What Were Great Danes Bred For, and Why Are They So Big?

Written by Heather Ross
Updated: October 14, 2022
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Quick Answer:

  • The purpose of breeding the Great Dane was for it to hunt large animals like deer, bears, and boars.
  • The Great Dane got its big size from its ancestors as a crossbreed of the English Mastiff and Irish Wolfhound. Both are known as giant dog breeds.

Other Key Points:

  • Known as a gentle giant, the massive Great Dane is highly affectionate and wonderful with children.
  • The Great Dane is the tallest dog in the world–the male is typically 32 inches!
  • Unfortunately, Great Danes are prone to bloating, canine dilated cardiomyopathy, and musculoskeletal disorders, such as hip dysplasia. A healthy, protein-rich diet and low-impact exercise 30 minutes a day can help alleviate these conditions.


Also referred to as the gentle giant, the Great Dane is a wonderful dog breed. Although tall and with a huge body, this dog is extremely careful and affectionate and will take great care of your children.

Living with a Great Dane is easy, thanks to their affectionate nature. This dog breed gets along well with family members and other animals, especially if they grew up together. If they are not properly socialized, especially from a young age, they can become aggressive around new dogs or people.

This dog breed was used as a guardian in the 18th century and was also popular with the upper class for sport. Due to its strong muscles and big body, the Great Dane could bring down a wild boar, so it was used for hunting.

The Great Dane got its big size from its ancestors. This dog breed is a cross breed of the English Mastiff and Irish Wolfhound, which are both known as giant dog breeds. The purpose of breeding the Great Dane was for it to hunt large animals like deer, bears, and boars.

Despite their friendly nature, some homeowners today keep the Great Dane for security. The dog’s big body and powerful bark can scare intruders, and they work well as guard dogs due to their protective nature.

Fact TypeValue
ShedabilityModerate to heavy shedders
General HealthGood health, but excessive growth can result in musculoskeletal diseases
SizeVery large
Energy LevelHigh energy, but laid back
Exercise NeedsHigh — minimum of 2 hours daily
Friendly with other dogsGood, but does best with animals they were raised with
Family and Kid-friendlinessVery good with children
Trainability and ObedienceEasy to train
TemperamentReserved, gentle, friendly, affectionate
Yappiness and BarkingLow moderate, but when they do bark, it is very loud
Tendency to chewLow moderate, but highest when they are puppies (like any other breed)
Purebred cost to own$600-3,000
Dog GroupWorking
Used for huntingYes
IntelligenceVery intelligent
Hypoallergenic (non- shedding)No
Life SpanGenerally 8-10 years, but sometimes can live to only 6-8 years or less
Female Weight100-140 lbs
Male Weight (minimum)100-200 lbs
Separation AnxietyRelatively high tendency, especially when left alone for a while (more than a few hours)
Fun FactThe Great Dane is the tallest dog breed in the world, growing up to 32 inches tall.
dog food for great danes

Great Danes are smart, affectionate, loyal pups that will be a great addition to your family!

©belu gheorghe/Shutterstock.com

Great Dane Fun Fact

A male full-grown Great Dane has a height of 32 inches, making it the tallest dog in the world.

In 2022, a Great Dane from Texas was deemed the tallest male dog in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records! Zeus is two-years-old and measures 36 inches tall. If standing on his hind legs, Zeus is 7 feet tall!

The 14 Different Types of Great Danes and Great Dane Mixes

When someone mentions the Great Dane, you will think about the 32 inch tall and muscular dog. But, other breeds resulted from mixing the the Great Dane and other dog breeds. The 14 common types of Great Dane mixes are:

  • The American Bull Dane: a crossbreed of the American Bulldog and Great Dane
  • The Great Danesky: a crossbreed of the Great Dane and Siberian Husky
  • The Boxdane: a crossbreed of the Great Dane and Boxer
  • American Foxy Dane: a crossbreed of the Great Dane and American Foxhound
  • Doberdane: a crossbreed of the Great Dane and Doberman
  • Great Bernard: a crossbreed of the Great Dane and Saint Bernard
  • Daniff: a crossbreed of the Great Dane and Mastiff
  • Weiler Dane: a crossbreed of the Great Dane and Rottweiler
  • Great Danebull: a crossbreed of the Great Dane and Pit Bull
  • The Great Retriever: a crossbreed of the Great Dane and Golden Retriever
  • The Great Danoodle: a crossbreed of the Great Dane and Poodle
  • The Great Pyredane: a crossbreed of the Great Dane and Great Pyrenees
  • Great Rottsky: a crossbreed of the Great Dane and Siberian Husky
  • Labradane: a crossbreed of the Great Dane and Labrador Retriever

The Best Dog Food for Great Dane

If you get your Great Dane as a puppy, they will soon grow into a giant adult dog. With their overwhelming size, perfect coat, and high energy levels, your dog needs the best food with the necessary nutrients. Be sure to feed your Great Dane giant breed, puppy-specific food while they are puppies.

Great Danes exercises a lot, so the diet must have high calories and nutrients to help replenish nutrients and maintain lean muscles. Although the Great Dane has high energy levels, they tend to not eat much, so you must ensure their food portions contain the best nutrients.

Generally, you should feed your older Great Dane foods with fewer calories because their metabolism and activity levels are lower.

Due to the dog’s massive size, they are prone to arthritis and hip dysplasia. But, feeding them food made for giant breed puppies slows their growth, giving their muscles and bones more time to grow optimally.

Owning a Great Dane: Pros and Cons

Affectionate: Despite the Great Dane’s giant size, they are very gentle and love to cuddle with their owners.Exercise requirement: Great Danes feel locked up without exercise, so they must be let loose in a backyard to expend their energy.
Easy to Train When Young: If you want your Great Dane to be obedient and well-socialized, start training them early. They quickly grasp instructions.Can be messy: You need extra rugs to keep cleaning after your dog after they feed. They are also heavy droolers and a little clumsy.
Minimal grooming: Great Dane owners don’t need to schedule regular grooming appointments for their canine friends. This dog’s coat is shiny and sleek already, but needs routine baths and brushing.Prone to separation anxiety: As big as they are, your Great Dane should fit in your car every time you leave because they get separation anxiety easily.

Great Dane Size and Weight

Great Dane is the tallest dog in the world, growing to a height of up to 32 inches. These dogs are also heavy. The males weigh between 100 to 200 lbs, and the females 100 to 140 lbs.

Height (male)Up to 32 inches tall
Height (female)Up to 32 inches tall
Weight (male)Up to 200 lbs, fully grown
Weight (female)Up to 140 lbs, fully grown

Great Dane Common Health Issues

Great Danes suffer from some health issues. These tall yet friendly dogs can suffer from bloating, a fatal condition in dogs that can be hard to notice at the early stages. Some symptoms of bloating include vomiting, restlessness, and pacing. Although the condition is treatable, it could recur.

Great Danes are also prone to canine dilated cardiomyopathy, which causes the heart to lower the pressure of pumping blood to the rest of the body. With proper nutrition, you can reduce the risks of this condition.

Due to their tall height, Great Danes can suffer from musculoskeletal disorders like hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis. The signs of these conditions are a decrease in activity, limping, stiffness, and pain. This condition is correctable through surgery, and it is always best to catch it as early as possible. However, regular exercise and low-impact movement as well as a healthy, nutritious diet are key to preventing these conditions to the best of your ability.

Contact your vet if you notice any warning signs or symptoms.

Temperament and Behavior

Despite being the largest dog, Great Danes are super reserved and calm. This laid-back personality makes them easily trainable and easy to be around.

Great Danes are also protective. They can be used as guard dogs and can attack intruders with ease due to their size and strength. But, this dog has much friendliness and can get along with other animals, especially if they were raised with other animals or socialized well from an early age.

This dog breed is intelligent and quickly follows instructions, but you must train it when young. Failure to expose your canine to other dogs and people can make them aggressive.

How to Take Care of Great Dane

If you just got a Great Dane, ensure you look for the best ways to maintain their health, keep them happy and supported, and reduce the chances of getting the health issues they are prone to.

Great Dane Maintenance and Grooming

Your Great Dane dog has a smooth coat that needs regular bathing, brushing, and grooming to care for it and reduce shedding. Bathing also minimizes the chances of skin infections and maintains a healthy coat. Ensure you bathe your dog weekly, depending on their lifestyle and activity level. You should ensure you brush your dog, or take them to the groomers, regularly.

Great Dane Training

Although Great Danes are easy to train when young, their big size can sometimes make enforcing that training hard. So, the trick to helping your Great Dane become flexible is training them at an early age.

You can also motivate them to exercise and train by giving dog treats, praise, and playing with them. It takes time for your dog to improve in their training, but these dogs are quick learners. Just stick with it!

Great Dane Exercise

Great Danes are highly energetic and need exercise to burn off their energy. You should walk your dog for at least 30 minutes, at least twice a day, every day, and make sure they get a minimum of 2 hours of exercise daily (which includes these daily walks). The walks help the canine with mental and physical stimulation, socialization, burning off energy, and muscle fitness. It also allows them to properly do their business.

Other exercises suitable for Great Danes are playing with toys, fetch, and playing with other dogs. It also helps them acquire social skills, which is important to their temperament and mental fitness!

Great Dane Puppies

When you get your puppy, you must know how to take care of them.

They require soft bedding to prevent joint problems. Also, ensure their diet is consistent and avoid sharing your breakfast, lunch, or dinner with them, as many human foods are toxic (or simply not healthy) for your pup, especially as their digestive systems are developing while they are still young.

Great Dane puppy laying outside in a chair

Great Danes have a gentle, sweet temperament.

©iStock.com/Jesus Manuel Souto Blanco

Great Danes and Children

Since the Great Dane has a calm and friendly personality, they can easily interact with your kids. This dog is also protective; Since they view your kids as family, they will play and get along. But, you should train your child to be kind and respectful to the dog to avoid aggressiveness.

Dogs Similar to the Great Dane

Some of the similar dog breeds to the Great Dane are:

  • Mastiff: Most dog lovers looking for a big dog breed are torn between the Mastiff and Great Dane. They are both calm and affectionate.
  • Dalmatian: These dogs are low maintenance, loyal, and have high energy. They are also a big breed and need regular exercise to maintain their health and happiness, like the Great Dane.
  • Irish Wolfhound is another breed of giant dog that resembles the Great Dane. These dogs can comfortably live indoors, and they require minimal grooming.

Popular names for Great Dane dogs are:

  • Luna
  • Diesel
  • Thor
  • Bella
  • Moose
  • Duke
  • Stella

The photo featured at the top of this post is © belu gheorghe/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Heather Ross is a secondary English teacher and mother of 2 humans, 2 tuxedo cats, and a golden doodle. In between taking the kids to soccer practice and grading papers, she enjoys reading and writing about all the animals!

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

1.      How much does it cost to own a Great Dane?

Great Danes are expensive, and the puppies cost between $1000 and $1500. However, you can get some sellers selling these dogs as low as $600. Other Great Danes cost as high as $3000. However, you can likely find Great Danes at your local adoption shelter, or search online on adoption databases. Adoption is the most ethical way to own a dog, and it is the cheapest as well. Plus, you will be saving a dog from the streets, going to a bad family, or dying in the shelter.


Are Great Danes good with kids?

Great Danes have a friendliness and calm personality and do well with kids. They are also protective, so your kid is less likely to get hurt in the hand of a Great Dane.

How long does a Great Dane live?

Great Danes can live up to 8 to 10 years with excellent care. However, others die at 6 or 7 years.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

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