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American vs European Great Dane: How to Spot the Difference?

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Raymond Umpa

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European Great Dane

With their regal stand, beauty, and humongous size, it is easy to understand why dog lovers around the globe go head over heels for Great Danes.

But did you know that there are two types of these gentle giants – the American and the European Great Dane? And in this article, we’ll guide you on how you can spot one from the other. So, if you are interested, you’d better stick around until the end of this post.

The Comparison

European Great Dane

  • Size: 28 to 32 inches tall
  • Weight: 220 to 240 pounds
  • Energy Level: High energy levels
  • Lifespan: 6 to 8 years

American Great Dane

  • Size: 28 to 32 inches tall
  • Weight: 125 to 140 pounds
  • Energy Level: High energy levels
  • Lifespan: 8 to 10 years

Breed Overview

Great Danes are often referred to as “Canine Apollo,” because of their beauty, grace, and stature. And while their name suggests that these big dogs originated in Denmark, the truth tells otherwise.

The Great Dane is not a Danish breed, but instead a German one. It is unknown how Great Danes came to be connected with Denmark, especially given the breed's original name is Deutsche Dogs or German dogs.

Perhaps you were unaware that there are two important varieties of Great Danes before. And both of these varieties are majestic animals with European origins. And though the American and Euro Great Dane are essentially the same breeds, differences in breeding practices and pet owner preferences caused them to start separating.

Nonetheless, all Great Danes will have genetic lines from the Mastiff, Irish Wolfhound, and Greyhound dog breeds.

Great Danes were originally bred to hunt wild boars. Thus, this breeding combination is ideal. Irish Wolfhounds are quite massive, Mastiffs are quite strong, and Greyhounds are exceptionally swift. With such triple winning combo in the genetic lottery, the Great Dane is the ideal hunting dog.

The Great Dane breed was originally divided into two varieties by the Germans; one was fairly slender to be able to climb the hilly terrain, while the other was heavier for the plain plains. In other words, Great Danes' weight and stature varied according to their environment. Knowing that alone makes it easy to see how the differences between American and European Great Danes came about.

The preferences of the judges at nearby dog shows are another element that affects the appearance of the dog breed. While the USA prefers slimmer, far more attractive dogs, bigger dogs tend to be more common and loved in European countries.

American vs European Great Dane: How to Spot the Difference? 1

History and Origin

Great Danes are giant dogs of Danish origin, and they are believed to have been around for more than 400 years. They are descendants of mastiff-like dogs that were bred by German noblemen to hunt wild boars and protect country estates.

Great Danes served as distinguished estate and carriage guardians in the 18th century. They were particularly popular among the upper class for sports purposes because few other Danes could kill a wild boar.

In the 1800s, the Great Danes that resembled those in existence now were developed. The term “Great Dane” was outlawed in Germany in 1880 in favor of the term “Deutsche Dogge,” which translates to “German mastiff.” However, the term “Great Dane” is still used in English-speaking nations.

The Great Dane was designated as the 34th breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in the year 1887. And since they were bred with other dogs in the United States, this resulted in numerous alterations to the dog's temperament and look.

Breeders began designating the Great Danes as American and European because they had developed obvious distinctions over time. These dogs, despite their size, are highly well liked by city dwellers who keep them as family pets and act as a deterrent to thieves.

Physical Appearance

At first glance, one may easily think that European and American Great Danes are the same, and that’s totally expected since these dogs only have minor physical differences.

Generally speaking, due to their size and power, European Great Danes come across as more imposing. And they appear to be more closely related to their Mastiff ancestry than to their other predecessors. American Great Danes, on the other hand, are smaller because they resemble their Greyhound ancestor.

European Great Dane Dogs

Despite being almost the same height, European Danes are typically taller and fuller than American Danes. But their weight is where there is a significant difference. These dogs are massive. Most European Great Danes weigh about 180 pounds, although some can reach up to 240 pounds, which is heavier than many people weigh!

They have a longer body and a heavier square-shaped head that appears short. They have big droopy eyes, deep and rectangular muzzles, and lips that are noticeably hanging, which makes them drool a lot. Also, these huge canines have a wrinkled look, which makes them resemble more of their Mastiff ancestors.

Additionally, European Danes have short, thick, and silky coats. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes pretty much the same coat colors as the American Danes, and these are the colors Black, Brindle, Blue, Harlequin, Merle, Fawn, Mantletiger, and Plattenhunde.

American Great Dane Dogs

Although it's tough to confuse these two canine breeds, American Great Danes resemble the Greyhound more than their European counterpart. These Great Danes aren't as big or as muscular as the European Danes, but they do have sleek, attractive bodies. They rarely weigh more than 135 pounds, which makes them considerably lighter than ones from Europe.

They also have heads that are somewhat smaller, more rectangular, and streaked. Although their lips will be a little droopy, this characteristic is not too prominent. Compared to the European version, this gives them a little more regal appearance.

Additionally, due to their body shape, they may appear to be lighter on their feet and tend to run more quickly. The American Kennel Club specifies that American Great Danes have a generally regal appearance.

Males can be clearly identified from females due to their strong masculinity and well-formed bodies, which convey power and dignity.

The two Great Dane breeds don't actually differ much in terms of coat type or color. These puppies shed only a little bit, and they have short, sleek coats. This indicates that these canines are not hypoallergenic.

The standard coat colors for American Great Danes are Black, Blue, Brindle, Fawn, Harlequin, Mantle, Merle, and White. The following are other coat colors that are recognized by the AKC, but are not considered the standard:

  • Blue Brindle
  • Blue and White
  • Chocolate Brindle
  • Chocolate
  • Chocolate and White
  • Merlequin
  • Silver
  • Mantle Merle
American vs European Great Dane: How to Spot the Difference? 2


American and European Danes have short, dense coats that look lustrous. Because of this, they need routine maintenance, such as brushing and bathing, and they do moderately shed. However, because of their huge size, there is also more hair to lose, which could seem like they shed too much. 


In general, Great Danes are not called gentle giants for nothing. These large dogs don’t just have big hearts. They are also playful, and affectionate, and they know when to be serious.

However, just like with their physical appearance, they also have differences in their temperament. Perhaps, it is in this aspect that the American and European Great Danes vary distinctively.

And these differences are brought about by the genetic manipulations that breeders have done on purpose during the past few decades.

European Great Dane

The Euro Great Dane is overly gentle and silly but still maintains a pleasant and loving personality. This version is your standard laid-back, relaxed giant who sprawls out on the couch. Euro Great Danes are sometimes referred to as couch potatoes by dog owners. They are calmer than the American Danes, but they can also be active and exuberant.

When it comes to strangers, European Great Danes aren't particularly friendly. They can be a little aloof and can take some time to warm up to people. Hence, early socialization is crucial to help them deal with other people properly.

European Great Danes are not only loyal to their owners, but also their other housemates regardless of age. Hence, they can be good with kids. However, considering their gigantic size, it’s best to always have extra eyes and hands when they are playing with your children.

American Great Dane

American Great Danes are more affectionate than European Danes since they were raised as house pets. Despite their size, they'll adore cuddling up on a couch with you, and some might even mistake them for lap dogs!

They can be friendly, but they can also be suspicious of strangers. Thus, they make great guard dogs. Some would contend that they appear even more threatening, yet more graceful and active than European Danes due to their slim bodies.

It's crucial to keep in mind, though, that these dogs are extremely energetic and active. So, they are sometimes very difficult to manage.

Because of their friendly nature, American Danes can be gentle and sweet with anyone. However, as mentioned earlier, they can also be wary of strangers. Hence, just like with their European counterparts, early socialization is important.

American Great Danes get along with kids despite their size. If a child is playing inside the house, you won't notice them being uneasy. If invited, they would even go with them. However, since they are large dogs, playtimes should always be supervised to prevent accidents, especially for small kids.

American vs European Great Dane: How to Spot the Difference? 3

Common Health Issues

It’s not a secret that Great Danes, just like other giant dog breeds, have a shorter life expectancy, which is primarily due to their most distinctive feature – their size.

As mentioned earlier, European Great Danes live up to 8 years, while American Great Danes live a little bit longer with their average life span of 8 to 10 years. In some instances, Great Danes do live up to 13 years. However, it’s not really common.

According to several scientists, the larger the dog, the quicker its cells proliferate during the puppy stage, which accounts for why they are more prone to cancer and other disorders. They also shut off more quickly because their organs have to support the additional weight that comes with their large size.

Both the European and American Great Danes are prone to the same diseases. And while your Great Dane may live its entire life without developing any of these health issues, it's a good idea to be ready so you can see any early warning signals.

Below are some of the health problems Great Danes are prone to:

How to Care For Them

Exercise & Living Conditions

Both the American and Euro Danes are large breed dogs with high levels of energy. They require at least one hour of exercise every day to keep them physically and mentally stimulated, as well as to maintain their good shape and support their overall health.

Given their large size and lively nature, both of these canine giants would not be suitable for apartment living. They will thrive best in a large home with a fenced yard, so, they can run around anytime in case you can’t take them out for a walk in the park.

Diet & Nutrition

Great Danes have great growth potential! Through the first eight months, they will grow like weeds, and they will continue to grow quickly for the next 18 months. So, it is crucial to give them food that can provide them slowly, and steady growth to promote proper development.

When feeding Great Danes, it's crucial to have the right protein levels. By doing this, it will be possible to prevent health issues like Pano and Wobblers Syndrome. Most experienced dog owners would agree that a premium dog food with protein levels of no more than 24% and fat levels between 12% and 14% is essential for a Great Dane dog’s optimum development.

Even while eating premium dog food, your Great Dane could occasionally need dog medications and nutritional supplements. Every dog is unique; some might require assistance with shedding, joint health, digestion, and other issues.


So, for you to be taken seriously during your training sessions, you need to show your dog that you are reliable and that you can always stick to a certain schedule. If you won't, then, chances are your large dog won't follow your command.

The consistency of your vocal and non-verbal cues is another important consideration. European Great Danes are perceptive dogs who closely observe your body language. If it doesn't match what you're saying, they'll become perplexed.

Being consistent with your commands can help your dog learn new tricks quickly and become better at following commands.

American Great Danes are also intelligent, perhaps even more so than their European counterparts. At the same time, they are eager to please and will go above and beyond for their owners, which makes them very easy to train.

American Great Danes benefit from constant training, but you must maintain your strictness. Don't put up with disrespect, but don't punish them either. Use only positive reinforcements, such as hugs, compliments, and rewards.

Due to their size and strength, both the European and American Great Danes can become dangerous if not properly trained. Hence, keep in mind that in some instances you may be required to take your dog to a certified dog trainer.

American vs European Great Dane: How to Spot the Difference? 4

Buyer’s Guide

What to Look For

A crucial first step in bringing home a new puppy is to find the best Great Dane breeder. Your new Great Dane will be your companion for the next 8 to 10 years, so choosing a breeder who practices ethical breeding is essential.

While buying a puppy from a reputable breeder may not completely eliminate the risk of future health problems, it does reduce them.

Breeder selection should always be done slowly and methodically. If at any time you sense pressure to buy or make a deposit on a puppy, you should back away.

Start by compiling a list of potential breeders who are within driving distance to increase your chances of finding one. This gives you the chance to visit the breeder's facility in person and get to know the dogs.

You can check to see if the facilities are clean and well-maintained once you get on-site. Meet their Sires and Dams if you can to assess their structure and personality. The parents are excellent predictors of how the puppies in their subsequent litters will look and act.

Even if you are not able to commute to the breeder, you may still do online research about them. You can ask the breeders for recent pictures of their facilities. Also, you can ask them for references from past buyers.

Once you have some, ask these dog owners about the health and temperament of their puppies, as well as if they would ever consider getting a pup again from the same breeder.

You should ask the breeder for the papers, as well as the health and vaccination records of the puppies. And you may also check the breeder’s veterinarian to learn more about the health of the breeder’s present and past litters.

Other ways that you can check for Great Dane puppies are by looking at the AKC marketplace, American Kennel Club breeders, United Kennel Club breeders, Good Dog breeder directory, online marketplaces, local breeders, and rescue groups.


Naturally, the cost of a Great Dane will vary greatly depending on the type of Great Dane a pet owner chooses. Nonetheless, the cost of American and European Great Danes hardly differs from one another. However, breeders may choose to change the cost of their litter based on their credentials and other factors.

The breeding lines, microchipping, kennel club registration, health guarantee certification, and shipping or transportation of the animal will all have an impact on the final cost for both European and American Danes.

If you get an American Great Dane from a reputable breeder, the pup will cost you between $600 and $3,000. Puppies intended to be family pets often cost between $600 and $1500, whereas puppies bred for dog shows typically cost between $1500 and $3000.

The price of European Great Danes is almost similar to their American counterparts. European Great Danes are typically priced between $1000 and $2000, though they might be slightly more or less. Their final price depends on the microchip, the kennel club registration, the health assurance, and the shipping cost.

American vs European Great Dane: How to Spot the Difference? 5

Which Great Dane Is Right for You?

All things considered, European Great Danes are the ideal choice for anyone looking for a big dog that will deter all invaders. Anybody attempting to intrude on your property will be scared off by these dogs!

They are not very affable to strangers, but they are also not hostile. As a result, you don't have to be concerned that things will get out of hand.

They also have loose skin and droopy eyes, which some people find attractive. They can spend the entire day dozing on your sofa since they are couch potatoes.

Similarly, with a slight variation, American Great Danes make excellent watchdogs. Although they are quite sociable and unlikely to perceive someone as a threat, they are avid barkers and will always let you know when they see someone, which some people may find annoying.

They are a wonderful choice for people who already own other pets, particularly other Great Danes, due to their friendliness. Just bear in mind that it's never a good idea to keep two American Great Danes of the same sex together!

Both the European and American Great Danes are suitable for folks who enjoy being outside and are searching for dogs that can tolerate long excursions and fun. Regardless of whatever one you select, there is no doubt that these dogs are wonderful family companions and will always be devoted to you and your loved ones.


If you want a gentle giant for your new furry family member, the Great Dane is a fantastic choice. These amiable canines are playful and fit in well with households for singles, couples, and with kids.

Before making a choice, think about the phenotypes and temperaments of these two dogs if you want a Great Dane as a family pet. You shouldn't make a hasty decision between the two because your choice will take up a significant amount of space in your home and your life.

Simply said, consider a European Great Dane if you want a really large dog breed that is calm and friendly and will make a wonderful companion. However, choosing an American Great Dane can fit your home wonderfully if you prefer a somewhat smaller version and if you can provide an active lifestyle for its silly antics.

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