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So, let’s get started with comparing the origins of these fascinating breeds, and we begin with the history of the Great Dane. Unlike its name would suggest, this breed is not from Denmark, but from Germany.

Originally, Great Danes were called “Boar Hounds”, as their role was to hunt wild boar in the dense woods of 16th century Germany. They are said to stem from no other than the English Mastiff itself. However, over time, the appearance of the Great Dane changed quite considerably, probably due to introducing large sighthounds into their bloodline, such as the English Greyhound and the Irish Wolfhound.

In this way, the breed was refined considerably in appearance and became quite distinct from the English Mastiff, until it was finally given the name “Deutsche Dogge” by German breeders and judges in 1880. During the 18th century, Great Danes were predominantly owned by German noblemen as estate guardians and were used to protect horse carriages. Around that time, the Great Dane also gained international popularity: In 1889, the Great Dane Club of America was founded, and the breed received official recognition by the American Kennel Club. Today, the Great Dane has become a well-known as companion dog and family pet in many countries of the world.

The English Mastiff - also known as the Old English Mastiff -, as you might guess, was developed in England. The name “Old English Mastiff” is well-deserved, considering the breed is estimated to be 2’000 years old. Their exact history is somewhat unclear. But today’s English Mastiffs are said to have descended from now extinct giant breeds - like the Caucasian Alaunt and the Alpine Mastiff, who is a descendant of the ancient Greek Molossus dog – the ancestor of our modern-day Mastiff-type dog breeds.

In ancient Roman literature, the prowess and bravery of the English Mastiffs was praised to be superior to even the famed Roman war dogs: During their invasion of Britain, Roman armies were faced with massive, ferocious battle dogs who would bravely fight alongside their owners. In fact, the Romans were so impressed with these fearless dogs who seemed nearly impervious to pain, that they took some back to Rome. There, they used them to fight humans, bears and even lions in the arena.

Aside from their role as war dogs, the English Mastiffs were used over the centuries to guard livestock and property against intrusions from humans, bears and other predators. In the 1500’s and 1600’s, these extremely capable dogs also were tasked with hunting as well as bull baiting. In 1859, the first official breed standard for the English Mastiff was published, and in the centuries to follow, this brave giant gained world-wide popularity as gentle companion and family dog.


In their outer appearance, both the Great Dane and the English Mastiff are amongst the largest breeds on the planet – with the English Mastiff being the world’s heaviest dog breed, and the Great Dane being the tallest. The record for the tallest dog in the world goes to the Great Dane “Zeus”, who measured 111,80 cm at the withers (which is 44 inches). Of course, the English Mastiff is far bulkier than the lean and athletic Great Dane.

Both breeds have beautiful, short and shiny coats that, in the case of the Great Dane, come in a variety of colours, such as black, grey, fawn, brindle, blue merle as well as black & white. The English Mastiff’s breed standard, on the other hand, only allows the colours brindle, apricot, and fawn. In their overall appearance, both these stunning breeds are well-proportioned and give the impression of great strength.

English Mastiff are absolutely massive dogs, with males measuring between 70 and 91 cms at the withers (that is, between 28 and 36 inches) and females being slightly smaller. Their weight can range from to 73 all the way up to 100 kilos (which is between 161 and 220 pounds), again, with females being a bit smaller.

Whilst Great Danes are not necessarily smaller, they are considerably lighter than English Mastiffs, with adult males standing at between 76 and 86 cm tall (which is between 30 and 34 inches) and weighing between 54 and 90 kg (or between 119 and 198 pounds), with the females being a bit smaller and lighter.


Now, let’s find out how intelligent and trainable these giant guardian breeds are. Again, they share a lot of similarities: Both are equipped with a high level of intelligence - however, in the case of the English Mastiff, this intelligence is coupled with a strong tendency to think and act independently. This trait is typical for most Mastiff-type dogs, and it does make training them more challenging. Therefore, it is advisable to educate these slightly stubborn dogs from puppyhood onwards with regards to obedience and manners. Their enormous size makes this especially important: Just imagine yourself taking a walk in the park with your family, and, all of a sudden, a veritable freight-train of a dog comes galloping towards you. As you would not want your Mastiff to scare people in such a way, you definitely should train them well.

The Great Dane, on the other hand, is not only highly intelligent, but also very trainable and easy to handle. Teaching it basic as well as advanced obedience is fairly straightforward with this breed. Also, its gentle nature makes this dog usually behave kindly towards other canines, but beware – due to its history as hunting dog, the Great Dane still has a high prey drive. Therefore, you want to make sure to teach your dog a reliable recall under distraction before letting it run off leash in public.


And this brings us to the main differences in temperament. Again, these super-sized dog breeds are very similar in many regards, and temperament is one of them. Let’s start with their natural guarding abilities. Due to its history as war dog, the English Mastiff is more likely to actively handle potentially dangerous situations than the Great Dane. Mastiffs will carefully observe any situation they regard as potentially suspicious, and they will absolutely jump into full defense-mode, should it ever become necessary.

The Great Dane, on the other hand, tends to be more reluctant when it comes to actively defending its owners or territory. That said, Great Danes do make decent watchdogs with a high natural intimidation factor: Even though these tall, athletic dogs indeed are very gentle giants, they do come with a natural instinct to guard their home and land. And when they decide to sound an alarm, they do so with a deep and booming voice. In combination with the Great Danes’ enormous size and intimidating looks, this is usually more than enough to discourage any would-be burglar or thief from trying to come closer.

Apart from these differences in natural guarding abilities, both breeds are extremely calm, peaceful, and gentle giants who love nothing more than cuddling on the couch with their owners. They are the ultimate “couch potatoes” of the canine world – which is why they actually do make quite decent apartment dogs. Considering their enormous size, this may come as a big surprise to some of you, but they are far more calm and laid-back in the home than the average small or medium sized dog breed. So, as long as they have enough room to move around and comfortable sleeping spots, they will be more than happy to share your apartment with you.

Both breeds are immensely affectionate, loyal and devoted family dogs and are very kind and patient towards children – even with very small children who would annoy the average dog to no end, for example by pulling at their ears or poking their little fingers into the dog’s face. With that said, it is the English Mastiff who is the number one champion when it comes to being the ultimate family companion and guardian: In my personal opinion, there is not one dog breed on the planet which is better with children of any age than the English Mastiff.


Both of these gorgeous giant breeds are quite low in energy and, therefore, in their exercise requirements: Despite their enormous size, they do not need lots and lots of physical exercise and mental stimulation in order remain calm, balanced and well-rounded canine companions.

That is not to say that the Great Dane and the English Mastiff do not thoroughly enjoy play sessions and nice walks with their owners – they just need less of it than other breeds with higher energy levels. Of course, because of their sheer size, these loving giants should be provided with a garden or yard where they can run around and play.

Apart from playtimes and runs, your Great Dane or English Mastiff will be quite content with a few shorter walks a day.

Now, when it comes to grooming, both breeds are very similar, as they both come with short, smooth coats that are quite easy and straightforward to groom. In order to keep them nice and clean at all times, both the Great Dane and the English Mastiff require little more than a weekly once-over with a soft bristle brush or a mitt. Of course, as with most breeds, spring and autumn are shedding seasons for the Great Dane and the English Mastiff, and you will have to brush them more than usual during these times. Outside of shedding season in spring and autumn, both breeds hardly shed.

Because of their quite sizeable jowls, however, the gentle giants do require a little bit more care than most other dog breeds. The English Mastiff is equipped with deep facial folds that need daily cleaning in order to prevent skin infections. As well, both breeds tend to drool quite a bit, especially right after eating and drinking, and also whenever they anticipate mealtimes or treats. Being proactive goes a long way to keeping excessive drool from getting all over your furniture: For example, you might want to tie a nice-looking scarf around your dog’s neck, that you then can use to wipe away excess drool – before the dog has a chance to distribute it all over your furniture by means of shaking its head. In this regard, the English Mastiff definitely trumps the Great Dane: According to owners, not all Great Danes drool, whereas English Mastiffs are true champions in the field – only trumped by the “King of droop and drool”, the Neapoletan Mastiff. So, if you decide to go for an English Mastiff, do not be surprised to find the whitish remnants of their saliva on your furniture, your TV and, in the worst case, on your ceiling.


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