Great Danes

What is the taxonomy of Great danes?

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2009-12-24 21:14:48

Some sources state that dogs similar to Great Danes were known

in Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Various sources report that the

Great Dane was developed from the medieval boarhound, and or the

Mastiff and Irish wolfhound lines. It is also reported that the

Great Dane was developed from mastiff-like dogs taken to Germany by

the Alans. The breed may be about 400 years old.

The Great Dane is the large hunting dog of the Danír tribe,

"Dene" in the poem "Beowulf", today's Danes.

In Old Norse (ON) and Old English (OE) the male is always

referred to as "Hund" in etymology from "the Hunt/Hunter", and the

female as "grey/grig". This division can still be seen in the

hunting protocols from the Royal Kennels of the Royal Court of

Denmark year 1710-36 (may be seen at the National Archives,

Denmark).[citation needed]

Thus in Norse and Old English literature, specifically the

compilation of sagas known as Elder Edda (Poetic Edda), the hound

is named in variations over these words, for example "hvndar" and

"greyiom" ( Skírnismál , verse 11, Elder Edda) "mjóhundr/myo

hwnd/mjøhund, meaning "slender hound" or sighthound (Scanian Law

from 1200/1250)

As the original purpose of the hound was to be able to take on

the wild boar, the Deer and the wolf we often see kennings applied

that identify Odin's two hounds as wolfhounds. As the king's

personal hounds it is the very same hound that guards the entrance

to the next world in both Denmark and England, the folklore of

which forms the basis for "The Hound of the Baskervilles" (see

Black Shuck).[citation needed]

The large hound, alongside the horse and the raven, is holy to

the kings of Denmark and England. We see this both in the common

language at the time and in the buried treasure of the kings and

queens.[citation needed]

The large hound appears to be a migration dog. It arrives in the

landscapes of the Danes in two migrations: Firstly with the Celts

in the 5th Century BCE (see the Gundestrup cauldron, "Plate E:

Warrior Initiation" under the cauldron) and secondly with the Danes

as they begin to settle year 40-77 ACE.[citation needed]

Uniquely The Zoological Museum, University of Copenhagen Faculty

of Science has a collection of dog skeletons from both periods and

thereafter well in to the Middle Ages. The dogs were buried

alongside their owners, male and female, as guiding spirits to the

next world. None exists prior to this period. The large hounds are

61-70 cm tall over the shoulder (see the Ladby ship).[citation


The most treasured hound, as is the case with the horse, is the

white colored with black markings. Today we know this hound as

"Harlequin/Harlekin" (English/ Danish). However the origin is

"Herla Cyning" (OE) or "King of the Army".[citation needed]

The word evolves because the human king is titled Hariwalda

(ON/OE), in the new kingdoms in Britannia evolving to "Bretwalda"

or "ruler of the army/Britannia". His personal hounds in white are

rulers of all dogs.[citation needed]

Two large hounds can be seen on "The Royal Purse Lid" (The

British Museum) as guiding spirits to the king buried in Sutton

Hoo, East Anglia, presumably (H)Rædwald in the 7th Century

ACE.[citation needed]

Likewise the large hound is depicted on the engravings of the

Golden horns of Gallehus from Southern Jutland, Denmark dated to

the 5th Century ACE and on numerous rune stones (see the Tjängvide

and Ledberg Runestone) and engravings on Viking ships used for

burial purposes (see Oseberg ship). The depictions continue

uninterrupted in church paintings and murals up until

today.[citation needed]

The original large hound was lighter in construction than the

current one. We know this both from art and from the royal hunting

protocols. We also know what caused this to change, when and

how.[citation needed] Great Danes Gislev church, Denmark


Towards the end of the 16th Century the Royal Court of Denmark

introduced the new fashion of the Parforce Hunt - an unnatural hunt

where the hunting dogs were no longer allowed to run down and kill

the deer.[citation needed] On the contrary the dogs were

expected to hunt the deer, knock it down and hold it firm until the

human huntsman arrived to make the kill.[citation


We can see from the protocols of the Danish court that the large

hound is not well equipped to perform this new role in the Parforce

Hunt.[citation needed] It is too light in build to hold down

a deer or wolf without killing it. To solve this problem King

Frederick II of Denmark (regent 1559-1588) sends a ship to London

in 1585 to bring back "Englandshvalpe" (English puppies) given to

him by Queen Elizabeth I of England (regent 1558-1603). The English

puppies are the far heavier English mastiffs.[citation

needed] The Royal Tapestry from 1585-6 depicts King Frederik

II. with his new "English puppy" (see Danish Broholmer). The

tapestry can be seen in the National Museum of Denmark. (Source: C.

Weismann: Vildtets og Jagtens Historie, Copenhagen, 1931, p.


The protocols of the Royal Danish Kennels maintain two separates

lines in the kennel in the breeding programme; the Danish and the

English line. The cross breeding becomes known as "Blendinge" (same

word and meaning as the English word "blend"). This new line of

large hounds is the foundation of the present day Great Dane as we

see them in Denmark, England and the United States.[citation


The large hound was imported in to the Roman Empire and thus

correctly is referred to as Alano in Italian (see Gaston III of

Foix-Béarn and his treatise "Livre de la chasse" from 1389. He

refers to the large hound in three working functions: "Alan

Gentil", "Alan Vautre" og "Alan de Boucherie").[citation

needed] The Great Dane Raro, Denmark 1655

We have a record of the hound acting as a wolfhunter very late

in history. Johan Täntzer wrote "Der Dianen Hohe und Niedere

Jagdgeheimnüsz (1682-89 in three books). He worked for King

Christian V of Denmark (regent 1670-1699), initially as

"Birdcatcher" (Fuglefænger) at the hunting lodge Jægerborg Castle

(see Lauritz de Thurah). Later on, from 1677-85, he acted as

Wolfhunter (Ulvejæger) in Jutland, Denmark[citation needed].

He was tasked with controlling the wolf population. He retired as

Inspector of the hunting grounds on Amager, Copenhagen and wrote

his book on his experiences of hunting wolfs with the large hound

in Jutland, Denmark ((Source: C. Weismann: Vildtets og Jagtens

Historie, Copenhagen, 1931, p. 467-470).

The hound was highly treasured and a tribal competitive

advantage. Thus the hound did not exist in Denmark until King

Christian VI of Denmark (regent 1730-1746) ceased the Parforce Hunt

in 1741 and gave away all the large hounds from the royal

kennels.[citation needed]

The records from the royal kennel at Jægersborg Castle (see

Lauritz de Thurah), Denmark shows us who received the hounds as

gifts[citation needed]: The Great Dane Sultan, Denmark


King Frederick I of Sweden - 11 pack of hounds Markgraf

Friedrich (Brandenburg-Bayreuth) - 25 pack of hounds The Duke of

Pløen, Friedrich Carl - 6 packs of hounds King Charles Emmanuel III

of Sardinia - 4 large "Blendinge" (Blended) hounds[5]

This event distributes the large hound throughout Europe amongst

the aristocracy and forms the basis for all later rewritings of

history. Up until this event in 1741 the hounds were only to be

found in the original landscapes, including Normandy from year 912

(hence why the hound can be seen in hunting scenes on the Bayeux

Tapestry depicting year 1064, prior to The Battle of

Hastings).[citation needed]

In 1749 Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon begins publishing

his large thesis on evolution called "Histoire Naturelle, générale

et particulière". His uses the large hound as an example of

evolution (Book 4) and since he cannot find it anywhere in France

or in Germania he seeks it in its home turf Denmark.[citation

needed] It is he who for the first time coins the name "le

Grand Danois".[citation needed] In the English translation

of his work by William Smellie (encyclopedist) the same word

becomes "Great Dane". Up until that time the hound was referred to

in England as "Danish dog" (see "Canine Madness",

1762).[citation needed] Le Grand Danois

We know from a thesis by the Dane Jacob Nicolay Wilse titled

"Fuldstændig beskrivelse af stapelstaden Fridericia - efter

pålidelige underretninger og egne undersøgninger." (page 176) and

published in 1767 that the Danes called the dog "large hound", a

terminology continued well in to the 20th Century.[citation


In Germany in 1780 the hound is referred to as "Grosse Dänische

Yagd Hund" or "Large Danish Hunting Hound" (see Edward C. Ash :

Practical Dog Book, 1931, "The Great Dane").

The first dog exhibition was held in Hamburg 14-20 July 1863. 8

dogs were called "Dänische Dogge" and 7 "Ulmer Doggen".[citation


The records of FCI from this meeting shows that all

documentation was published in Bulletin Officiel de la Société

Canine de Monaco, August 1937.

At some point, either during or immediately after World War II,

the country of origin of the hound is changed from the original

Denmark to Germany.[citation needed] FCI would appear to no

longer have the records that would be able to explain why that

might be.[citation needed]

"Ðéah þe haéðstapa hundum geswenced heorot hornum trum holtwudu

séce" (Beowulf, Old English, written about 755-757 ACE, line


"Though the heath-stepper harassed by hounds, The hart with

strong horns, seeks the forest (Modern English translation by

Benjamin Slade)[citation needed]

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