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A Guide to Great Dane Coat Colors

Adrienne is a certified professional dog trainer, dog behavior consultant and former veterinarian assistant for an AAHA animal hospital.

a-guide-to-great-dane-coat-colors

Great Dane coat colors are many so variety is the spice of life when it comes to this fascinating breed. You'll be surprised about the many coat colors this breed fashions, not to mention the striking markings.

As lovely as several coat colors are, it's very important to factor in other important qualities. Dog breeders who focus only on producing puppies of a particular coat color will often ignore other fundamental factors such as health and temperament.

Obviously, this is a big problem and therefore it's very important to research Great Dane breeders before committing to this breed.

Look for an ethical breeder who health tests his/her breeding stock and places an emphasis on good temperaments.

The "Apollo of Dog Breeds"

As a Great Dane lover, you are likely fascinated by this breed's imposing looks. Be ready for funny remarks about your pup as he develops such as the quintessential, "Do you have a saddle for that dog?"

But did you know why Great Danes were made to be so tall in the first place? Those long legs aren't there just for decoration!

Turns out, this breed's majestic size (Great Danes can be as tall as 32 inches at the withers!) was selectively bred for so to make these dogs as suitable as possible for the task they were originally bred for, that is, hunting wild boars.

If we take a peek at this breed's ancestry, we'll find that Great Danes descend from breeding old English mastiffs with Irish wolfhounds. The hybrid dogs produced, which were quite popular in the 16th century, and came in a variety of sizes and colors, were referred to as "English dogges."

Did you know? Despite the word "Dane" contained in this breed's name, the Great Dane is not from Denmark. Rather, this dog breed is as German as schnitzel or Black Forest cake.

It was courtesy of German nobles who selective bred such dogs to obtain specimens who were exceptionally tall and the perfect size for hunting large animals such as bear, boar, and deer.

Great Danes back then were used as 'catch dogs' with the goal of tackling and immobilizing large animals using their weight and teeth until the hunters could kill them.

Later on, Great Danes were utilized as faithful guardians, wearing ornamental gilded collars and protecting nobles from potential nocturnal assassins when they were most vulnerable. In the 18th century, Great Danes were mostly used as protective guardians of estates and carriages.

Favorite dogs were allowed to sleep at night in the bed chambers of their lords, granting them the nickname of "Kammerhunde," the German word for "Chamber Dog."

Great Danes are also affectionately nicknamed, the "Apollo of Dogs." Like Apollo, the God of Sun, these dogs are large and powerful and are blessed with a strong, noble character!

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The Seven Standard Great Dane Coat Colors

By standard, a Great Dane's coat is expected to be short and thick and with a smooth and glossy appearance. Despite shedding a lot, a Great Dane's coat is easy to care for requiring a moderate level of grooming.

As mentioned, this breed comes in a vast array of coat colors. It is not often that you stumble upon a breed that is blessed with such color variations.

The standard coat colors accepted by the American Kennel Club consist of the following: black, blue, brindle, fawn, harlequin, merle, and mantle. Any other color other than the seven described tends to be disqualified. Let's take a closer look at each of them!

1. The Black Great Dane

In a black Great Dane, the coat color will appear glossy. There should be no areas of white hairs on the chest or toes. This even jet-black coat color provides them with an elegant, regal look.

Interestingly, it is difficult to find a Great Dane with a solid black coat. A solid black Great Dane is rarer than a harlequin, but there are certain cross-breeding combinations that will produce a black dog.

For instance, glossy blacks can be obtained by crossing clean-marked male harlequins with black females. Also, breeding blues with blacks produce jet-black puppies.

Picture of a black great dane

Picture of a black great dane

2. The Blue Great Dane

This coat color is prized due to the fact that it isn't very common. Of course, a blue Great Dane won't be Smurf blue but is rather anywhere from pale grey to charcoal.

The American Kennel Club aims for a pure steel blue. Areas of white hairs on the chest or toes are not desirable.

In the blue Great Dane, the nose is typically a dark blue-black color.

Many confuse them for a Weimaraner when young.

Picture of a "blue" great dane

Picture of a "blue" great dane

3. The Brindle Great Dane

Brindle is a coat color pattern that is often described as being "tiger-striped." The stripes are irregular and dark against a lighter base color that is often fawn, brown or gray.

A brindle Great Dane's mask, eye rims, eyebrows, ears, and tail tips are usually also black.

Preferred brindle specimens will boast an intense base color that is distinct and evenly brindled, Too much or too little brindling is not very desirable and so are white areas on the chest or toes.

In general, when brindles are repeatedly bred together their colors get darker with the loss of the distinctive striping. To remedy this, occasional breeding with a fawn can bring back the characteristic striping.

Picture of a brindle great dane

Picture of a brindle great dane

4. The Fawn Great Dane

Fawn is a very common coat color found in this breed. It'll help you to know that both Marmaduke and Scooby-Doo are great examples of fawn Great Danes.

The coat is golden yellow and there should be a defined black muzzle around the eyes along with black ears (the so-called melanistic mask).

Deep yellow gold is preferred, while white areas on the chest or toes are not desirable.

Picture of a fawn great dane

Picture of a fawn great dane

5. The Harlequin Great Dane

Harlequin is also a specific color pattern. Actually, this coat color pattern is only present in Great Danes, how unique is that?

In the harlequin Great Dane, the base background color is pure white, while gray or black torn patches are randomly distributed over the dog's body. Merle patches are normal.

The black patches should ideally be not too small but, at the same time, not too big as to cover large areas and appear like a blanket. A white neck is preferred. Why? According to the book An Eye for a Dog, neck markings in the show ring may distract and disguise any signs of shortness or heaviness.

Some people confuse a young harlequin Great Dane for a Dalmatian. Even though both breeds are technically white with black areas, the Dalmatian has white smooth rounded spots while a harlequin has torn patches.

Producing this coat color is not easy and often cannot be attained by just simply crossing two harlequin specimens. Basically, Great Dane parents with harlequin coats won't always give birth to pups with harlequin coats. It is therefore one of the rarest colors.

Picture of a harlequin great dane

Picture of a harlequin great dane

6. The Merle Great Dane

The merle coat is a fascinating coat pattern characterized by a marbling effect of dark patches against a background of the same color, only lighter (in the Great Dane typically pale grey to dark gray).

Merle Great Danes may be solid merle (this time, white on chest and toes is allowed) or Merle with a Mantle Pattern.

A marlequin Great Dane, which is a white dog with only patches of merle, is means for disqualification.

In both the Harlequin and Merle coat, the eyes should be dark, although blue eyes and eyes of different colors are permitted.

Picture of a merle great dane

Picture of a merle great dane

7. The Mantle Great Dane

These Great Danes typically have a black and white coat with a black blanket extending over the pure white base coat. There is often a white area on the nose and white often predominates on the chest, legs and tail. A white blaze across the face is optional.

This coat has been compared to the black and white coat colors often found in Boston terriers and for this reason, some refer to these dogs as "Boston Great Danes."

Picture of a mantle great dane

Picture of a mantle great dane

Discover the 7 Great Dane Coat Colors

Colors That Aren't Accepted

Many coat colors are not accepted by the breed standard. This can be due to genetic issues associated with such colors.

Several of these unusual coat colors are sometimes advertised as "rare" by unethical breeders who put a premium price tag on the dogs with such coat colors targeting unsuspecting buyers.

As if having major problems already in Great Danes being bred responsibly wasn't enough, all that was needed is unethical breeders tinkering with genetics and negatively impacting the health, temperament and longevity of this breed.

The following are coat colors that for one reason or another are not accepted.

White

White Great Danes are not accepted by the AKC because they are prone to genetic defects. They are often the result of a Merle-to-Merle mating. In other words, they are double merle Great Danes.

It is advisable to have a BAER hearing test done to check for hearing issues and consult with a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist to have look at the eyes.

a-guide-to-great-dane-coat-colors

Merlequin

Merlequin Great Danes are similar to harlequin, but rather than having black patches, they have merle patches. They are typically produced by crossing a Merle to a Harlequin.

As much as this coat pattern is appealing, marlequis are often deaf or blind and may have several other health problems and poor temperaments.

a-guide-to-great-dane-coat-colors

Brindlequin

Brindlequins display a white base coat color with several blotches of brindle. They are obtained by crossing a harlequin with a brindle.

This dog looks like a brindlequin, but at a closer look may be a merle/marlequin.

This dog looks like a brindlequin, but at a closer look may be a merle/marlequin.

Fawniquin

Fawniquin Great Danes present a white-based coat with several blotches of fawn color instead of the typical black seen in traditional harlequins.

Fawniquins are usually the product of breeding two harlequins carrying the fawn gene.

Picture of a fawnequin great dane

Picture of a fawnequin great dane

References

  • American Kennel Club: Great Dane Breed Standard
  • Becker, F. (2020). The Great Dane: Embodying a Full Exposition of the History, Breeding Principles, Education, and Present State of the Breed. (n.p.): Read Books Limited.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Adrienne Farricelli

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