The Great Dane, or Boarhound, as it was formerly called, is of ancient type, and there are coins which were made before the Christian era that bear an impression of a large, long-headed, powerful dog of the general proportions and appearance of the present Great Dane.
In Germany the ears of these dogs are still cropped, presumably to give them what is considered a more alert and striking appearance, but this practice has been abolished in most other countries.
In earlier times the breed was used as a protector of property and person, as well as a hunter. A stronger type of dog was designated the Ulmer Mastiff.
With the introduction of dog shows the breed received greater attention in its native country, where a club has been established for the purpose of promoting and encouraging its propagation upon lines which the club has laid down according to its conception of what the correct type and features should be.
The disposition of the Great Dane, like that of all dogs, naturally is docile, although dogs vary somewhat in their temperaments. This docility should be fostered when young, at which time character in the dog, as in the youth, is to a great extent formed. If a Great Dane is spoiled in his upbringing he is, on account of his great size and power, more than ordinarily dangerous, which fact emphasizes the necessity for great care being exercised in his rearing and absolute control being obtained over the animal.
The chief points to look for in the selection of Great Dane puppies at from two to four months old and after, are: Great size; a long, telescopic head, almost free from stop; deep, square muzzle; small, deep-set eye; narrow skull, small ears, short body, deep chest, well-sprung ribs, straight forelegs, and great bone.
The standard of the Great Dane as approved by the Great Dane Club of America is as follows:
GENERAL APPEARANCE.-The Great Dane (Deutsche Dogge) combines in his whole appearance size, strength, and refinement as hardly any other breed. He has not the heavy and clumsy look of the Mastiff, nor the lightness of the Greyhound, but holds about the middle relation between these extremes. Immense size, with strong, albeit elegant conformation; high stepping and proud bearing; head and neck high; tail, when quiet, hanging down; when excited, straight or only slightly raised above back.
HEAD.-Rather long, more high and pressed in on the sides than broad and flat appearing; seen from the side shows decided stop; line of forehead and nose must be parallel with each other; viewed from the front the forehead should not appear much broader than the strong, developed muzzle; cheeks very little developed. The head should from all sides appear squarish and clean in all its lines; nose large, bridge straight or only slightly arched; lips blunt, forming a right angle with line of head, and with medium yet distinct flews; jaws even, eyes medium large, round, and with sharp expression; brows well developed; ears high set on, moderately wide between, and standing erect, having a pointed crop.
NECK AND SHOULDERS.–Neck long, strong, and slightly arched, with well-defined line where connecting with head; from shoulder to head gradually growing finer; no dewlap; shoulder long and sloping.
CHEST.-Moderately broad, ribs fairly sprung, reaching far back, deep in front; should go almost down to elbow joint.
BODY.-Back moderately long; loin slightly arched, croup short, slightly dropping, and running in fine lines to stern; seen from above, the broad back connects well with the fairly sprung ribs; thighs should be strongly developed and hams well muscled up. Under line of body a graceful curve, well tucked up in flank.
TAIL.-Medium length, reaching just to the hock, strong at root, end well tapered, but should never, even under excitement, be carried high over the back or curled.
FORELEGS.-Elbow well down at right angle to shoulder blades, and neither turned in nor out; forearm well muscled; the whole leg strong, and, seen in front, appears, on account of muscle development, slightly bent; seen from the side, perfectly straight from elbow to pastern.
HINDQUARTERS.-Long, well muscled, and well let down; fairly bent; seen from behind, stifle must appear entirely straight, neither in nor out. FEET.-Catfoot; neither turned in nor out; well arched and closed toes; nails strong and curved; dewclaws not desired.
COAT.-Short, dense, and smooth, slightly longer on underside of tail.
COLOR.-A. Brindle; body color from the lightest fawn to the richest golden tan; always with black, or at least dark stripes. B. Whole-colored, fawn in the different shades, whether entirely one color or darker shadings of the same on muzzle, eyebrows, and back; also all black and all white. The nose in brindle or whole-colored dogs (except all whites) always black. Eyes and toenails dark. White markings not desirable. C. Spotted (Harlequin), body color white, with irregularly-formed but regularly-distributed spots of black; other colors, except markings as the above, are faulty. Harlequins or all white dogs have sometimes wall eyes, flesh-colored or spotted nose and white nails, which are permissible in these colors.
SIZE.-The height of dogs should not be under 30 inches; bitches 28 inches or more. Length should not exceed height at shoulders.
VALUE OF POINTS.-General appearance and type, 12; head, 18; neck, 8; chest and brisket, 5; back and loins, 7; legs and feet, 9; bones and muscle, 6; croup, 4; tail, 7; movement, 8; height, 6; color and markings, 6; condition and coat, 4. Total, 100.