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Anthony Sages on Great Danes

April 25, 2011

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Originally bred in Germany and Denmark from large mastiffs brought by an ancient nomadic tribe, Great Danes quickly became popular throughout the country as wild boar hunters. When they first arrived in the United States at the end of the 19th century, Great Danes were known as Boar Hounds, though the name also denoted other large hunting dogs. Today, specialists hypothesize that the Great Dane resulted from crossbreeding between English mastiffs and Irish Wolfhounds. The Great Dane remains one of the largest breeds in the world, growing over three feet tall. The American Kennel Club recognizes Great Danes as one of the largest working breeds, while noting that they maintain a great deal of poise and grace despite their large size.

Great Danes have short coats and large floppy ears that some may crop. Traditionally, owners would crop ears to minimize the chance of injury during hunts. Since Great Danes now exist as companion dogs, the procedure is unnecessary, though some continue it for the sake of tradition. Breeders have produced Great Danes with coats in a variety of colors, including fawn, brindle, harlequin, black, blue, and mantle. Several other color variations blend the traits of the aforementioned patterns. Some breeders also offer white Great Danes, though others worry that this color may have a genetic link to deafness.

Generally, Great Danes possess an extremely friendly disposition with other dogs and humans, as well as other animals. The dog rarely chases smaller animals and prefers to conserve energy due to its low metabolism. Because of this metabolism, Great Danes consume notably less per pound than smaller breeds. Like all purebred dogs, Great Danes suffer from certain genetic health problems, such as dilated cardiomyopathy and heart disease, though the risk is small. Like other deep-chested breeds, Great Danes may suffer from gastric dilatation-volvulus (bloat), but owners can take certain steps to avoid this problem, such as discouraging exercise immediately before and after eating. On average, Great Danes live about six to seven years.

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