medieval times, Great Danes appearing in your dream is just a reminder to avoid being manipulated and pushed around.
1. One Great Dane saved her owner from a bomb explosion in WWII.
As ridiculous as this story may seem, it’s actually true! In 1941, the home of Juliana the Great Dane and her owner, received a much unexpected package.
It was the middle of World War II and an incendiary bomb had just ripped through the roof of Juliana’s home. Being the curious Great Dane that she was, Juliana immediately went to investigate.
And of course, she didn’t know what the bomb was. All she knew was that she really had to do her business and found the perfect object to claim as her territory. So, Juliana started urinating on it!
Incredibly, this worked in defusing the explosive! If it weren’t for her well-timed potty, the scenario would have certainly been fatal for both the dog and owner. Her quick heroic actions earned her a Blue Cross Medal – and rightfully so!
But this wasn’t the only time Juliana saved people from a potentially grave fire. Just three years later, the Great Dane alerted customers in her owner’s shop of a blazing fire. And of course, Juliana received yet another Blue Cross Medal for her heroic act.
This story was almost lost. It wasn’t until much later in 2013 that the story was found. Auctioneers were in the middle of clearing out a house in Bristol when they found the medals. Next to the prized medals was a picture of Juliana the Great Dane.
So….what was your favorite Great Dane fact? Were there any interesting facts that we missed? Let us know in the comments section below!
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