The Greek God of the Sun, Apollo, is most-often depicted as a virile young man riding a chariot into battle. It is fitting, therefore, that the breed we know as the Great Dane should be given the designation, “the Apollo of dogs.”

In appearance, the Dane is something of a god, indeed. It is one of the world’s tallest breeds, towering, imposing, and even awe-inspiring. According to the General Appearance section of the AKC breed standard, the breed combines “dignity, strength and elegance with great size.” One look at a Great Dane, and it’s not difficult to imagine him as the Sun God, a giant among mortals.

The Apollo of Dogs. (Photo by Rudy Raya)

The breed possesses a “majesty” in body and spirit that is unmatched by any other. Unlike its working dog cousins of similar size, the Dane is so well-formed that it must never appear to be “clumsy.” According to the standard, “It is always a unit,” and moves with “a long reach and powerful drive.”

Size matters in this breed. Males may not be less than 30 inches at the shoulders, while bitches must measure 28 inches or more. While a lack of substance is undesirable, undersized Danes are to be disqualified.

“It is particularly true of this breed that there is an impression of great masculinity in dogs, as compared to an impression of femininity in bitches,” the standard emphasizes. Although massive in size, individuals of either sex must not possess the coarseness that leads to a “common” appearance.

A Distinguished Character
The head of the Great Dane appears to have been carved by a master sculptor. Details of length, proportion and head planes combine to create an impressively strong appearance. Fine chiseling, especially below the eyes, brings a refinement to this giant breed that befits its status as a god among dogs. The eyes themselves denote the breed’s true character. They are of “medium size, deep-set and dark,” according to the standard. “The eyelids are almond-shaped and relatively tight, with well-developed brows.” Although eyes may be lighter in color, of different colors or walleyes in the Harlequins, they are “not desirable,” according to the standard. The Great Dane should possess a lively and intelligent expression, with a pronounced masculinity of head in the males and a more delicate form in the females.

Take Up the Mantle
The coat of the Great Dane is short and thick with a smooth, glossy appearance that allows its powerful, smoothly muscled body to be easily admired. Coat color varies widely, although only six colors and patterns may be shown: fawn, brindle, black, blue, harlequin and mantle. These last two are black and white patterns, although both are expressed quite differently. The ideal Harlequin is largely white with irregular black patches distributed evenly over the body, except for on the neck. The ideal Mantle is largely black in color, with white markings similar to those of the Boston Terrier. According to the AKC standard for the breed, “The color shall be black and white with a solid black blanket extending over the body; black skull with white muzzle; white blaze is optional; whole white collar is preferred; a white chest; white on part or whole of forelegs and hind legs; white tipped black tail. A small white marking in the blanket is acceptable, as is a break in the white collar.”

A Great Dane falls short of being a god if it is deficient in head, body, bone, movement or coat color. A common looking Dane, after all, is just another big dog.

Revised 9/3/13 to remove a preamble explaining what “Breeder Buzzwords” are all about. You can read it here.