Great Danes are physically characterized by their size and muscle mass, particularly their muscular necks, chests and legs. These dogs are "gentle giants," despite their imposing presence; unless they're trained to act as guard dogs, Great Danes are rarely aggressive toward people or other animals. They make for excellent companions. When properly supervised, Great Danes are sweet and nurturing playmates for children.
Although the earliest written descriptions of dogs resembling Great Danes are seen in Chinese literature from about 1121 B.C., historians note that drawings of Great Dane-like dogs exist on Ancient Egyptian monuments that were constructed as far back as 3000 B.C. That said, the Great Dane breed as we know it today comes from German interbreeding of the Irish Wolfhound and English mastiff for the purposes of creating the perfect boar-hunting canine.
A World Record
Guinness World Records 2013 named Zeus, a 3-year-old Great Dane from Otsego, Michigan, the tallest dog ever recorded. Zeus stands 7 feet and 4 inches high when perched on his hind legs and weighs 155 pounds. He consumes 30 pounds of dog food every two weeks and easily laps water straight from the faucet of his home's kitchen sink.
The Dog as Muse
Famed English poet and satirical essayist Alexander Pope, being somewhat of a muckraker in his time, often received threats from angry readers. Perhaps because he was small and physically disabled, Pope never left his home without Bounce, his much-loved Great Dane, companion and body guard. In return, Bounce was celebrated in verse when Pope wrote "Bounce to Fop: An Heroick Epistle From a Dog at Twickenham to a Dog at Court." The dog was further immortalized in Jonathan Richardson's 1718 portrait "Alexander Pope and His Dog, Bounce."
Even though one might suspect such a large creature would prefer to spend his days roaming woods and fields, Great Danes actually seem to prefer staying indoors -- they are surprisingly well-suited to apartments, as long as they are exercised by their owners on a regular basis. When inside, these dogs require soft bedding and lots of it, as Great Danes tend to unfurl and stretch out their enormous limbs when they sleep.
By Ruth Nix
DogScope.com: Dog Breeds: Great Dane
American Kennel Club: Breeds: Great Dane: Get to Know the Great Dane
New York Daily News: U.S.: Great Dane From Michigan Named World's Tallest Dog
Friends of the Dog: Great Dane
Animal Planet: Dog Breed Selector: Great Dane Guide
Animal Planet: Dogs 101: Great Danes
Great Dane Club of America
About the Author
Ruth Nix began her career teaching a variety of writing classes at the University of Florida. She also worked as a columnist and editorial fellow for "Esquire" magazine. In 2012, Nix was featured in the annual "Best New Poets" anthology and received the Calvin A. VanderWerf Award for excellence in teaching from the University of Florida.