Breeder and Exhibitor
"The dog is a noble animal" is a sentence dear to puzzled child essayists. The phrase must have been invented by a member of the Great Dane Club, for the adjective that springs to one's lips at the sight of a good specimen of this breed is "noble."
All the points of a Great Dane should tend to make him deserve the appellation. Immense size, strong bone, long limbs, a powerful frame, and a long, undocked tail are essential, yet there must not be any suspicion of coarseness or cloddiness. Equally must he avoid the lightness of the greyhound and the heaviness of the mastiff. His head cannot be too powerful, yet it must be finely modelled. To the outsider he should recall the majestic hounds of ancient sculpture, the pride of antique kings and mighty Nimrods of long ago. No wonder that to-day, both at home and abroad, he is, perhaps, the most popular of the larger dogs.
His breed is of great antiquity, but his exact origin somewhat obscure. Germany, not Denmark, is his true home, and, since the Franco-prussian War, Germans have adopted him as their national breed, under the name of the Deutsche Dogge. To us in England, on his first introduction some forty years ago, he was known as the German boarhound, or German mastiff, and had to be content at shows to be classified among the foreign dogs. But with the formation of the
Great Dane Club, nearly thirty years ago, his position became assured.
At first, in fact, until 1895, he was always cropped as to his ears, a barbarous practice now abolished, though still prevalent in other countries. Imported dogs are almost invariably cropped, but, of course, cannot compete at shows under Kennel Club rules. To the abolition of the cropping is due the better stamp of ear possessed by the modern Dane, since breeders at once strove to perfect this feature. Coarse, badly set ears are now the exception. Strange to say, the Great Dane is classed by the Kennel Club among non-sporting dogs, though, as his earlier' name implies, he is a clever and sagacious hunter. The reason for this definition may be that with us he fails to find his proper quarry, but to the novice it is odd to find that he is excluded from a class in which the Scottie easily finds a place.
Not only does a Great Dane satisfy the eye as regards symmetry, but also colour. The various brindles, blacks, blues, fawns, and harlequins that gaze serenely on us from their show benches are a delight to see. Breeding for colour has a fascination of its own, and the difficulty of producing a beautiful harlequin or blue only adds zest to the endeavour.
A harlequin, to be perfect, should own a coat in which a clear white ground is broken by good-sized patches of black. These patches should have a "torn" appearance; they should not be round and spotlike. The other colours explain themselves. There are also white Danes, though they are rarely seen and never shown.
A very important point in this breed is the tail and its carriage. It should not be curled over the back or turn up at the end, corkscrew fashion. Both are bad faults. Being long, it is apt, in moments of excitement, to receive injury by being dashed against hard substances. In that event, it must receive immediate attention, or permanent injury and amputation may be the result. It should be carried in line with the back or slightly upward, reach to about the hocks, and be thick at the root and fine at the tip.
The Great Dane must be a big dog, in height at least 30 inches for a dog, 28 inches for a bitch; in weight, not less than 120 lb. for a dog, and 100 lb. for a bitch.
A Great Dane's head should be long and powerful, the skull flat rather than domed, the muscles of the cheeks flat, without lumpiness; the lips should hang square, and the lower jaw should be about level. The ears should be small, set high, slightly erect, with the tips falling forward. The neck should be long, clean, and well arched. The feet should be large and round, and the forelegs straight and strong.
The body should be very deep, with well-sprung ribs, the loins slightly arched, the hind-quarters and thighs extremely muscular, and the hocks should be set low and straight.
The coat is dense, but short and sleek, and not coarse.
The Dane is highly intelligent, brave, affectionate, and usually good-tempered. But he requires careful training, for he is somewhat excitable, and, if kept chained or badly treated, is likely to prove a dangerous animal. As a guard he is excellent. Unlike most big breeds, he has a dry mouth, and is, except for size, a good house-dog.
I need hardly add that he requires generous treatment in both food and exercise. Especially when a puppy does he need the first-named, for if he is to be worth anything, he has to build up an enormous bony framework, and that is not done on bread-and-milk. As a small pup and young dog, he must not be over-exercised, or he will not grow up straight, but he should have as great liberty and as much play as possible.
He repays this care, for a more beautiful example of strength and grace combined it would be hard to find, and with it all he is a companionable fellow, and, if properly handled, quite tractable.
Though a good adult specimen of the breed will cost any price from 10 up to many times that amount, a well-bred puppy of two or three months may be bought for £5 or so. The cost of keeping these great dogs is probably accountable for the fact that average puppies fetch such absurdly low prices. Yet for country dwellers, to whom space is no consideration, the breed should prove both useful and attractive.
Champion Gloria of Breamore. One of the most typical and beautiful Great Danes ever benched. Bred by the Miss stark and Kirkwood. Gloria was faultless in colour and symmetry and possessed of true Dane character