The original Great Dane breed standard contained a Very Important Phrase, which pinpointed the breed’s specific position in the canine spectrum: put in a nutshell – neither a mastiff nor a greyhound but in the middle between the two extremes.
In English: “The Great Dane is not so heavy or massive as the mastiff, nor should he too nearly approach the greyhound in type”. In German (translated): “It does not have the heaviness and clumsiness of the Mastiff, nor the lankiness and light weight reminiscent of the Greyhound’s shape, but holds the middle ground between either extreme.” Original German text: click here.
This phrase is essential for the integrity of the Great Dane breed: it is a breed type – defining phrase. It is the necessary guideline to steer breeders in the safe and narrow, educate, inform and caution the present and future generations, especially the newcomers, about what the Great is and what it isn’t, the sine qua non directive and warning that safeguarded the breed against type distortions and physical exaggerations until it was removed. It was the accuracy of this phrase that kept the Great Dane safe from hypertypicity. Without this very descriptive definition and warning in the standard, the breed is open to abuse, misinterpretation and misrepresentation, pushing it to the “more is better” slippery slope.
When this phrase was removed from the Great Dane standard, the breed was stripped bare from its own defences. Without this essential and clear dictum, the breed’s identity becomes a matter of opinion and depends on the ability of each generation of educators to convince. We should not need to rely on the capricious nature of random chance and hope that capable people will always be in charge – the breed’s essentials should be included and preserved in the written standard for all time. We know what happened since this catastrophic event: the Apollo of dogs is being disfigured beyond recognition in front of our eyes in many European countries by the drift towards the hypertype. The once athletic, able-bodied boarhound has become a tragic invalid, a sick travesty, riddled with physical abnormalities and health issues directly linked with or caused by these (as if the breed didn’t have enough serious health issues).
This is a complete and utter betrayal of not just a beloved and widely popular breed of world-wide distribution, but a mockery of everything the FCI and every governing body in the world of dogs ought to stand for: the protection of dogs and valuable breeds from intentional deviation, destruction and debilitating disfigurement.
Dear FCI, you are well aware of the issues caused by the trend for hypertypes. You have established that dogs ought to be fit for function, and in particular for the original function that shaped them and defined their morphology and character. So we ask you to stand by those very excellent values you have enshrined in FCI regulations and directives: honor them. Act to protect them. Don’t let them be just empty words that people could think they can ignore and override with impunity.
Whatever your reasons were for removing this V.I.P. phrase from the Great Dane standard, clearly it was a mistake, a very grave one, with tremendously negative repercussions and consequences to our breed. We ask you to correct this error. We ask you to restore our breed’s integrity and true breed type; restore the phrase, protect the dogs, stop the hypertypicity threat effectively, overnight: the phrase says it all: the Great Dane is not and was never intended to be, by it’s founders, as enshrined in the standard, a mastiff breed. Therefore not only the phrase must be restored, but the breed must be restored, and taken out of the mastiff section of the Group II: the Great Dane simply does not belong there.
When these two errors have been corrected, the exploiters and the misinformed who are promoting the hypertype deviation, will be powerless: breeders and judges, will no longer have a leg to stand on. It is that simple. You can restore our breed and save it from destruction, practically overnight.
(If you do not wish to restore the phrase verbatim, as it was originally enshrined in the breed standard, to avoid references to other specific breeds, this can be easily rectified: replace “mastiff” with “mastiff type” and “greyhound” with “windhund / levrier / sighthound of greyhound type”, respectively, in each official FCI language, for example: “The Great Dane is not as heavy and massive as the mastiff type nor as lightly-made as the windhund / levrier / sighthound of greyhound type, but in the middle between either ends of the canine morphology spectrum”).
We have pointed out among other things, in our previous petition, almost two years ago, which presented all the evidence against the mastiffication of our Great Danes, and which was very well-received by the Scientific Commission of the FCI (see the reply we received below), that “molosser”/ “molossoid” is a misnomer as the Molossian dogs were not mastiffs, but Livestock Guardians, lupoid in features and morphology, and of dual type shaped by function: one for guarding livestock (mountain type) and one for hunting big game.
We furthermore have the evidence, by his own public admission, that Prof. Triquet included the Swiss Mountain Cattle dog types in the group II purely at the request of the FCI President Hans Müller, who himself later regretted it. So if the Swiss Cattle Dogs, being Livestock Guardians – in other words, real Molossians in the original sense – do not belong in the 2nd group but were only placed there at a whim (!), how on Earth could anyone ever argue that the Great Dane (or any Molossian type / Mountain Dog / LGD breed) belongs in that same group ? (This is not, by the way, how things should be done, in cynology: classification decisions should not yield to personal preferences of one influential person, but they should be governed by scientific approach and integrity; yet it is never too late to admit mistakes and make amends).
And we have the even more compelling evidence, when it comes to correctly classifying the Great Dane, from the DDC itself: the German standard, published in the DDC’s own language and website, does not recognise, or define, or classify the breed as a mastiff, or even as a molosser or molossoid: it calls it “doggenartige hunde”.
So what, again, we ask, is the Great Dane still doing in the mastiff section, together with other breeds that have been distorted beyond recognition, tragic wrecks like the Mastino Napolitano ? The Dogo Argentino expert Dr Otto Schimp made similar, intelligent, irrefutable arguments against the classification of that breed in the mastiff section – and for good reason, as his breed is a boarhound, of the same original function as the Great Dane’s.
The same reasons apply in our case: the Great Dane breed is a large strong hound for hunting big game. It’s a boarhound. It was never intended to be a mastiff or become a mastiff, as its original standard proves beyond doubt. The DDC additionally, confirms and informs us the breed is not a mastiff (despite the original unfortunate choice, to call it “dogge”. It was a naive error, but at the time, there were no extreme hypertypical doggen / dogues / mastiffs or molossers or molossoids: in the 1800s, hypertypicity did not exist). And to the educated German-speaking fancier, the word “dogge” does not mean mastiff: it means simply, “strong hound”.
The Great Dane: strong hound, able to go anywhere and do anything
We would be quite happy with that designation, because essentially, if we strip the terms from the erroneous meanings that were subsequently and much later attached to them, leading these terms to be misunderstood by newer cynologists, that is precisely what our Danes are: strong hounds. Strong running dogs for large game – neither mastiffs, nor so-called “molossers”/ “molossoids”, or greyhound-type sight/windhounds. Strong hounds like the English Foxhound in body type, a breed that falls in the middle between the two ends of the canine morphology spectrum: neither mastiffs nor whippets, but strong, fast, substantial galloping dogs, well-balanced and combining both power and elegance in the ideal degree for functional efficiency.
And by the way, isn’t it about time the largest cynological organisation in the world, responsible for education in matters of dog breeds in so many countries, dispelled these long-standing pseudo-scientific myths, and expunged these erroneous meanings from its terminology, restoring the terms to their proper designations, as they at present, perpetuating old misunderstandings, represent falsehoods and poor education? We are not being pedantic: semantics do matter, if we are to understand and teach morphology and breed types and if we are to classify dog breeds accurately, avoiding their demise by deviation from what is sound and biologically fit. We refer you to this treatise, as to why the equation of molossian/molossoid to mastiff is incorrect, historically untrue, false and uneducated. It is high time we afforded some correct education to cynology students. It is time cynology became a serious science, and distanced itself from mythology.
What more evidence do you need, dear FCI, to take the breed out of that group where it clearly does not belong to ? How much more destruction, disfigurement, sickness and misery and suffering, related to and caused by physical exaggerations must a breed, supposed to be fit for its original function no less, endure, and individual dogs suffer from, before a simple classification error, and a simple omission error, are corrected, by FCI, VDH & DDC? How much longer will it take for bureaucracy to finally stop the slow death of the Great Dane ?
The Scientific Commission could not have been more categorical in its condemnation of the hypertype trend and those pseudo-Danes: “ we can no longer call them Great Danes” was their reply. It’s an open and shut case.
1. The Great Dane is not a mastiff (said so in the standard)
2. The DDC does not consider the breed a mastiff.
3. The Scientific Commission does not consider those hypertype heavy mastiffoid specimens to be Great Danes.
Removal of the All-important, breed-defining phrase from the standard allowed the classification of the Great Dane in the wrong group section, landing the breed in grave peril; and those two errors together combined to allow the physical deviation, deformity, distortion and disabilitation of a once athletic, functional dog. The current classification is highly illogical . That is just unacceptable and intolerable: we need solutions and we need them now.
(Further evidence that the wrong classification enabled the deviation of the breed from its original type and morphology, is the fact that in Britain, North America, Australia, New Zealand and other English-speaking territories, where the breed is called Great Dane and not a mastiff, it has not been distorted to the same extent and it has remained close to what was originally intended, largely, we believe, thanks to the phrase enshrined in the British standard – that is still the official standard in many countries: “elegance of outline and grace of form most essential”, and the fact that the American & Canadian standards do emphasize the necessary balance between strength and elegance).
Dear FCI, Dear VDH, Dear DDC: Do your duty. Do what you were founded to do. Uphold your own standards, constitutions, directives and guidelines. Restore the Great Dane. Save the breed. Save our dogs.
We cannot wait a minute longer. It is time for action, not merely words and good intentions. The Great Dane is destroyed before our very eyes…
We, the undersigned, are Great Dane lovers from all around the world; we have the expert knowledge and the love for the breed combined in our hearts and minds. We demand action is taken to correct these errors and by doing so, deliver our beloved dogs from grave danger. We will not stop until the Apollo of Dogs is safely restored and fit to perform its original function. We are confident you will come to the breed’s rescue with integrity, decisiveness and responsibility. And we remain, respectfully, with cordial greetings and very much looking forward to your urgent response, reflecting your careful attention to the importance of this matter.
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