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The German Mastiff

Thanks for posting this Andreas.  The photo is added and the post moved to Great Dane forum.

Replies (3)
    • http://www.bild.me/bild.php?file=6698096German_Mastiff-sunnyAK-true-type.jpg

      I wanted to post this thread in the section "Great Dane", but for some reasons this section doesn´t work, so I will post it here. For me these two dogs in this old drawing are the perfect example of the working German Mastiff of the "old times". A head type similar to a Presa, only longer (with that said the head type differs from the GM nowadays), combined with the athletic build of a large "Alaunt Ventre/Running Mastiff".

      Breed profile:

      German Mastiff dog history first appears about 3000BC. We see GM like dogs in carvings on Egyptian monuments built around this time. Fast forward 3400 years to the 5th century, when present day Europe was invaded by the Alanis, an Asiatic race, who brought giant mastiff dogs with them. Over the next several hundred years, it is surmised that these mastiff like dogs were cross bred with Irish Grey Hounds, producing a giant but slimmer breed than pure mastiff.
      Over several hundred years the Celts cross bred large mastiffs with either greyhound or Irish wolfhound (or perhaps both). This effort led to the development of the "English Dogge", which some would say is the ancestor to the Modern German Mastiff.
      Some sources state that dogs similar to GMs were known in Ancient Egypt and Rome, but paintings always show large dogs and that doesn´t mean they are related. Large dogs have been developed in different parts of the world, without being related. Also the biggest wolves could be found and still can be found not in the middle east, but in parts of Eastern Europe, Russia and North America. Northern wolves are much bigger than the wolves you can find in the middle east.
      Various sources report that the GM was developed from medieval boarhounds, Mastiffs and Irish Wolfhounds.
      The German Bullenbeisser may be its direct ancestor, composing about the 40% of its make-up.
      According to Barbara Stein, "The breed originated in Germany, from a cross between the English mastiff and the Irish Wolfhound."
      It is probably true that both versions of German Mastiff history are accurate and contributed to the beautiful animals we now enjoy, but certainly, the Germans deserve most of the credit for the development of the breed as we know it today. By the 16th century, these giant dogs were fairly common as boar hounds in both Britain and the Germanic states. The Germans did import a large number of these "Englishe dogges" for cross breeding with their own version as they worked to develop the perfect boar hunter for their own needs.
      But here the history of the German Mastiff takes another twist. Boar hounds were not cuddly stoic dogs. European wild boar were very dangerous and hunting them required a fast, strong and aggressive dog. And that's what had been developed. But it was also realized, that a dog of this size could be an excellent guard dog - although in order to fulfill this function something would have to be done to make it more people friendly. And so over the 18th and 19th centuries, German dog breeders concentrated on evolving their boar hound into a breed of good temperament and friendliness.
      The Germans continued to document and develop the breed and in 1880 breeders and dog judges (dog shows and dogs were huge in Germany then as now) met and agreed that this German breed was now distinctly different from the English mastiffs and formally declared the "Deutsche doggen".
      In 1891, the Great Dane Club of Germany was formed (still called Deutsche doggen or German Dog club) and the modern day standard was adopted. Eight years later, the Great Dane club of America was founded in Chicago and the Dane was officially recognized in North America.
      So why is a dog breed that has never had anything to do with Denmark named a Great Dane?
      Another little twist in Great Dane history. In the early 1700's, a French naturalist, Compte de Buffon first saw these dogs while traveling in Denmark. He labeled this breed "le Grande Denois" or Great Dane. For some reason, the name stuck - although only in English. (The Germans continued to refer to this breed as the "Deutsche doggen".) So, although Denmark has absolutely no part to play in the story of the history of Great Danes, the dog is nevertheless tied to it albeit in name only.
      And as a final note about the history of the dogs, there have been several famous GMs associated with famous people. The founder of modern day Germany, Otto von Bismarck always had GMs beside him. General Cornwallis brought his "english dogs" on campaign with him during the American war of Independance. Buffalo Bill Cody always had his black GM "Turk" with him and Manfred von Richtofen, the famous Red Baron, is said to have taken his GM "Moritz" up for a couple of flights and of course, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a GM lover and always had several nearby.

      Concerning the "Suliot dog" that some people mention, I really don´t think you can say this dog was "the ancestor" of the German Mastiff aka Deutsche Dogge aka Great Dane, but quite likely shares a common ancestor of both breeds, namely hounds used by the Celts to run down large game.

      Regards Andreas

      For more pictures please view my profile here:


      • Thanks for posting this Andreas.  The photo is added and the post moved to Great Dane forum.

        • More historical facts, please?

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