Ever wonder why we deem some things Great and others, not so much? Me neither, but here are some great examples. Everyone’s heard of The Great Depression, The Great Wall of China, The Great Debate, The Great Gatsby, this list goes on and on. In their own right all these things are great in some way or another, depending upon your definition of the word and, of course, your personal opinion. Historically these are of importance to a great many people, who, God rest their souls, have probably moved on to greater things, but personally these are little more than a History Channel documentary in how they impact me. For today’s topic I will be sharing a little bit of history that also happens to have entangled itself in my present life, and one for which I am greatly appreciative of. I speak, of course, of my beautiful Great Dane puppy, Fezzik, who has brought a gerthy amount of joy to our lives. But before we get to him, a bit of history on this Great animal.
There is much to be argued about over the exact history of our four-legged friend. Precisely when and where they originated depends upon who you ask. Many would say the breed evolved over several hundred years in Britain, some lay the blame on the Germans, giving them all the credit. We first see sign of their breed around 3000BC. Their likenesses are carved in Eqyptian monuments built in this time. It is also said that when Alanis invaded Europe, the Asiatic race brought with them giant mastiff-like dogs. These mastiffs were said to have been bred with Irish Grey Hounds, spawning a giant, yet slimmer breed. The ancestor of the the modern Great Dane could also have come from the Celts who cross-bred the giant mastiffs with the Irish Wolf Hounds and Irish Grey Hounds in an effort to produce the “Englishe Dogge”. Even though both of these parties deserve some credit in creating this wonderful breed, it is like the Germans are given credit for keeping this breed afloat. By the 16th century these “Englishe Dogges” were quite commonly used for boar hunting in many Germanic states. The Germans would import large numbers of this breed to cross-breed with their own versions in order to create the most optimal boar hunter. So if you’re wondering how this ferocious hog-hunting canine evolved into the stoic, gentle-giant so well loved today, that task was conquered over a two-hundred year period, and yes, the Germans are to yet again be thanked. You see, they saw that a dog of this size was not only a powerful hunter, but potentially a magnificent guard dog, as well. But in order to hunt a beast as burdensome as a boar took quite a bit of aggressiveness, a trait not so suitable for a courageous companion man would enjoy sharing a lap with. So over the 18th and 19th century Germany worked at developing a dog more regal, calm, and less aggressive.
By 1891, the Great Dane Club of Germany was formed and the modern day standard was adopted, eight years later, America followed suit and the Great Dane Club of America was founded in Chicago. I’m sure, by now, you’re wondering where the hell Denmark comes into play? Blame the French! Yes, it was a French naturalist, Compte de Buffon who first saw these dogs traveling in Denmark, thus he dubbed them, “le Grande Denois”, or Great Dane. And for some french-fried reason the name stuck.
Some notable Danes over the years include the founder of modern day Germany, Otto von Bismarck, who always had Danes loafing about. General Cornwallis was said to have kept his companions close during the American war of Independence. Buffalo Bill Cody had a black Dane by his side. The famous Red Baron, Manfred von Richtofen was said to have taken his Dane, Moritz, up for a few flights. Franklin Delano Roosevelt always had several Danes nearby. And who could forget Marmaduke, and the loveable Scooby-Doo? So, no matter which history is authentic, we may never know, or for that matter care, so long as we have these wonderful giant companions to love and love us and remind us how pricey dog food can really be. If you are a Dane owner, know a Dane owner, you know that there is no mistaking the bond that forms between man and his Dane, nor is the line between which side of the couch is mine and which side the damned dog has inherited is a very fuzzy, seemingly invisible line. I hope that the readers of this blog have come away with, at the very least, some useless knowledge, but hopefully a little appreciation for our four-legged friend, the Great Dane. Now, if you’ll excuse me Fezzik needs to take me for a walk! Perhaps more, some other time. Ta-ta!