Although the Great Dane originated in Europe, it has since become a popular breed in the United States. It is thought that Great Danes are a mix of three other breeds, namely the Mastiff, the Greyhound, and the Irish Wolfhound. They were originally bred to hunt wild boar. Their Greyhound DNA gave them speed, their Mastiff DNA gave them muscular bulk, and their Irish Wolfhound DNA gives them their great height. All traits that made them an ideal dog for Boar hunting.
Over time the European Great Dane and the American Great Dane began to diverge due to differences in breeding practices and preference. So, despite the fact that American and European Danes share DNA, there are marked differences between the two.
The physical differences between the two are striking. The American Dane tends to present with a smaller, more rectangular head, thinner muzzle, and less prominent lips. The European Danes typically have larger, more squared heads with a blunter muzzle and large hanging lips.
American Great Danes also tend to have thinner necks and bodies with tighter skin and appear to lean more toward their Greyhound roots than their European counterparts. A European Dane will typically have a thicker neck, fuller body type, and a more wrinkled look. These Danes appear to have a stronger association with their Mastiff ancestors.
Size and Weight
European Great Danes are massive animals with large chests and full bodies. These giants typically weigh in at over 180 pounds and have been known to obtain weights in excess of 240 pounds.
American Great Danes are smaller in stature with deep, but narrower chests and less muscle weight. American Danes range in weight from 125-140 pounds with some animals weighing in at 160 pounds or more.
In addition to their physical differences, American Great Danes and European Great Danes also differ in their temperament. While all Great Danes are generally friendly, affectionate family dogs the European Dane is typically more laid back and gentle. They are notorious for their affection, goofiness, and for lazily draping their huge bodies over furniture..
American Great Danes are great family dogs as well, albeit a little more high-strung, especially younger dogs. American Danes are more lithe and active, often appearing more graceful than their European counterparts.
Regardless of whether you choose a Great Dane of American lineage or one of European descent, the Great Dane is a wonderful companion and affectionate family member. They are extremely people-oriented and generally calm. They can be playful, goofy, and highly entertaining.