Famous for being the largest breed in the world, Great Danes are known as majestic dogs with imposing size. They are generally considered to be gentle giants and good-natured family pets. But, as with all breeds, Great Danes can become aggressive. They are extremely territorial dogs and can attack with little warning. A Great Dane bite can have a serious and life-altering impact on victims.
If a Great Dane does display aggression or biting behavior, it becomes a significant danger to everyone around it. Due to its daunting size, weight, and power, an aggressive Great Dane becomes almost impossible to control. This makes Great Dane attacks a very real danger.
Find out everything you need to know about the Great Dane dog breed, including its history, characteristics, temperament, and dangerous traits. More importantly, find out how to survive an attack from a giant Great Dane, what to do after being bitten, and how a dog bite lawsuit can help victims.
Reputation of Great Danes
Great Danes are not widely considered to be dangerous. These dogs are referred to by some as the ‘Apollo of Dogs’ – a reference to the Greek God Apollo – due to their giant dimensions. Despite this colossal size, Great Danes are thought of as gentle and friendly dogs. This is often the case, but Great Danes can also be extremely dangerous, depending on the individual dog and the situation they are in.
History of the Great Dane
Don’t be fooled by the name – Great Danes are of German descent and do not have any actual links to Denmark, according to canine historians.
The breed is believed to be upward of 400 years old, but its precise history is not well known. Sharing heritage with breeds such as the English Mastiff and Irish Greyhound, Great Danes were bred to be agile and powerful.
In around 1680, early Great Dane-like dogs were bred by noble German households as hunting companions, and originally named Boar Hounds. These dogs were extremely large and powerful and could take down a wild boar at the instruction of its owner. Such was the size and strength of these dogs that they were able to help catch larger animals. Some early Great Danes were also kept inside the home, valued for their handsome looks and guard dog capabilities.
Today’s Great Dane was developed from the early hunting hound and still possesses its regal look and grand size.
Origins of the Great Dane Name
From the 1880s onward, this breed was known as Deutsche Dogge in Germany – which translates to ‘German Dog’. This name did not take off throughout the rest of the world though, and it is widely known as the Great Dane in English-speaking countries such as the United States, where it has become one of the most popular breeds.
Mystery surrounds the origin of the Great Dane name itself. There are not many accounts documenting the adoption of this title, but some believe that it originated from a naturalist named Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon. Legend has it that the famed Frenchman saw dogs with a similar look to the German hounds while traveling in Denmark in the 1700s. He supposedly gave the Great Dane name to the German breed and it stuck – though it is unclear how this happened.
Great Dane Characteristics
- Height: Males – 30-32 inches / Females – 28-30 inches
- Weight: Males – 140-180 lbs / Females – 110-150 lbs
- Color: Brindle, fawn, blue, black, harlequin, mantle
- Coat: Short, thick, and glossy
- Ears: Naturally floppy, cropping optional
- Life Span: 7-10 years
The chief characteristic of a Great Dane is its enormous size. Dog height is measured up to the shoulders, and a male Great Dane will typically be greater than 30 inches in height, towering above other large breeds like German Shepherds and Dobermans by several inches. When standing up on their hind legs, they are taller than most humans.
This great size is not just restricted to height – Great Danes also carry substantial weight, with the average weight of a male dog reaching around 180 lbs. These combined factors mean that an aggressive Great Dane will be extremely difficult to control, even for a responsible owner.
Great Danes have short and glossy coats which are usually a variation of one of six main colors. These range from a golden fawn color to a shade of gray known as ‘blue’. A Great Dane’s ears are also notable. They naturally grow to fold over, but in the United States, they are sometimes cropped so that they stand upright. Ear cropping is banned in some countries but is unregulated in most parts of the U.S.
According to the American Kennel Club, Great Danes are the 14th most popular breed in the United States at the time of writing. Every year the authority compiles a list of the most-owned breeds, using registration figures from across the country. Great Danes have been rising in popularity in recent years and are now at their highest ever rank.
Temperament of Great Danes
These are some of the key behavioral characteristics of the Great Dane breed:
- Usually good-natured
Great Danes have developed significantly from their roots as wild animal-subduing hunting dogs. While their colossal size still intimidates many people, the breed is generally thought of as good-natured and friendly. They are relatively relaxed and do not require the high level of activity that some other breeds do.
However, while Great Danes are usually friendly, they can also be highly territorial and extremely protective. If its space, home, or family is threatened, a Great Dane may become aggressive. One of the main causes of a Great Dane biting will be the dog perceiving a threat or danger from strangers.
It is also important to remember that in some ways, dogs are like people – they are individuals, with different personalities. While Great Danes are not known to be especially violent, any breed can display aggressive tendencies. When Great Danes attack, they are more dangerous than many other dogs due to their size and raw power. These factors can make a Great Dane attack deadly.
Would-be owners also need to be aware of the practicalities of having a Great Dane. They can knock people and furniture over unintentionally with their tails and maybe especially clumsy in their younger years. While Great Danes are not the worst choice for rookie owners, people do need to be aware that such a large dog can frighten strangers, and the dog can do serious damage if not properly trained and controlled.
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Great Dane: Largest Dog World Record Holder
Great Danes are the biggest dogs in the world – and that’s official! If you check the Guinness World Records, a towering Great Dane named Zeus is the proud holder of the tallest dog title.
Zeus, who was owned by a family in Michigan, stormed into the record books in 2011 when he was measured at 44 inches to the top of his shoulders. That makes him the tallest dog of any breed ever recorded. When standing on his hind legs, he measured in at a whopping 7 ft 4 ins.
Zeus’s owner said he was a gentle giant and had to be measured by a vet because he was scared of the tape measure. As with many larger dogs, Zeus’s life was short – he died in 2014, just short of turning six years old.
Before Zeus took the crown, the previous record-setter was another Great Dane named Giant George, who was 43 inches at the shoulder and appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2010.
Great Danes in Pop Culture
There are several examples of Great Danes being used in pop culture, from TV and movie appearances to comics and cartoons. Most of these appearances show a comedic look at the breed, minimizing the potential danger of Great Danes. Here are just some of the most famous examples of Great Danes in pop culture:
The long-running newspaper cartoon strip features the Winslow family and revolves around the antics of their whacky Great Dane, named Marmaduke. It was created and written by illustrator Brad Anderson and was launched in 1954. Anderson was involved in writing and illustrating the strip – which was published in a huge range of newspapers – right up until his death in 2015. The strip was adapted into a live-action movie in 2010, with Owen Wilson voicing Marmaduke. The movie’s star was played by a real Great Dane and digitally altered to make his mouth move.
Harry Potter – Fang
The Harry Potter franchise is filled with magical creatures. But one animal more rooted in reality is Fang – a huge Great Dane (referred to as a Boar Hound) owned by Hagrid, the groundskeeper at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. While Fang is a Great Dane in the Harry Potter books, he is portrayed by Neapolitan Mastiffs in the movies.
The long-running Scooby-Doo franchise started life as an animated series in the 1960s and has run in several forms. It is based on the title character – a cowardly Great Dane who joins a group of friends in solving mysteries.
The Scooby-Doo character was designed by Iwao Takamoto at animation company Hanna-Barbera. He consulted with a Great Dane breeder to purposefully give Scooby features out of keeping with purebred Danes, such as a sloping back and chin, as well as bowed legs.
What Causes a Great Dane to Bite?
There are several factors that might cause a Great Dane to bite someone. Here are some of the key causes:
Territorial Aggression in Great Danes
Great Danes are extremely territorial. This means that they are highly protective of their own property. If a person or animal that the dog does not recognize threatens their home or space, a Great Dane is likely to attack. While Great Danes are often laid-back and relaxed, they can possess a high prey drive and sometimes become worked up.
Even social and friendly Great Danes can be prone to barking, growling, biting, and showing other aggressive behavior when their space is challenged.
Many Great Dane owners report that the most aggressive behavior exhibited by their dog comes when a stranger approaches their home. In contrast, the dogs are often far calmer when meeting strangers and other dogs in neutral locations.
Great Dane Pain
Great Danes are prone to certain health issues which can leave them in significant pain if they go untreated. A dog being in pain can result in it lashing out in violent outbursts, even if this behavior is uncharacteristic. For more details on the health issues of Great Danes, read on to our next section.
Mistreatment Results in Aggressive Behavior
Another potential cause of aggression and behavioral problems in Great Danes is mistreatment by humans. Dogs form a bond with humans, and when they are abused, mistreated, or abandoned, it can result in the animal displaying unpredictable behavior around future owners and strangers. This can include a Great Dane biting or attacking a person with little warning, due to its fear and mistrust of people.
Great Dane Health Problems
Great Danes do not have particularly long lifespans, usually ranging from as little as six years to a maximum of around 10 years of age. Like many larger breeds, it is common for Danes to develop serious health issues as they get older.
Owners are advised not to over-exercise young Great Danes because their rapid growth can result in problems with their bones and joints. Great Danes also carry a high risk of developing a condition called hip dysplasia, which is a hip socket problem that can cause arthritis pain and even lameness in severe cases. Studies have shown that hip dysplasia is a significant source of aggression in dogs.
Researchers at the Autonomous University of Barcelona created a study testing a cross-section of dogs, examining the circumstances of violent dogs and evaluating the root cause of their aggression. Published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior in March 2012, the study revealed that most of the aggressive canine subjects were experiencing pain, and this was causing their violent outbursts and bite attacks. Hip dysplasia was the most common source of pain found, showing that Great Danes have a high risk of displaying pain-induced aggression.
Great Danes also possess a high risk of genetic heart conditions and can carry a gene that causes blindness, deafness, and other health conditions.
Great Dane Bite Attacks
While attacks by Great Danes are not as common as some other breeds, they can and do happen. Due to the size and power of the breed, a Great Dane bite attack can result in serious wounds, major injuries, or worse.
Accurate data on dog bites according to breed is rare. However, one comprehensive study was carried out by Merritt Clifton – the editor of a publication named Animals 24-7. This study recorded dog attacks broken down by breed, using media reports as the primary source of information and covering a huge time period between 1982 and 2014.
Great Danes sit just outside the top-10 most dangerous dogs according to the results, ending up in 11th place. Over the study period, the breed was responsible for 37 reported attacks. Three of these attacks resulted in deaths, while another 19 involved maimed victims. The majority of Great Dane attack victims were children.
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Great Dane Attack Case Studies
Young Boy Mauled by Great Dane – March 2018 – Australia
A three-year-old boy suffered serious injuries outside his home after being mauled by a Great Dane in a vicious attack. Tom Higgins was on his bike in his own yard when a neighbor’s Great Dane burst through an open gate.
The large dog mauled the boy and left him with serious injuries to his neck, back, and face. Tom’s ear also had to be re-attached during emergency surgery.
The owner said that the dog disliked bikes, potentially causing it to attack the cycling youngster. The incident shows that dogs can have individual personality quirks which can lead them to violence – regardless of the generalized character traits of a breed.
Poodle Killed by Great Dane – November 2018 – Colorado, U.S.
A miniature poodle was killed by a Great Dane while walking in a Colorado park. The poodle, named Nick, was being walked by its owner when they crossed paths with another owner walking a Great Dane. As they passed them, the Dane lunged at the much smaller dog, biting it and shaking it.
The severity of the injuries caused meant Nick had to be put down. His owner sued the Great Dane’s owner, who was ordered to pay thousands of dollars in compensation.
How to Survive a Great Dane Attack
Being attacked by a dog can be a terrifying and traumatic ordeal. A Great Dane bite can be deadly – so take these steps to make sure you live to tell the tale.
- Stay away from unknown Great Danes and aggressive-looking dogs. Great Danes are most dangerous when a stranger is approaching their territory, but can also attack in neutral locations. If a dog is barking, growling, or looks hostile – steer clear.
- Do not engage with an aggressive dog. If you are approached by an aggressive Great Dane, stay as still as possible. Do not run, wave your arms, try to frighten it with loud noises, or make eye contact. The dog will often lose interest.
- Protect yourself using anything at hand. If the Great Dane attacks you, try to use anything you can get your hands on as a buffer. Items such as clothing and bags can be used to deflect bite attacks and ensure the dog cannot clamp its teeth into you.
- Avoid being knocked down. Large and powerful Great Danes can easily knock adults off their feet. Violent dogs are most dangerous when a victim is defenseless on the ground, so it is important to stay on your feet at all costs.
- Fight back and get to safety. It is difficult to fight back against a Great Dane, due to its imposing size. If you are the victim of a sustained attack and are forced to do so, aim for sensitive areas. This should be a last resort, as hitting or kicking a violent dog can make an attack more ferocious. You must then get to safety. This means putting a solid door or wall between yourself and the dog, or finding high ground that it cannot reach.
What Should You Do After Being Bitten by a Great Dane?
The last thing most people are thinking about after being bitten by a dog is taking legal action. Being the victim of a dog attack is frightening and can leave people with serious and lasting injuries. These can include:
- Puncture wounds
- Torn flesh
- Damaged muscles, ligaments, and tendons
- Psychological scarring
As such, the first step you need to take if you have a dog bite injury is to seek medical attention and contact the police. The severity of your injuries will dictate whether you need emergency treatment, or need to visit your doctor on a non-emergency basis.
Once you are out of danger and your injuries have been tended to, you can consider the next step. For many people, this is to take legal action.
Dog bites are very serious and can result in extreme pain and suffering. While it can be a difficult decision to sue an owner after being bitten by a Great Dane, it is the responsible action to take and can result in compensation toward medical expenses, as well as other costs.
Who is Liable for a Great Dane Bite?
In the state of California, dog owners are solely responsible for the actions of their pets. Owners of Great Danes need to be aware of the temperament and power of their pets to ensure the safety of those around them. If they are careless, complacent, or negligent, it could result in a serious injury or a fatality.
Read more about the dog bite laws in California here.
If you are a dog bite victim and decide to take legal action, these are the steps you should take and the evidence you should gather:
- Provide photographs or video footage of the attack if possible.
- Take comprehensive pictures of your injuries.
- Document the scene of the incident and write a detailed account of the attack.
- Request copies of the police report from the incident, as well as your medical reports relating to any bite injuries.
- Secure witness accounts and contact details for anyone who saw the incident.
Make sure this information is well organized, and contact the expert dog bite attorneys at Bisnar Chase for help.
Bisnar Chase: Outstanding Dog Bite Representation
Bisnar Chase is ready to fight for the compensation you deserve in your dog bite injury claim. While every incident is different, our dog bite lawyers have a tremendous track record of success when it comes to canine cases.
Our law firm has been in business for more than 40 years, building up an impressive 99% success rate and winning more than $700 million for our clients over that span.
We take pride in going above and beyond for our clients. We know how traumatic a dog attack can be, and we want to make sure our clients are properly compensated. Even better, our ‘No Win, No Fee’ guarantee makes our expert services available to everyone. Contact us now at (800) 561-4887, and let us fight for you.