The Great Dane is a German breed of domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) known for its giant size. The name of the breed in Germany is Deutsche Dogge (German Mastiff). They are known for their enormous bodies and great height. The Great Dane is one of the world's tallest dog breeds; the current world record holder, measuring 112cm from paw to shoulder, is "Zeus". Their large size belies their friendly nature, as Great Danes are known for seeking physical affection with their owners.
Dogs resembling the Great Dane have been seen on Egyptian monuments dating back to 3,000 BC.
The large boarhound or Molosser continues to appear throughout ancient Greece in subsequent centuries right up to the Hellenistic era.
The Molossian hound, the Suliot dog and specific imports from Greece were used in the 18th century to increase the stature of the boarhounds in Austria and Germany and the wolfhounds in Ireland.Bigger dogs are depicted on numerous runestones in Scandinavia, on coinage in Denmark from the 5th Century AD and in the collection of Old Norse poems, known in English as Poetic Edda. The University of Copenhagen Zoological Museum holds at least seven skeletons of very large hunting dogs, dating from the 5th Century BC going forward through to the year 1000 AD.
Great Danes, like most giant dogs, have a fairly slow metabolism. This results in less energy and less food consumption per pound of dog than in small breeds. Great Danes have some health problems that are common to large breeds, including bloat (gastric dilatation volvulus(GDV)). The average life span of Great Danes is 6 to 8 years; however, some Great Danes have been known to reach 10 years of age or more. Like many larger breeds, Great Danes are at particular risk for hip dysplasia.
Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and many congenital heart diseases are also commonly found in the Great Dane, leading to its nickname: the Heartbreak breed, in conjunction with its shorter lifespan. Great Danes also may carry the merle gene, which is part of the genetic makeup that creates the harlequin coloring. The merle gene is an incomplete dominant, meaning only one copy of the gene is needed to show the merle coloring; two merle genes produce excessive white markings and many health issues such as deafness, blindness, or other debilitating ocular issues. Great Danes can also develop something called "wobblers disease" that can affect their vertebral column. Since these dogs do grow at a rapid rate, the bones in their vertebae can push up against the spinal cord and cause a little bit of weakness in the legs. This can be treated with surgery or it may straighten itself out.