Beloved by dog owners the world over, the Great Dane is famous for its large size, unique build, and gentle demeanor. Unfortunately, its physical characteristics are accompanied by quite a few health issues that don’t affect many smaller dogs. The unfortunate result is that these gentle giants have an average lifespan of eight to ten years.
However, there are many Great Danes that become outliers and live longer than expected, especially when given a healthy diet, enough exercise, and a happy, healthy environment. Read on to learn more about some of the longest-lived Great Danes.
About Great Danes
Great Danes are among the biggest of the big dogs, typically weighing between 100-175 pounds and standing between 30-40 inches tall. Originating in Germany, they were originally bred as boarhounds by the German nobility. Despite their origins and imposing size, these dogs are incredibly gentle and friendly, and are considered terrific companions for people of all ages.
Sadly, Great Danes have a lifespan far shorter than most smaller dogs: the average age is between 8 and 10 years, with some living only 6 to 7 years. This is a trend among large breeds, but it can also be attributed to a lack of genetic diversity.
A Great Dane’s size and shape put increased stress on its joints, bones, and heart, which can lead to conditions such as hip dysplasia or cardiomyopathy. However, the most common cause of death in Great Danes is bloat (GDV), which is the twisting of the stomach after it fills with gas. The blood supply from a dog’s stomach to its heart can be obstructed, or the stomach lining can rupture due to this condition.
On the bright side, Great Danes have at least one thing in common with humans: their lives can potentially be extended by eating healthy. A diet consisting of high-quality ingredients is a common trait among the longest-lived Great Danes.
In addition, even though their shape prevents them from being the most active dogs, they still benefit from a moderate amount of exercise. Finally, many believe that these gentle animals live longer in happy homes with lots of comfort, affection, and love!
The oldest Great Danes live to be about 11 to 13 years old, although there are some unverified reports of Great Danes that live up to 17 years.
The answer of which Great Dane is the oldest in the world is particularly difficult to answer because records are often not kept on dogs, and it’s difficult to certify exact ages. For example, the Guinness Book of World Records recently noted a Great Dane named Freddy (more on him below) had become the world’s oldest living Great Dane at more than 8 years old. Yet, that is not a notably high age, and there are plenty of Great Danes that have lived beyond 8 years.
Here’s a list of some notable Great Danes recognized either for their age or other characteristics (like height). Then we’ll look at some living today that have actually lived longer than the ones below:
The oldest of 12 pups, Gibson the Harlequin Great Dane (named for their black and white coats), was born on April 26, 2002, and lived with his owner Sandy in Grass Valley, California. A certified therapy dog, Gibson was actually quite famous, having been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as being the world’s tallest dog in 2004. He appeared on television with numerous celebrities, including Jay Leno, Ellen Degeneres, and Oprah Winfrey. A beloved dog, even overseas, Gibson died on August 7, 2009, at age 7 after a battle with cancer.
Standing at 3’7, the aptly named Giant George was born on November 17, 2005. Though he was so strong he once dented a wall by wagging on it, George was famous for his gentle nature and his friendliness around children. According to owners Dave and Christine, George quickly bonded with their newborn children and kept a watchful eye over them. Unfortunately, George eventually passed away on October 17, 2013, a month shy of his eighth birthday.
Born in 2012, Freddy was recognized by Guinness World Records for being the tallest Great Dane alive. Pretty impressive for the runt of the litter! The 3’4 gentle giant lived in Norfolk, UK, surrounded by friends and family: owner Claire, dog sister Fleur (born a few minutes after Freddy), and even seven-year-old human neighbor Erin, whose voice Freddy recognized over the phone. The beloved Freddy lived to be 8 ½ years old before passing away in January 2021.
Fun fact: Freddy, George, and Gibson all held the Guinness record for “World’s Tallest Dog” in their lifetimes!
The longest-lived Great Dane on this list so far, Pirate lived to be a whopping 11 ½ years old. This adopted dog lived with owners Sarah and Laurence for over a decade, outliving his older brother, Digby, by a few years. Sarah attributed his long life to a custom diet consisting mostly of chicken, along with a loving, happy environment. Though Pirate passed away in November 2020, his long life is a testament to the power of a healthy diet.
Today’s Oldest Living Great Danes
So who is the oldest living Great Dane today? This is also a challenging question for the same reasons as the last. Furthermore, the answer is constantly changing due to the short life expectancy of the Great Dane. That being said, several long-lived canines may have a claim to the title of the oldest Great Dane alive. Let’s introduce a few of the contenders:
Adopted by owners Jeffrey and Becky in 2008, Stella the Great Dane, a resident of Hixson, Tennessee, might be the oldest living Great Dane in the US at an impressive 13 years old. Along with diet and exercise, her owners took an extra step: having her stomach attached to her abdomen to prevent bloat. Since bloat is the number one Great Dane killer, this procedure appears to have paid off for Stella.
Lisa of Florida claims that her Dane, Maggie Mae, is a whopping 16 years old. She attributes her exceptional longevity to a lifetime of love… and chicken. Sound familiar? If all of these and the above accounts are true, Maggie might be the oldest Great Dane alive today, or ever for that matter.
As you can see, the dogs in the second list have less fanfare than those in the first. It may be surprising that the media recognizes an 8-year-old Great Dane for its age, but one that’s 13 years old or more has received little attention. This could be due to a lack of documented proof, or because the owner prefers an anonymous life for themselves and their pet. There may even be Great Danes older than any of these that haven’t received any recognition at all.
As mentioned before, identifying legitimate claims to the title of the oldest Great Dane in the world is a challenging task. However, there is one thing we can learn from what we know: with a healthy diet, just enough exercise, and a life of love, Great Danes can live far longer than expected and bring joy to their families for years to come.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/gsagi
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