This section is from the book "A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland. (Sporting Division)", by Rawdon Briggs Lee. Also available from Amazon: A History and Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland: Sporting Division.
Here is a dog, not an English animal, but one thoroughly acclimatised to the rigours of our climate, and fairly naturalised. Still, it seems as it were only the other day (it is nearly thirty years since) that "Stonehenge" (Mr. J. H. Walsh) refused to give it a place in the first edition of his "Dogs of the British Isles," which Mr. F. Adcock then requested him to do.
I do not think that this dog (under which name, following the Great Dane Club's good example, I include boarhounds, German mastiffs, and tiger mastiffs) has made great progress here. Fifteen years since he appeared in a fair way to become a favourite. The ladies took him up, the men patronised him, but the former could not always keep him in hand. Handsome and symmetrical though he may be, he had always a temper and disposition of his own, which could not be controlled when he became excited. Personally, I never considered the Great Dane suitable as a companion or as a domestic dog. He might act as a watch or guard tied up in the yard, or, may be, could be utilised in hunting big game, or in being hunted by it in return, but he always seemed out of place following a lady or gentleman. When the early orders came into force in London and elsewhere, commanding all dogs to be muzzled or led on a chain, the Great Dane received a severe blow. Muzzling amazed him, and made him savage, the restraint of chain or lead was not to be borne. The dog pulled; his fair mistress had either to free him from the chain or be overpowered. She did the former, and her unmanageable pet chevied a terrier across the road, and the mischief was done.
In that suburb in which I reside the Dane was numerous enough before the various rabies scares and the muzzling orders. He could not be confined with safety, so he had to be got rid of, and where once a dozen boarhounds reigned not one is now to be seen. This is, I think, an advantage few owners of dogs find fault with, for he, when not under control, was fond of fighting, and his immense strength and power gave him a great advantage over any other dog. Some twenty-five years or so ago, in the ring at a provincial show in Lancashire, Mr. Adcock's then celebrated Great Dane, called Satan, got at loggerheads with a Newfoundland, and the latter, poor thing, was shaken like a rat, and would soon have ceased to live, excepting in memory, had not three strong, stout men choked off the immense German Dog.
This was about the time he was being introduced to this country, or may be, rather, re-introduced, for I am one who believes that a hundred years ago there was in Ireland a Great Dane, not a wolfhound proper, but an actual Great Dane, just as he is known to-day. Hence the confusion that has arisen between the two varieties. From paintings and writings of a past generation there is no difficulty in making out this dog to be as old as any of the race of canines that we possess, but as he is brought forward here as a British dog, his history before he became such would be out of place. However, it may be said that M. Otto-Kreckwitz, of Munich, a great authority on the breed, says that "the nearest approach to the German Dogge (the Great Dane) of our time is one which is represented on a Greek coin from Panormos, dating from the 5th century B. C., and now in the Royal Museum, Munich. This dog with cropped ears is exactly our long-legged elegant Dogge with a graceful neck." The same authority takes exception to the name of the Great Dane on the grounds that, as he is now, he was actually made in Germany and thus should be called the German Dogge on the same principle that we have the English Mastiff.
Amongst our earliest specimens of the race, Satan, already alluded to, must take a leading place, though his temper was so bad. He was a heavily made, dark coloured dog, with a strong head and jaw, that would not be at all popular with the present admirers of the variety. However, his owner, Mr. F. Adcock, was an enthusiast, and by his patronage of the dog, and his subsequent establishment of a Great Dane Club, did more than any other man to bring the strain prominently before the British public.
It was not, however, until 1884, that special classes were provided for them at Birmingham, the Kennel Club having acknowledged them in their stud book the same year. However, at both places he, a year previously, had classes given him, but as a "boarhound," and since, with his name changed to "Great Dane," "boarhounds" and "German mastiffs" have become creatures of the past.
I have a note of a big black and white dog, shown by Sir Roger Palmer, about 1863 or 1864, which was said to be 35 inches at the shoulder, 2oolb. weight, and a Great Dane! I never saw a dog of this variety approaching this size, and at that time a two hundred pound weight dog had not been produced. Satan himself, a very heavy dog, would not be more than, perhaps, 150lb. at most.
Coming a little later, we find that in June, 1885, a dog show, devoted entirely to Great Danes, was held at the Ranelagh Club Grounds, near London. This was just at the time when the animal was reaching the height of his popularity here, and a noble show the sixty hounds, benched under the lime trees in those historic grounds, made. Never has such a collection of the variety been seen since in our island, and, need I say, never such a one previously. The great fawn dog, Cedric the Saxon, was there, perfect in symmetry, and a large dog; carefully measured, he stood 33¼ inches at the shoulder. With Captain Graham, I took the heights of several of these big dogs on that occasion, and it was extraordinary how the thirty-five and thirty-six inch animals dwindled down, some of them nearly half a foot at a time.
The tallest and heaviest hounds we made a careful note of were Mr. Reginald Herbert's Leal, who stood 33¾ inches at the shoulders, and weighed 182lb.; M. Riego's brindled dog, Cid Campeador, who stood exactly 33½ inches, and his weight was 1751b. This couple were the tallest dogs of their race I had up to that time seen, but, at Brighton show in 1895 I weighed and measured a dog called Morro, the property of Mr. Woodruffe Hill. He stood fully 34 inches at the shoulders and scaled 1901b. Height is a great consideration in the breed, the club's standard being from 30 inches to 35 inches for a dog, and from 28 inches to 33 inches for a bitch.