Cart
Your cart is currently empty.
European Great Dane: History, Characteristics, and Care - PawSafe

European Great Dane: History, Characteristics, and Care

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

European Great Dane

The European Great Dane is a majestic and impressive breed of dog. Known for its massive size and gentle demeanor, this breed has captured the hearts of many dog lovers around the world. Originally bred in Germany, the European Great Dane has a rich history and a loyal following of enthusiasts.

One of the distinguishing features of the European Great Dane is its size, which is more than 32 inches tall and weighs up to 200 pounds. Their massive size calls for special measures like giving them joint supplements from puppyhood and, of course, larger dog essentials like XL harnesses.

Despite its size, the European Great Dane is known for its gentle and affectionate nature, making it a popular choice for families and individuals alike. We have the help of Great Dane manual books and breed experts for a complete European Great Dane guide. 

There are many Great Dane variations available in the market today. Afterall, different breeders may breed for different things. These may be unusual colors like White and Mantle Great Danes. There are even size variations like Miniature Great Danes for those who want a tinier version (spoiler; they’re not small at all). 

Note: Some breeders may advertise European Great Danes as more big-boned and mastiff-like than the slimmer  and more streamlined American Great Dane. However, Great Dane breed standards do not support this claim, and there is often no split in the Great Dane breed between different regions or between working, showing, or pet dogs.

If you compare the breed standard for the FCI or European Kennel Club and the American Kennel Club breed standard, you will see there is no significant difference in what breeders are breeding for in terms of looks or temperament.

Arguably, some breeders in Europe may focus on breeding Great Danes that are heavier, just as some American bloodlines may or may not do this. However, some Great Danes advertised as “European” may just be dogs bred to be bulkier and heavier, which can be misleading or even a scam.

Overall, a European Great Dane is simply a Great Dane bred in Europe or from European bloodlines. While some breeders may focus on breeding Great Danes that are heavier, there is no significant difference between European and American Great Danes according to the breed standard.

Some argue that it is easier to find a “working” Great Dane like in the video below from European bloodlines that has the personality and aptitude for protection work. It is true that it is easier to find working bloodlines in European German Shepherds, Belgian Shepherds, or Rottweilers, but there is technically not a working line of Great Danes. It is possible that you may find some European breeders who do breed their Great Danes more for working ability, but you may equally find this in American Breeders.

This video highlights how much bulkier and heavy-lipped European Great Danes are than American:

@boomer.the.bandog

Reply to @heyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyfbbsjdj I actually loved making this. The American Great Dane is Gorgeous❤️

♬ original sound – 🎮🩶

American versus European Great Danes

a comparison between an American Great Dane and European Great Dane

Great Danes are a majestic breed of dog known for their large size and gentle nature. However, there are some key differences between American and European Great Danes worth noting. Whether these differences between American and European Great Danes are legitimate is unclear. Nevertheless, many people widely believed that European Great Danes look markedly different from American Great Danes.

Size

One of the most notable differences between American and European Great Danes is their size. European Great Danes tend to be larger and heavier than their American counterparts. 

This is due to the fact that European Great Danes are bred for show purposes and sometimes as working dogs. So, they’re often selected for their size and stature. On the other hand, American Great Danes are bred more for companionship and tend to be slightly smaller.

Appearance

In addition to their size, there are some other differences in appearance between American and European Great Danes. 

European Great Danes tend to have more square-shaped heads, wider torsos, more muscular builds, longer necks and more pronounced dewlaps (loose skin under the chin). In other words, they have a much more mastiff-like appearance. On the other hand, American Great Danes have a more streamlined appearance and a more slender build, smaller heads, and tighter skin, looking more like hounds than Mastiffs.

Temperament

When it comes to temperament, both American and European Great Danes are known for their gentle and friendly nature. However, there are some subtle differences in personality between the two. Some dog lovers argue that European Great Danes tend to be more reserved and dignified, while American Great Danes are more outgoing and social.

Many also believe it is easier to find a working Great Dane from European bloodlines, whereas American Danes are better suited as pets and show dogs.

Overall, both American and European Great Danes are wonderful breeds of dogs that make great companions. However, it’s essential to consider the differences between the two when choosing which one is right for you.

History Of the European Great Dane

European Great Dane dog resting

The European Great Dane, also known as the German Mastiff, Deutsche Dogge, or German Boarhound, is a mastiff-type dog breed originating in Germany. The breed was developed by the German nobility, who wanted a dog that could hunt wild boar and serve as a guard dog.

The breed was originally called the Boar Hound, but its name was changed to the Great Dane in the 18th century. Today, the Great Dane is one of the most popular breeds in the world and is recognized by major clubs like the AKC and the Kennel Club in the UK. 

European breeders are known to develop more suitable working dogs. This is why breeds like Rotties, Malinois, and now Great Danes from European bloodlines or Europe have a slight difference from those bred in America or the rest of the world. Besides this, there’s no difference in the history of European and regular Great Danes. 

Physical Characteristics

The European Great Dane is one giant of a dog, with its impressive size as the breed’s hallmark. They are slightly bulkier and more muscular than your regular Great Dane. They have a deep, broad chest and a well-proportioned body. 

Additionally, while Great Danes are leaner with a more athletic build and a more pronounced tuck-up (waistline), European Great Danes have a thicker waistline with more bulk. Their flews (upper lips) are also larger.

The head of a European Great Dane is large and square, with a deep muzzle and expressive eyes. Their ears are typically floppy, but some crop them to stand erect, although the practice is getting less common. 

How Big Do European Great Danes Get?

European Great Danes can grow more than 32 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh up to 175 to 200 pounds. They are one of the largest dog breeds in the world.

Coat & Color

This breed has a short, thick coat that can come in a variety of colors, including:

Overall, the European Great Dane is an impressive and imposing breed that commands attention wherever it goes. Its size and strength make it an excellent guard dog, but its gentle nature and affectionate personality make it a beloved family pet as well.

Health and Lifespan

European Great Dane looking over the fence

European Great Danes are moderately healthy dogs, but like all breeds, they are prone to certain health issues. Great Dane research shows that some health problems to watch out for include hip dysplasia, bloat, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.

  • Hip dysplasia is common in large breeds like the European Great Dane, with a 19% occurrence. Here, the hip joint doesn’t develop properly and can lead to arthritis and pain.
  • Bloat, also known as gastric torsion, is a life-threatening condition where the stomach twists and can trap gas and food, leading to a lack of blood flow to the vital organs.
  • Heart disease, including dilated cardiomyopathy, is also a concern for Great Danes. Studies link DCM to genetic defects to which Great Danes are susceptible. Heart issues can cause heart failure, and symptoms may include coughing, shortness of breath, and fatigue. 
  • Cancer, including osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer.
  • Eye issues such as entropion (inward eyelid turning), conjunctivitis, glaucoma, cherry eye, and cataracts.
  • Wobbler Syndrome: A spinal disorder that can result in a wobbly gait and neurological issues.
  • Cervical Vertebral Instability (CVI): A condition affecting the neck vertebrae, which can lead to pain and mobility problems. They may be more susceptible to this condition than regular Great Danes due to their longer necks. 
  • Growth-related Orthopedic Conditions: Great Danes are susceptible to conditions like panosteitis and osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), which affect bone and joint development.
  • Moderate issues like obesity, dental issues, allergies, skin and ear infections.

It’s important to be aware of the potential health issues and to work closely with a veterinarian to ensure your Great Dane stays healthy and happy for as long as possible.

European Great Dane Lifespan

The lifespan of a European Great Dane is typically 8 to 10 years, with some living only 6 to 7 years. In fact, they have one of the shortest lifespans in the world. Their lives sound extremely short, but it’s expected for giant breeds since they age faster than smaller ones. This is why it’s vital to limit their exposure to household chemicals, including incense

European Great Dane Temperament and Behavior

European Great Dane on harness and resting on a grassy ground

European Great Danes are known for their gentle and friendly temperament. They are loyal and affectionate towards their owners and are known to be good with children. They are also protective of their family and make good watchdogs.

However, it is essential to note that European Great Danes are a large breed and can be intimidating to strangers. Proper socialization and training are essential to ensure that they are well-behaved and do not become overly aggressive.

In terms of energy level, European Great Danes are generally calm and laid-back. They enjoy spending time with their owners and are content with moderate exercise. However, they require daily exercise to maintain their health and prevent obesity.

English Great Dane Training and Socialization

Training and socialization are crucial for European Great Danes. These dogs are intelligent and eager to please, making them relatively easy to train. However, they can also be stubborn and independent, so early and consistent training is essential.

Socialization from when they’re puppies is also critical for European Great Danes. They are naturally friendly and good-natured dogs, but they can become timid or aggressive if they are not exposed to a variety of people, animals, and environments from a young age. 

When it comes to training, positive reinforcement is the most effective method for European Great Danes. This means rewarding good behavior with treats, praise, and affection rather than punishing bad behavior. Consistency is also essential, as European Great Danes can quickly become confused if they receive mixed signals.

In addition to basic obedience training, European Great Danes can also excel in advanced training activities such as agility, obedience, and tracking. These activities not only provide mental stimulation but also help to strengthen the bond between the dog and its owner.

Diet and Nutrition

European Great Danes are a large breed of dog that requires a specific diet to maintain their health and well-being. Feeding them a balanced and nutritious diet is important to ensure they receive all the essential vitamins and minerals they need.

A high-quality dog food specifically formulated for large breeds is a must. It should have a high protein content, with at least 25% protein, and a moderate fat content, with around 12-15% fat. This will help maintain their muscle mass and give them the energy they need to stay active.

It is important to feed strictly puppy food to your puppy to prevent them from growing too fast. Accelerated growth in giant breed puppies has been linked to developmental issues like hip dysplasia and osteochondrosis.

Research show it is also vital that they do not have too little or too much calcium in their diet, and calcium should always be in the correct proportion to phosphorus, as this can also lead to bones forming incorrectly.

In addition to their regular diet, European Great Danes may benefit from supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin to support their joint health. It is essential to consult with a veterinarian before giving your dog any supplements.

Grooming Needs

Great Danes have a short, smooth coat that requires minimal grooming. However, regular grooming is still necessary to maintain overall health and appearance.

  • Brushing the coat once or twice a week with a soft-bristled brush will help remove loose hair, dirt, and debris. This will also distribute the natural oils throughout the coat, keeping it shiny and healthy. A rubber grooming mitt can also remove loose hair and massage the skin.
  • Bathing should only be done as needed, as frequent bathing can strip the coat of its natural oils. A mild dog shampoo should be used, and the dog should be thoroughly rinsed to avoid any residue.
  • Great Danes are prone to ear infections, so it’s essential to clean their ears regularly. A cotton ball or soft cloth dampened with a veterinarian-recommended ear cleaner should be used to gently wipe the inside of the ear flap and ear canal. It’s important not to insert anything into the ear canal, which can cause injury.
  • Brush their teeth at least twice a week and use a canine no-brush solution on some remaining days.
  • Nail trimming should also be done regularly, as long nails can cause discomfort and even lead to joint problems. A dog nail clipper or grinder can be used, and it’s important to avoid cutting the quick (the blood vessel inside the nail).

Living Conditions

European Great Danes are large dogs, and as such, they require a lot of space to move around. They are not recommended for apartment living, as they need plenty of room to stretch their legs and exercise. A house with a large yard would be the ideal living situation for a Great Dane.

Note: A major problem with Great Danes is when owners who get them don’t account for their dog’s adult size. This often means that Great Danes need to be rehomed when owners move to  homes that do not allow large or giant dogs. Before you get a Great Dane, be sure you can take them with you whenever you need to move in later years. 

Breeding and Puppies

Breeding European Great Danes requires careful consideration and planning. It is essential to choose healthy, temperamentally sound dogs that meet breed standards. Breeders should also be aware of potential genetic health issues affecting the breed.

When breeding, it is recommended to have both the dam and sire tested for hip dysplasia and other genetic health issues. This can help reduce the risk of passing on these conditions to the puppies. Additionally, breeders should ensure that both dogs have good temperaments and are well-socialized.

European Great Dane litters typically range from 6 to 8 puppies, with some litters producing up to 12 puppies. Puppies are usually born with a weight of 1-2 pounds and grow rapidly in their first few weeks of life. They require proper nutrition and care to ensure healthy growth and development.

Adoption and Rescue Options

Adopting a European Great Dane is a great way to provide a loving home to a dog in need. There are several options available for those looking to adopt or rescue a European Great Dane.

One option is to check with local animal shelters or rescue groups. These organizations often have European Great Danes available for adoption. It is important to note that many of these dogs may have been surrendered or abandoned due to behavioral or medical issues, so it is important to thoroughly research and understand the dog’s needs before adopting.

Another option is to contact breed-specific rescue groups. These organizations focus specifically on rescuing and rehoming European Great Danes. They often have a thorough understanding of the breed and can provide valuable information and support to potential adopters.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the difference between American and European Great Danes?

The primary difference between American and European Great Danes is their size and appearance. European Great Danes are typically larger and have a more muscular build. They also tend to have a more square head and a thicker muzzle compared to American Great Danes.

How much does a European Great Dane cost?

The cost of a European Great Dane can vary depending on the breeder and location. On average, a European Great Dane can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 or more. It is essential to do research and find a reputable breeder to ensure the health and well-being of the dog.

What is the behavior of a European Great Dane?

European Great Danes are known for their gentle and affectionate nature. They are loyal and protective of their family and can be good with children. However, they can also be stubborn and require consistent training and socialization from a young age.

What is the lifespan of a European Great Dane?

The lifespan of a European Great Dane is typically around 8-10 years. However, with proper care and attention, some Great Danes have been known to live up to 12 years.

What are the typical colors of a European Great Dane?

European Great Danes can come in various colors, including fawn, brindle, black, blue, harlequin, and mantle. However, the most common color is fawn with a black mask.

What is the average height of a European Great Dane?

The average height of a European Great Dane is around 30-34 inches at the shoulder. However, some Great Danes can reach up to 36 inches or more.

Final Thoughts

The European Great Dane is a majestic and gentle giant that makes for an excellent companion. Their size and strength can be intimidating, but their loving and loyal nature makes them a great addition to any household.

Meet Your Experts

Avatar of author

Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.