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Breed Standard of the Great Dane

Published in 1892

in “Bench Show and Field Trials Records and Standards of Dogs In America and Valuable Statistics”, 1874-1891 by Maj. J. M. Taylor, New York, Vol.I (Rogers and Sherwood publ.)


All breeds of dogs have their distinctive features and characteristics, by which the particular family to which they belong may be recognized and judged.

Of the various breeds; none are more imposing or distinguished in appearance than the German Mastiff, or Great Dane, or the Deutsche Dogge, which in early times was commonly called” the boarhound; later, the heavier-bodied specimens were known as the “Ulmer Dogge” and the lighter-bodied as the “Daniske Dogge” or “Great Dane”, now known in Germany, the home of the breed, as the German Mastiff,” but better known in England and America as the “Great Dane.”

The enormous size, splendid proportions, great strength, fine action, dignified and elegant carriage, superior intelligence, courage and fidelity of the German Mastiff, or Great Dane, mark the breed as approaching the perfection of the canine race.

This dog, as the name “boarhound” (originally applied to the breed) indicates, is particularly adapted to animal hunting, and in early days was used to hunt wild boars and other large game. But, while splendid on the hunt, as a companion, or guard, he has no superior.

There is no large dog better fitted for a house watch dog, for his coat is short and fine, and is easily kept clean, while his habits and temperament are unexceptionable.

His growing popularity amply attests his valuable qualities, and he only needs to be known to be appreciated.

The following are the points and their value of the German Mastiff or Great Dane, adopted by the German Mastiff or Great Dane Club of America:


General Appearance.-The German Mastiff or Great Dane is remarkable in size, of powerful and elegant build, strong and muscular, of high courage, supple in action, graceful and dignified in carriage and in movement. The coat is short and fine, the head and neck are· carried high, with a distinguished air. The ears are rather small, and when uncropped somewhat resemble those of the greyhound, but when cropped are carried upright, something like those of the ‘bull terrier. The neck is strong and well arched, and should be without dewlap.

The tail is fine and tapering, and is carried on a line with the back, with a slight tendency to curve at the extremity. A too highly curved tail, or carried too high, gives the animal a very common appearance, and is a serious fault.

In general appearance the German Mastiff or Great Dane is not so massive nor clumsy as the English Mastiff, nor so light and leggy as the greyhound, but somewhat resembling both, or what might be considered a satisfactory medium between the two, and in formation indicates great strength, and activity. In disposition he is gentle and affectionate, yet courageous, and bears the stamp of nobility of character. He is devoted to his master, and friendly with those he knows, but is not inclined to be free or familiar with strangers. When aroused he displays his strength and courage, but because of his intelligence and temperament, he is easily governed even when under excitement.

Height.- In height dogs should not be less than 30 inches straight measurement at the shoulder, and bitches should not be less than 28 inches.

Weight.-Dogs of the above height should weigh not less than 120 pounds, and bitches not less than 100 pounds.

Body.-The body should be long, somewhat inclined to roundness, and compact. Belly well drawn up yet well proportioned -not gaunt nor tucked-up like the greyhound, but showing muscle and strength.

Head.-The head or skull should neither be domed nor fiat; rather lengthy and not too broad; the frontal bones slightly raised; little indentation between the eyes, with very little or no stop; cheek muscles well developed; face not too broad. The whole formation and expression of the head and face should rather more resemble the hound than the bulldog or mastiff, except the muzzle, which is not like that of any other breed, as the German Mastiff or Great Dane has a muzzle peculiarly his own, the entire head and face, but much heavier, more nearly resembling those of the approved bull terrier than of any other breed. Too much resemblance to the hound is a fault.

Ears.-The ears should be small and carried high, something like those of the greyhound.

The ears may or may not be cropped; when cropped, they resemble those of the bull terrier.

Eyes.-The eyes should be small, round and deeply set, with a sharp expression, and may be light, or the various shades of brown or hazel, or in harmony with the general color of the dog.

Nose.-The nose should be large, with bridge well arched.

Muzzle.- The muzzle should be broad and strong, and rather square, or blunt, at the point.

Lips.-The lips in front should be blunt, not hanging too much over the sides, but with well-defined folds at the angle of the mouth.

Jaw.-The lower jaw should neither be short nor long, but should bring the teeth to meet evenly.

Neck.-The neck should be rather long, very strong and muscular, well arched, without dewlap or loose skin about the throat. The junction of the head and neck should be strongly pronounced.

Fore-quarters.-The shoulders should· be sloping and muscular, the elbows well under, and neither turned inward nor outward.

Legs.-The fore-arms should be very muscular, with large bone, knees strong, not bent; ankles or pasterns muscular, and the whole legs straight, strong and well proportioned.

Chest.-The chest should be of good width, but not too broad; deep in the brisket.

Back.-The back should be muscular, and not too long, nor hollow, nor quite straight, but showing a very slight tendency to arch.

Loin.-The loin should be broad, strong and well arched, and muscular above and below.

Tail.-The tail should reach to the hock, strong at the root, fine and tapering to the end, and be carried horizontally with the back, or very slightly upward, with a slight tendency to curve at the extremity; but must not curl, or be carried high, or over the back.

Hind-quarters.-The buttocks or hips should be well developed and strong, rounding gradually to root of tail, thighs muscular, with good bone, and second thighs long and strong; hocks well let down, or low and straight, turning neither in nor out; ankles strong in bone and muscle.

Feet.- The feet should be large and round, and well set on ankles, turning neither inward nor outward. Toes well arched and close; nails strong and curved.

Hair or Coat.-The hair or coat should be short, hard and dense, with no fringe or long hair on legs or tail.

Color and Markings.-The recognized colors are the various shades of gray or blue, mouse color, black, white, red or fawn; also brindle, or tiger striped on white ground, with patches of dark colors. The single colors are sometimes accompanied with markings of a darker tint about the eyes and muzzle, and with a line of the same tint, called a “trace,” along the course of the spine.

The above ground colors appear in the brindles, and in the striped and mottled specimens. In the one-colored specimens the china or wall eye rarely appears, and the nose, more or less, approaches black, according to the prevailing tint of the dog, and the eyes vary in color also.

The mottled specimens have irregular patches or” clouds” upon the above named ground colors, in some instances the clouds or markings being of two or more tints. With the mottled specimens the wavy, or china eye, is not uncommon, and the nose is often parti-colored or wholly flesh-colored.

Symmetry.- The symmetry of the whole body should be of a high order, with well defined and gracefully curved lines, and the whole appearance should indicate power, activity, courage and nobility of character.

Faults.-The faults most common are too heavy, or too houndy a head; too highly arched frontal bone, and deep” stop” or indentation between the eyes; too broad a face; too short or too light a muzzle; too long ears, and hanging flat to the face; too short a neck; full dewlap or loose skin on neck; too narrow or too broad a chest; sunken or quite straight back; bent lore-legs; over-bent fetlocks; cow-hocked hind-legs; dew-claws, if loose -better none- not permissible; twisted feet; spreading toes; too coarse or long coat; too heavy or too highly carried or curved tail, or with a brush underneath; weak or narrow loin or hindquarters, a general lack of muscle; want of  symmetry, and a general absence of character in appearance.


Dogs – Height, 30 inches; weight, 120 pounds.

Bitches – Height, 28 inches; weight, 100 pounds.




Dogs                           Bitches


Height,      32 inches                  30 inches

Weight,      140 pounds               120 pounds

Length from tip of nose to occiput,        12 inches                  11 inches

Occiput to middle of shoulders,               14 inches                  12 inches

Middle of shoulders to set on of tail,         34 inches                  32 inches

Length of tail,       22 inches                  20 inches

Girth of skull,       24 inches                  22 inches

Girth of neck,        26 inches                  24 inches

Muzzle, between eyes and nose,      12 inches                  11 inches

Girth of chest,     38 inches                  34 inches

Girth of loin,       32 inches                  30 inches

Girth of thigh,       17 inches                  15 inches

Girth of second thigh,    13 inches                  11 inches

Girth of fore-arm,     10 inches                  8 ½ inches




Height,        10

General appearance and symmetry,        10

Action,       7

Temperament and character,    4


Skull,         5

Ears,          3

Eyes,         3

Nose, muzzle and lips,       4

Neck,     5


Shoulders,       5

Legs,       5


Chest,     5

Back,      4

Belly,      2

Loin,      4

Tail,       5


Buttocks, or hips,       5

Thighs and legs,         5

Feet, toes and nails,   5

Coat,      4


Total,                                                                       100




[a newer (Revised) edition of the GDCA standard from 1929 can be seen here , courtesy of JP Yousha – Chromadane]



The reader will notice the very useful measurements in the 1892 standard, that allow us to better visualize the body type and thus the breed type of the breed at that time. We must thank the pioneers of the GDCA for that inclusion.




From Nancy-Caroll Draper’s invaluable book, “THE GREAT DANE – Dogdom’s Apollo”, published in 1981 by Howell Book House, New York, we learn that the first Great Danes in America came to the country in the mid-18 hundreds and that the famous Buffalo Bill, Colonel William Cody (1846-1917), had a black Great Dane named ‘Turk’ as a young boy (see painting above, from the book). This is mentioned in the book written by Bill’s sister, where many pages are dedicated to Bill’s adventures with his beloved companion and a special chapter describes the brave dog’s burial at the family’s home grounds in Wyoming. Buffalo Bill’s association with the breed continued to his old age and he was often seen later accompanied by other Great Danes, fawn or brindle in color.

In 1857, a Mr. Francis Butler brought a harlequin Great Dane, named Prince (pictured above from Illustrated News), from New York to London. Great Danes were first shown in America in 1877, at the Philadelphia Grand National show, where 11 specimens were entered under the name “Siberian” or “Ulm Dogs”. Possibly the first show in America where the breed was exhibited as “Great Danes” was in 1881 in New York and the next time was 1888 and 1890.

In 1884, C.H. Mantler began raising Great Danes in the US and exhibited his first Dane in 1895. On May 3rd, 1889, he was one of the 33 persons who established the “German Mastiff” Club in Chicago and on the same year it became only the fourth breed club to join the American Kennel Club. In 1891, the German Mastiff Club became the Great Dane Club of America. In 1892, the first ever GDCA Trophy was offered at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show and was won that year by a dog named Ch. Melac. In 1898, Charles E. Tilford imported the magnificent Sandor v. Inn, a richly coloured brindle (see below). Popularity had grown so fast that in that year, the Westminster Great Dane entries had grown to 29 puppies, 35 dogs and 15 bitches, a grand total of 75 exhibits, and Sandor v. Inn triumphed over all. Sandor I v Inn, golden brindle, born 1895, by Emin x Hera-Bohemia, was four years old at the time and was described as “a combination of size, symmetry, character and quality we have never had his equal in this country and it is possible he could not have been beaten by any dog living when in his prime.”


Sandor von




This excellent site has all the subsequent versions of the GDCA standard and well worth visiting.

Our next stop, Denmark!


[view the current Great Dane Breed Standards here ]