The Great Dane is known for its sheer size, making it the tallest dog breed with a record height of 112cm! Images of very large dogs, thought to be related to the Great Dane have appeared on ancient Egyptian monuments dating to 3,000 BC. Frescoes in ancient Greece also show large dogs and the Copenhagen Zoological Museum holds 7 skeletons of large dogs dating from the 5th century BC to 1000AD.
During the mid 16th century in Europe the Great Danes were used primarily to hunt boar and deer. Not all of the dogs were kept in kennels but the favourites of the Lord of the Manor spent the night in the same bedchamber as their lord and master.
Great Danes have a nickname relating to their size - 'Apollo of all Dogs'. The breed size is thought to be because Wolfhounds and Old English Mastiffs were crossbred.
The ears, because they are so long and floppy, were commonly cropped for hunting dogs to reduce possible injury. Today, now that Great Danes are more companion dogs, the ears are cropped for aesthetic reasons. The early half of the 20th century cropped Danes wore Easter bonnets, devices that were fitted to make the ears stand up. Most countries still allow cropping but Australia and New Zealand have strict regulations on this practice. In some cases only registered veterinary surgeons can crop the ears.
Great Danes may be born as any one of 6 accepted colours - fawn, brindle (having a stripy looking coat), blue, harlequin (a salt and peppery looking coat) and mantle (generally black and white), which are accepted as purebreds.