Thursday, January 12, 2017
A Look at the History of the Great Dane
Mike Loftus founded MLE Merchandising and Sign Solutions in 2002 and led the company to pass the $10 million mark within eight years of its launch. Mike Loftus enjoys spending time with his family outside of MLE. His family owns several pets, including two Great Danes.
Despite its name, the Great Dane’s origins trace back to Germany and England, although canine historians hypothesize it may also have roots in Asia and Africa. Depictions of dogs resembling Great Danes appear as early as 2000 and 3000 BC on Egyptian monuments and Babylonian artifacts, and some zoologists believe the Great Dane’s lineage goes back to the highlands of Tibet due to its similarities to the Tibetan mastiff and the hypothesis that all mastiff-like breeds originated in Asia. Additionally, zoologists believe that mastiffs and Great Danes share a common ancestor in the Molossian dog, an ancient breed thought to guard livestock and people.
Most of the breed’s known history occurs in Europe around the 14th century, with much of its primary development taking place in England and Germany. Previously known as boar hounds, Great Danes were once highly capable hunting dogs used to hunt boar. Hunters combined the speed of the greyhound with the musculature and physical prowess of the mastiff to create powerful dogs capable of taking down boars, which were among the Continent’s most powerful and savage big game.
Breed developments toward the modern Great Dane started around the 1600s, during which time German noblemen began keeping the largest and most intimidating dogs at their estates. Fitted with velvet-lined collars, these dogs enjoyed the spoils of noble life, and their temperaments shifted over time from fierce hunter to loyal companion. They became a distinctive breed in 1880 and were originally named Deutsche Dogge, or “German Dog.” Credit for the title of Great Dane goes to French naturalist Comte de Buffon, who came upon the breed while traveling through Denmark.
The Great Dane Club of America formed in 1889, although canine historians cannot pinpoint the date at which the breed first entered the United States.