The Great Dane: The State Dog of Pennsylvania

Great Danes are easily recognizable on the street; they are tall, lanky, and bigger than some ponies and people. A Great Dane will turn heads as it walks down the block with its easy looking long strides. But they are not a common breed due to their size and the living situations many of us have like apartment buildings with pet restrictions on weight and height or just the simple need of having the space for such a big dog. However, the Great Dane is a gentle, smart dog that is often described as elegant, friendly, and majestic and makes a great family pet.

Brief History

The Great Dane is also known as the German Mastiff, Danish Hound, or Grand Danois (French for Great Dane). Great Danes hold the record of the “World’s Tallest Dog” and is sometimes referred to as the “king of dogs.” The breed is most likely a mix of the English Mastiff and the Irish Wolfhound, although some people believe the Great Dane may date as far as back as 3000 B.C. The Dane was used to hunt boar in Germany and had their ears cropped to triangular points to protect them from being bitten and cut. They were also used as watch dogs, estate guard dogs, and pulled carts.

It is the state dog of Pennsylvania and has been since 19656 due to William Penn who is the founder of Pennsylvania and brought his Great Danes over from England. William Penn was granted the land by King Charles II of England in 1681 as a repayment of debt owed to Penn’s father.

Colors and Coat

Great Danes come in a variety of markings and colors. The markings that are approved by the American Kennel Club are brindle, fawn, blue, black, harlequin, and mantle. They should have short fur that is easy to maintain and shed moderately. To keep them shiny, comb or brush their fur about once a week or so and wipe their muzzle when they drool. Oh yes, they drool.


Great Danes are referred to as the gentle giant because they have a great disposition and often are laid back towards children and social with other animals. Aggression is not a common trait except when their watchdog nature kicks in. They will bark and alert you to strangers approaching the house or any place they deem “theirs” and “yours.” Overall, they aren’t big talkers and do not like to be left alone for long periods of time.

Danes can be brave and courageous but often you may see them walking with their owner in a slow, relaxed gait taking in the sunshine and checking out stuff they find interesting. I’ve heard of Great Danes stopping to smell everything from flowers to a child’s toy on a front lawn.


Great Danes do not have a long life span and can be subject to various health problems such as gastric-dilation-volvulus. This is a painful distending and twisting of the stomach. They should be fed small meals because they have a slow metabolism. Exercise should be moderate and not follow a meal immediately. As puppies, their play time and exercise should be monitored to ensure they do not hurt themselves as they grow.

Great Danes are also subject to heart conditions and hip problems. Their average life span is 8 to 10 years. But the time you have with your Great Dane can be great. Some are silly and do not realize how big they are and may try to sit on your lap or stand between you legs. Others may try to play with small dogs and get all turned around as the little dogs run circles around them.

All in all, the Great Dane is a great dog with a head-turning body that can be a wonderfully affectionate pet.

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4 thoughts on “The Great Dane: The State Dog of Pennsylvania

  1. I have a Merle Great Dane. He is like the one pictured above. He’s grey with black spots. He looks like cookies n cream ice cream. Zeus is almost 6 months old and the sweetest dog I have every owned. He is completely a gentle giant. I’m the director of an assisted living and memory care community. He brings such happiness to our residents. He approaches each of them so slowly and sits in front of them to be pet.
    Danes are wonderful pets.

  2. My husband and I have a White Merle Dane. Nikolas was born deaf, but that sure doesn’t slow him down! He is just 8 months old and such a sweetheart – he responds to hand signs and his best friend is our little Toy Aussie Shepherd Juliette – it’s hysterical to watch them play! He is so very gentle with her and always (well, almost always) allows her to win a tug-o-war. Nikolas is our second Dane in 3 years. Unfortunately we lost our first girl, Nokomis to a neurological disorder when she was only 2 years old. It was a very sad time for us, but Nikolas has brought us such unconditional love (and KISSES!) that we wouldn’t know what to do without him!! He is the best tempered pup I’ve ever encountered and hope that at some point my husband and I will be able to move to a place with more room so that we can rescue Danes. They are truly Gentle Giants!!!!