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The ancestors of the Great Dane have a potentially far-reaching history. There have been records found in China dating back to 1200 BC of a dog with a description very similar to the Great Dane, as well as in Egyptian and Roman records. These ancestors of the modern Great Dane gave rise to the Boarhound that was developed and raised in Germany. This is the closest ancestor to those ancient dogs though it’s hard to say how much they have in common other than a large, lean stature.

Originally Great Danes were bred and used in Germany to chase and capture or hold large game like wild boar, bear, and deer. The modern ancestors for the Great Dane were developed in the 16th century and were a cross between English mastiffs and Irish wolfhounds. They did not have a formal breed name at the time but were used to improve the existing Boarhounds of Germany. Later in the 18th century, the Silout dog and others imported from Greece were used to further increase the size of the Boarhounds.

Great Danes have changed quite a bit from even their more recent ancestors and have had a myriad of names along the way. They have been called Boarhounds, chamber dogs, English dogs, German mastiffs, German boarhound, and finally the Great Dane. Even though they are not of Denmark, the name stuck and is still used today.

The Boarhounds used in hunting at the time had a temperament fitting for a dog that would chase down such large and ferocious game. It was also common that they would be allowed into the bedrooms of notability as protection from assassins and were often outfitted with large ornate callers. They were much more aggressive than the Danes we know and love today. It wasn't until the late 1800s when hunts like this were no longer very common in Germany that fans of the breed began to breed a more docile temperament into the dog. The goal was to create a luxury dog, not a working dog.

Danes are obviously huge, but they are also very sleek and graceful movers. They come in a variety of colors, but all coats are short and thin. They do have long tails as well as proportional triangle ears that fold over. Their boar hunting ancestors typically had their ears cropped to prevent injury during hunts and some modern Danes have their ears cropped as well for cosmetics. This is more frequent in the US since it is banned here in the UK with very few exceptions. There is no denying that the cropped ears give them an even more imposing appearance than they already command.

Despite the breed's docile and gentle giant nature, they are fierce defenders of their home and family. Even in their big game hunting days, German nobility prized their loyalty and protective nature that they were brought into lavish bedchambers while other dogs stayed outside. Because of their protective nature and sheer size, they can, and will, handle any threat to their family. They are very gentle with smaller animals and children but are prone to injury and clumsiness when they are young. This is a time when their youth could also make them not so gentle with small animals and children, but they are called gentle giants for a reason.

You'll find many references to or dogs that look like Great Danes and the modern comics and TV shows. Two of the most common places you'll see the representations of the Great Dane in the US is the long-standing and popular comic called Marmaduke and in the popular TV kid show Scooby Doo. While in this is a an iconic breed that is impossible not to recognize just because their sheer size singles them out.

The Great Dane, who isn’t Danish, might just be the most recognizable breed in the world and has a vicious history as a big game hunter with a temper to match. They’ve had many names and even more potential ancient ancestors dating back into BC times and have been a dog of legend the entire time. In more recent years, their sweet and gentle nature has become a hallmark quality of the breed as much as their size. Their lifespans are short, like many large and Mastiff breeds, but while they are in your home they fill it with adorable antics and cuddles.

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