The national dog of Germany, the mighty Deutsche Dogge is believed by some to be a direct descendant of the ancient Alaunt, although it is more likely that it was developed from the Norsedogges, old English Mastiffs, original Irish Wolfhounds, continental Bullenbeisser/Barenbeissers, Greek/German Suliot Hounds and the early Broholmers. Originally a fierce large game hunting dog, it excelled in baiting sports, as well as guarding duties.
Thanks to the common custom of exchanging national dogs as gifts between Royal families of Europe, the Deutsche Dogge was introduced to Denmark, where it became popular, although not as loved as the Danish Broholmer. At the beginning of the last quarter of the 17th century, the Danish Kings brought both Danish and German Mastiffs to England, where the Deutsche Dogge received the name Great Dane. The German Alano became a fashionable breed of European high society, which resulted in breeding gentler dogs of sound temperament.
The breed was first shown in Germany in 1863 and quickly became popular both in Europe and America. It was granted its UKC recognition in 1923 and has remained a well-liked and common Show dog and companion in the United States ever since. Although everywhere else in the world it is known as the Deutsche Dogge, in Britain and America it is still called the Great Dane, proving that bad habits die hard. This is unfortunate, because many people are falsely taught to believe that this breed is of Danish origin.
The Deutsche Dogge is a very tall breed, the largest recorded dog measuring over 41 inches at the withers. A popular family pet, this breed is very gentle with children and infinitely loyal to its owner. Reserved around strangers, it is neither vicious nor aggressive towards dogs, although uncharacteristic traits exist among the poorly bred specimens. Its intimidating stature makes it a convincing guard dog.
Deutsche Dogge is a very intelligent breed which is fairly easy to train and handle, but requires early socialization and responsible ownership, due to its territorial nature and protective instincts. Handsome, refined and elegant, today's German Mastiff is a very affectionate breed, a far cry from the savage hunter of the past. The body is strongly boned and muscular, with long legs, broad shoulders and a long neck. The head is broad and chiseled, having a fairly long and powerful muzzle. The ears can be either cropped or unaltered, but the tail mustn't be docked.
Short-coated, the breed is most often seen in yellow, fawn, black, blue and brindled shades, as well as in the white-based Boston and Harlequin colourings. The average height is around 34 inches, although smaller, as well as taller examples exist.