The origin of Great Danes, 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 Great Danes.
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 Great Danes 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.