Been a while since I found some time for blogging, but better late than never.
I was asked by Jp Yousha on Facebook to contribute to this question: “what exactly is essential in a Great Dane?” (well, that’s the gist of it, as I understood it, in short).
Here is my answer – with some extended thoughts:
So you basically want a synopsis of the description of an ideal Great Dane – which is the breed standard. I would call on Jill Evans to give us a no-frills edited version of the original standard. Take away the silly attempts to quantify biological fitness. Remove all interpretations that are harmful, unscientific and untypical of the breed’s essence.
Bear in mind that the Greyhound is the oldest western breed in existence, its standard is “the very soul of brevity” (as David Hancock put it) and yet that breed has not been distorted to the extent ours has by human vanity. Study the Foxhound breed standard – no need for frivolous non-original additions distorting a functional animal into a caricature. Over-complicated, overly detailed standards are failures because people focus on superficial points and breed for details instead of wholesome functionality.
Essentially the Great Dane description should say:
Breed type: boarhound of great size. Neither a mastiff nor a greyhound but in the middle between the two extremes; powerful and naturally elegant, without physical exaggerations, sound of mind and body. Fit to course and catch big game, endurance-galloping hound; short-coated, unflappable, magnanimous family dog, naturally protective and without aggression.
Add desired colors, size and list under Faults: anything that would preclude the dog from fulfilling its original function.
We can elaborate into parts of the dog but if you see the English Foxhound standard above we would be just copying tautologies that apply to many breeds.
I made some quick slight alterations & biomechanic additions to the above (Foxhound) document and the following would describe the Great Dane very well, in my opinion. We can add to it, but what is there is sufficient without pomposity, methinks. Feedback is welcome (It is possible that I left out something others consider important).
You asked what I consider essential, so the above paragraph and the following points fit the bill, in my opinion. A good set of illustrations can aid visual education.
Great Dane description:
Noble, well balanced, powerful, elegant and clean cut.
Speed and endurance, coursing and tracking instinct, excellent scenting ability and natural fitness to gallop over a variety of terrains for prolonged periods of time, tackle, hold and bring large prey to the ground, working in pairs. Flat muscle and oval bone, optimal joint flexion and strength. Great intelligence and athleticism.
Friendly and not aggressive. High threshold of irritation, strong nerves, ready to go anywhere and do anything, devoted to family, noble and trustworthy, without nervousness or phobias.
Head and Skull
Well balanced, of great harmony and nobility; size of head in balance to the dog; lead elongated, skull flat, muzzle long and rectangular, skull and muzzle parallel to each other; well defined craniofacial transition between frontal bones and maxilla; well chiseled, without fluttering lips.
Medium size, with tight lids and intelligent expression.
Medium size, high set.
Jaws strong with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws.
Long, slightly arched, well developed without being coarse, of equal length to the long head, carried as a gazehound.
Shoulders well laid back, muscular without being loaded, allowing optimal pivot at the gallop. Forelegs long, straight and well boned down to feet without coarse heaviness, pasterns strong and elastic, slightly slanted. The foreleg is longer than the depth of the body from withers to elbow, as befits the endurance galloping model.
Chest deep, ribs well sprung. Withers above dorsal line, back broad and level with a slight rise over strong loins.
Powerful and muscular. Moderate turn of stifle. Broad, strong hocks, shorter than the upper thigh and the lower thigh (that are approximately equal in length) and with well developed calcaneus bone.
Round, tight and strong cat feet. Well padded. Nails strong.
Well set on continuation of spine and reaching hock joint. Carried level or sabre-like but never curled over back.
Free striding, elastic, coordinated, tireless, without waste of energy, denoting endurance galloping structure. Single tracking at high speed. Good drive behind with no inclination to roll. Double suspension gallop with excellent spine flexibility, maximum collection and extension for the large game hunting model, capable to keep up with fast prey like boar and deer.
Short and dense. Weatherproof.
Any dog person worth their salt ought to be able to form a mental picture from the above otherwise they should not be breeding until they learn their onions. Swan neck similes and other ridiculous aesthetic pleasantries are not required. A dog is a dog! We know from nature and biomechanics what functional canids are built like, we know what big game hunting (coursing & catching) dogs are like, they’re still out there thankfully.
Big game hunters deserve their own classification so that is all I have to say about the best group. In cynology (canine morphology) things are not as simplistic as merely mastiff or sighthound apartheid – there are many “composite” types like ours. I support classification according to a breed’s original function as that is the single most defining factor that shaped dogs cultivated by humans.
A country of origin is completely irrelevant as a single country should never be put in charge of managing a breed with such a global distribution. Representatives of all National Great Dane Clubs should hold regular conferences and with guidance from scientists in genetics and health should steer the breed safe and true.
[The Current British standard is not overly long but it does suffer from similar problems to the other three (American, Canadian & German/FCI) – namely, excessive emphasis on head properties, poor definitions, poetic license, errors borrowed from horse anatomy (as so many dog standards do) and other later additions that are “de novo opinions that are not valid interpretations as they don’t originate in the language, history, origin, or purpose of the Great Dane” (source of quote: here)].
And I add, unequivocally: I would support a unified, universal, simplified and sensible, Great Dane standard, biomechanically sound, promoting health and functionality.
One breed, one standard.