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The Great Dane

The origin of the Great Dane, like that of many other varieties
of dogs, is so obscure that all researches have only resulted in
speculative theories, but the undoubted antiquity of this dog is
proved by the fact that representatives of a breed sufficiently
similar to be considered his ancestors are found on some of the
oldest Egyptian monuments.

A few years ago a controversy arose on the breed's proper designation,
when the Germans claimed for it the title Deutsche Dogge. Germany
had several varieties of big dogs, such as the Hatzrude, Saufanger,
Ulmer Dogge, and Rottweiler Metzgerhund; but contemporaneously with
these there existed, as in other countries in Europe, another very
big breed, but much nobler and more thoroughbred, known as the Great
Dane. When after the war of 1870 national feeling was pulsating very
strongly in the veins of reunited Germany, the German cynologists
were on the lookout for a national dog, and for that purpose the Great
Dane was re-christened Deutsche Dogge, and elected as the champion
of German Dogdom. For a long time all these breeds had, no doubt,
been indiscriminately crossed.

The Great Dane was introduced into this country spasmodically some
thirty-five years ago, when he was commonly referred to as the
Boarhound, or the German Mastiff, and for a time the breed had to
undergo a probationary period in the Foreign Class at dog shows,
but it soon gained in public favour, and in the early 'eighties a
Great Dane Club was formed, and the breed has since become one of
the most popular of the larger dogs.

The Kennel Club has classed the Great Dane amongst the Non-Sporting
dogs, probably because with us he cannot find a quarry worthy of his
mettle; but, for all that, he has the instincts and qualifications
of a sporting dog, and he has proved himself particularly valuable
for hunting big game in hot climates, which he stands very well.

Respecting the temperament of the Great Dane and his suitability as
a companion writers have gone to extremes in praise and condemnation.
In his favour it must be said that in natural intelligence he is
surpassed by very few other dogs. He has a most imposing figure, and
does not, like some other big breeds, slobber from his mouth, which
is a particularly unpleasant peculiarity when a dog is kept in the
house. On the other hand, it must be admitted that with almost the
strength of a tiger he combines the excitability of a terrier, and
no doubt a badly trained Great Dane is a very dangerous animal. It
is not sufficient to teach him in the haphazard way which might be
successful in getting a small dog under control, but even as a
companion he ought to be trained systematically, and, considering
his marked intelligence, this is not difficult of accomplishment.

The Great Dane attains his full development in about a year and a
half to two years, and, considering that puppies have to build up
in that time a very big skeleton and straight limbs, special attention
must be given to the rearing of them. The dam whelps frequently eight
puppies, and sometimes even a few more. Mr. Larke's Princess Thor
had a litter of seventeen, but even eight is too great a number for
a bitch to suckle in a breed where great size is a desideratum. Not
more than four, or at the outside five, should be left with the bitch;
the others should be put to a foster mother, or if they are weaklings
or foul-marked, it is best to destroy them. After the puppies are
weaned, their food should be of bone-making quality, and they require
ample space for exercise and play. Nothing is worse than to take the
youngsters for forced marches before their bones have become firm.

Before giving the description and standard which have been adopted
by the Great Dane Clubs, a few remarks on some of the leading points
will be useful. The general characteristic of the Great Dane is a
combination of grace and power, and therefore the lightness of the
Greyhound, as well as the heaviness of the Mastiff, must be avoided.

The head should be powerful, but at the same time show quality by
its nice modelling.

The eyes should be intelligent and vivacious, but not have the hard
expression of the terrier. The distance between the eyes is of great
importance; if too wide apart they give the dog a stupid appearance,
and if too close he has a treacherous look.

Another very important point is the graceful carriage of the tail.
When it is curled over the back it makes an otherwise handsome dog
look mean, and a tail that curls at the end like a corkscrew is also
very ugly. In former times faking was not infrequently resorted
to to correct a faulty tail carriage, but it is easily detected. Great
Danes sometimes injure the end of the tail by hitting it against a
hard substance, and those with a good carriage of tail are most liable
to this because in excitement they slash it about, whereas the faulty
position of the tail, curled over the back, insures immunity from

Until recently British Great Dane breeders and exhibitors have paid
very little attention to colour, on the principle that, like a good
horse, a good Great Dane cannot be a bad colour. The English clubs,
however, have now in this particular also adopted the German standard.
The orthodox colours are brindle, fawn, blue, black, and harlequin.
In the brindle dogs the ground colour should be any shade from light
yellow to dark red-yellow on which the brindle appears in darker
stripes. The harlequins have on a pure white ground fairly large black
patches, which must be of irregular shape, broken up as if they had
been torn, and not have rounded outlines. When brindle Great Danes
are continuously bred together, it has been found that they get
darker, and that the peculiar striping disappears, and in that case
the introduction of a good fawn into the strain is advisable. The
constant mating of harlequins has the tendency to make the black
patches disappear, and the union with a good black Great Dane will
prevent the loss of colour.

The following is the official description issued by the Great Dane

* * * * *

GENERAL APPEARANCE--The Great Dane is not so heavy or massive as the
Mastiff, nor should he too nearly approach the Greyhound type.
Remarkable in size and very muscular, strongly though elegantly built;
the head and neck should be carried high, and the tail in line with
the back, or slightly upwards, but not curled over the hind-quarters.
Elegance of outline and grace of form are most essential to a Dane;
size is absolutely necessary; but there must be that alertness of
expression and briskness of movement without which the Dane character
is lost. He should have a look of dash and daring, of being ready to
go anywhere and do anything. TEMPERAMENT--The Great Dane is
good-tempered, affectionate, and faithful to his master, not
demonstrative with strangers; intelligent, courageous, and always
alert. His value as a guard is unrivalled. He is easily controlled
when well trained, but he may grow savage if confined too much, kept
on chain, or ill treated. HEIGHT--The minimum height of an adult dog
should be 30 ins.; that of a bitch, 28 ins. WEIGHT--The minimum weight
of an adult dog should be 120 lbs.; that of a bitch, 100 lbs. The
greater height and weight to be preferred, provided that quality and
proportion are also combined. HEAD--Taken altogether, the head should
give the idea of great length and strength of jaw. The muzzle, or
foreface, is broad, and the skull proportionately narrow, so that
the whole head, when viewed from above and in front, has the
appearance of equal breadth throughout. LENGTH OF HEAD--The entire
length of head varies with the height of the dog, 13 ins. from the
tip of the nose to the back of the occiput is a good measurement for
a dog of 32 ins. at the shoulder. The length from the end of the nose
to the point between the eyes should be about equal, or preferably
of greater length than from this point to the back of the occiput.
SKULL--The skull should be flat rather than domed, and have a slight
indentation running up the centre, the occipital peak not prominent.
There should be a decided rise or brow over the eyes, but no abrupt
stop between them. FACE--The face should be chiselled well and
foreface long, of equal depth throughout, and well filled in below
the eyes with no appearance of being pinched. MUSCLES OF THE
CHEEK--The muscles of the cheeks should be quite flat, with no
lumpiness or cheek bumps, the angle of the jaw-bone well defined.
LIPS--The lips should hang quite square in front, forming a right
angle with the upper line of foreface. UNDERLINE--The underline of
the head, viewed in profile, runs almost in a straight line from the
corner of the lip to the corner of the jawbone, allowing for the fold
of the lip, but with no loose skin to hang down. JAW--The lower jaw
should be about level, or at any rate not project more than the
sixteenth of an inch. NOSE AND NOSTRILS--The bridge of the nose should
be very wide, with a slight ridge where the cartilage joins the bone.
(This is quite a characteristic of the breed.) The nostrils should
be large, wide, and open, giving a blunt look to the nose. A butterfly
or flesh-coloured nose is not objected to in harlequins. EARS--The
ears should be small, set high on the skull, and carried slightly
erect, with the tips falling forward. NECK--Next to the head, the
neck is one of the chief characteristics. It should be long, well
arched, and quite clean and free from loose skin, held well up,
snakelike in carriage, well set in the shoulders, and the junction
of head and neck well defined. SHOULDERS--The shoulders should be
muscular but not loaded, and well sloped back, with the elbows well
under the body, so that, when viewed in front, the dog does not stand
too wide. FORE-LEGS AND FEET--The fore-legs should be perfectly
straight, with big flat bone. The feet large and round, the toes well
arched and close, the nails strong and curved. BODY--The body is very
deep, with ribs well sprung and belly well drawn up. BACK AND
LOINS--The back and loins are strong, the latter slightly arched,
as in the Greyhound. HIND-QUARTERS--The hind-quarters and thighs are
extremely muscular, giving the idea of great strength and galloping
power. The second thigh is long and well developed as in a Greyhound,
and the hocks set low, turning neither out nor in. TAIL--The tail
is strong at the root and ends in a fine point, reaching to or just
below the hocks. It should be carried, when the dog is in action,
in a straight line level with the back, slightly curved towards the
end, but should not curl over the back. COAT--The hair is short and
dense, and sleek-looking, and in no case should it incline to
coarseness. GAIT OR ACTION--The gait should be lithe, springy, and
free, the action high. The hocks should move very freely, and the
head should be held well up. COLOUR--The colours are brindle, fawn,
blue, black, and harlequin. The harlequin should have jet black
patches and spots on a pure white ground; grey patches are admissible
but not desired; but fawn or brindle shades are objectionable.

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