Have you noticed how often you make comparisons in your life? As a dog lover, you certainly find yourself comparing different breeds without thinking about it. Do you wonder about how Great Danes measure up against other breeds? Great Danes make fascinating subjects for comparisons because of their unique mix of size and elegance.
There are several dogs that look like Great Danes at first glance for a variety of reasons. Mastiffs as a group do not look like Danes except for their size. Notable exceptions are the Dogo Argentino because of its streamlined appearance and the English Mastiff for its part in the Great Dane’s heritage. Other dogs like the Dalmatian resemble the Great Dane through color variants. Finally, sometimes dogs from different areas look alike because they have the same purpose.
Where do Great Danes get their looks?
Modern hog hunting dogs after the 1940s are often “bully” breeds. Because of their courage, strength, and tenacity, these dogs are excellent catch dogs. Many of them proved helpful in rounding up and holding cattle, skills that are equally helpful in hunting wild boars.
Different than bay dogs that flush, track, and corner prey, catch dogs include the following:
- American Pitbull Terrier
- American Bulldog – working-type Old English Bulldog heritage
- Dogo Argentino
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- Black Mouth Cur – there are cattle-working and dog-hunting strains; black mouth Pittie and Black Mouth Staffordshire Terrier are examples of hog hunting dogs
Old Great Danes developed by Germany to hunt hogs were like Bullies in appearance. However, their ancestry involved Mastiffs instead of Bulldogs and sighthounds in the place of terriers.
The aim of hunters in their Great Danes centered around speed and agility as well as strength and fearlessness. Therefore, these dogs likely resembled large American Bulldogs with a longer and blockier head.
When hog hunting became less fashionable in Europe, fanciers sought more refinement in Great Danes through more elegant lines and long legs and neck.
Unique Appearance of the Great Dane
Its size is likely the first characteristic you will notice when you see a Great Dane. The second thing undoubtedly will be its regality and elegance.
The breed standard ensures the Great Dane’s appearance fits within a certain size, color, and structural parameter. Great Danes are 28 to 34 inches tall on average, but the AKC states a preference for taller dogs, both male and female.
There is less emphasis on weight requirements, but a Great Dane must have substance and a build that balances its height. Most Danes are between 100 and 200 pounds.
A Dane’s nobility lies in its head and lean lines. The head is rectangular in shape with a long, square muzzle, well-defined stop, chiseled face, and smooth lines from the skull to the jaws. If a Great Dane has cropped ears, they may add to the head’s refined appearance.
The neck is long, powerful, and graceful. A Dane has a square body shape, calling attention to its powerful lean legs, strong relatively short back, and deep chest. Its croup slopes slightly to the tail which has a broad base tapering to a thin point. The tail may curve upward.
Smaller Mastiff Members that Look Like Great Danes
More refined and smaller than other members of the Mastiff family, the Dogo Argentino looks like a rugged and miniature version of a Great Dane. It has a similar proud and upright carriage of the head with lean lines.
Compared to other Molossers, Dogo Argentinos have a long neck and refined head. The muzzle is the same length as the skull, giving the dog’s mouth power without the broadness that you see in the other Mastiffs. However, differences between the Dogo and Dane soon creep up.
- Dogo Argentino size – 24.5 to 25.5 inches tall, 85 to 115 pounds
- The head of the Dogo Argentino lacks the pronounced rectangular shape of the Great Dane
- A Dogo’s neck is thicker relative to its size
- The Dogo Argentino’s chest is not as deep
- Dogo Argentinos have coats that appear almost solid white – they have dark spots on the skin; they may have a spot or two on the head
- Dogo’s abdominal uptuck is less pronounced
- Dogo Argentino is not as square as the Great Dane – the body can be up to 10% longer than it is tall in the Dogo
- Natural ears on the Dogo are set higher and are smaller and more triangular than the Great Dane; when cropped the ears are much shorter than the Great Dane, cut more like the fighting breeds
Dogs Similar in Size
A few dogs rival the Great Dane in size, but only a couple have a strong enough resemblance to make you look more closely.
Since the Great Dane owes much of its ancestry to the English Mastiff, it is easy to see the similarities between the two breeds. They both are giant-sized dogs with tapering tails, drop ears, and a level topline. Mastiffs are 28 to 36 inches tall at the shoulders and weigh 120 to 250 pounds.
The English Mastiff is the heaviest dog with some specimens reaching upwards of 300 pounds or more.
The colors that Mastiffs and Great Danes have in common are fawn (tan to golden brown base often with a black facial mask) and brindle (fawn base with black stripes). However, more than a cursory glance will quickly reveal the numerous differences.
- The mastiff head is round and massive, the face is not as refined or chiseled, and the muzzle is much shorter and deeper
- The body of the Mastiff is bulkier with heavier and shorter limbs
- The neck of the Mastiff is thicker and shorter in relation to the body
- A Mastiff’s tail is shorter and thicker
- The Mastiff’s ears are set lower and are smaller relative to the head
- Mastiffs do not come in merle or harlequin colors
Although the Greyhound may have been the first sighthound used in the creation of the Great Dane’s forefathers, it is the Irish Wolfhound that is more often involved in cases of mistaken identity.
Experts believe Wolfhounds contributed to Dane’s foundation. At first glance, an Irish Wolfhound may even look like a long-haired Great Dane to you. Again, under close scrutiny, the differences between the breeds are discernible.
- Wolfhound wirehaired
- Irish Wolfhound is gray or brown
- Wolfhounds are on average an inch taller although Great Danes hold the tallest dog record
Dogs with Similar Colors
Because of their coloration, a few dogs look like the Great Dane at first glance.
Catahoula Leopard Dog
A hunting dog from Louisiana, the Catahoula Leopard Dog might be mistaken for a small Great Dane by many people because of its colors.
Although one theory of its background suggests the use of similar ancestral breeds as the Great Dane (Molosser and sighthound crosses), Catahoulas are herding dogs for both cattle and hogs.
What marks the Catahoula Leopard Dog is its coat which is quite variable. A few patterns are like a merle or harlequin Great Dane. Other Catahoulas can be brindled despite the breed’s name.
Catahoulas are only 20 to 24 inches tall and weigh 45 to 100 pounds. Differences other than size are substantial between Catahoula Leopard Dogs and Danes.
- Slightly longer than tall as opposed to Great Dane’s square body proportions
- CLD has well-developed cheeks
- A Catahoula’s chest is deep but not as proportionately broad as the Great Dane
- Back initially slopes down from the withers before leveling out in the CLD
- Catahoula Leopard Dog’s tail can be a natural bob or the more preferred long tapered tail that is carried upright – neither should exist in the Dane
- Ears of CLD much like Great Dane’s inset and relative size, but cropping a Catahoula’s ears is unacceptable
With its spotted coat and historical significance as a carriage dog, Dalmatians resemble harlequin Great Danes. However, their coat pattern has major differences. Any likeness between the two breeds ends with drop ears, proud head carriage, deep broad chest, square body shape, and slightly upward curving tapered tail.
- Harlequin Great Dane has torn black patches often with at least a couple of merle patches; Dalmatian has uniformly round black spots; Dalmatian’s spots can also be liver-colored
- Size – 22 to 24 inches tall, 30 to 75 pounds
- Flanks and croup narrower in the Dalmatian
- Dalmatian’s tail is relatively shorter
For someone who does not see a Great Dane very often, a Weimaraner can look like a young one based on its smoky blue color. Weimaraners also have elegant lean lines, long and powerful legs, a deep chest, and high-set hanging ears.
Like the Dane, the Weimaraner was developed in Germany as a hunting dog. However, marked differences became clear between the dogs with the Weimaraner’s cultivation as a bird dog.
As is true with several other dogs that look like Great Danes, Weimaraners have Dane blood in their ancestry as well as Pointer, Bloodhound, and German Shorthaired Pointer. If you know what to look for, you can readily spot several distinctions between Weimaraners and Great Danes.
- Weimaraner has a hound-like face – i.e., like the American Foxhound
- Size – 23 to 26 inches tall, 55 to 90 pounds
- The Head of the Weimaraner is longer relative to the muzzle with a more moderate stop than the Great Dane
- The back of the Weimaraner is level after it slopes down slightly from the withers
- Most Weimaraners are Isabella (dilute Liver) but are classified as silver grey, light grey, or mouse grey; the less preferred color is dilute black or blue which color looks much like the steel blue Dane in some Weimaraners
- Weimaraner has a docked tail
Dogs with Similar Purposes
Although generally thought of as lion dogs, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are also often used to hunt boars when used in a working capacity.
Like Danes, Ridgebacks are tall and stately but are more easily distinguished from Great Danes than some other breeds. Despite their resemblance to fawn dogs, Ridgebacks are variations of a wheaten color. Other differences from Danes follow:
- The distinctive ridge along the spine – note that some Rhodesian Ridgebacks do not have a ridge as it is a dominant but not universal trait
- You can see hound-like characteristics in the face – similar to Weimaraner
- The eyes of the Great Dane are deeper-set
- Ridgeback’s stop is well-defined but not quite as abrupt as Great Dane
- Muzzle deep and powerful but not as long or strong as Great Dane
- Size – 24 to 27 inches tall, 70 to 95 pounds
- Chest of Ridgeback deep like Great Dane but not as wide
If it were not for their typical brown & tan or black & tan coloring, the elegant sleek appearance of the Doberman is reminiscent of a Great Dane.
The two breeds have the same long neck, noble head carriage, deep chest, long limbs, and square bodies. When cropped, their ears are uncannily similar. Despite their similarities, it is unlikely that you would ever mistake a Doberman Pinscher for a Great Dane, even from a distance.
- Doberman can be tan-pointed or white
- Doberman most commonly has a docked tail; if not docked it has more curl and is carried higher than Dane’s tail
- The muzzle of Dobie is long but not as deep as a Great Dane, and the lips are tight
- The stop is slight on the Doberman
- Size – 24 to 28 inches tall, weighs 60 to 100 pounds
Common Great Dane Mixed Dogs
Hybrids have a chance that they will look mostly like only one of the parent breeds. Great Dane crosses are no exception. Even dogs with an equal blend of their parents will have many characteristics in common with the Great Danes.
Common mixes that you can say look like Great Danes include the following:
- Great Retriever – Golden Retriever
- Boxane – Boxer
- Weiler Dane – Rottweiler
- American Foxy Dane – American Foxhound; blue dogs look like oversized Weimaraners
- Doberdane – Doberman
- Great Danoodle – Poodle; may resemble an Irish Wolfhound
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