European Great Dane vs American Great Dane Comparison Guide to These BIG Breeds
/ / European Great Dane vs American Great Dane: Comparison Guide to These BIG Breeds

European Great Dane vs American Great Dane: Comparison Guide to These BIG Breeds

*As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. The price to you remains the same.

Meet two breeds known as the Apollos of dogs.

One has a predominantly mastiff appearance while the other looks more like a greyhound. But does that mean these dogs are fundamentally different? Or do they share striking similarities?

These large dog breeds tend to stand out because, despite their sheer size, they are still adorable pets.

Their similarities and differences make them even more intriguing. But don’t let us spoil the surprise of unraveling them for you just yet!

Read on and learn more about their temperaments, looks, grooming, training, breeding background, and needs.

If you are considering getting either of these Great Danes for a pet, you are in for a handsome dog with a lovable personality.

Let us compare these two breeds to get a better understanding of exactly what you are in for when you become a Great Dane parent.

European Great DaneAmerican Great Dane
 European Great DaneAmerican Great Dane
Size and WeightA giant breed with a height of up to 34 inches. It can reach up to 240 pounds.A large breed weighing up to 140 pounds with a height of 32 inches.
AppearanceHas a muscular, stockier build with floppy ears. The eyes are dark brown and blue but with a pronounced droop. Comes in a wide range of coat colors including steel blue, black, brindle, harlequin and fawn. The muzzle is shorter with loose lips. This variety has a thicker, shorter neck.Has an athletic build with upright, pointed ears. Its eyes are brown to blue depending on the genetics of the dog. The coat ranges from Harlequin and Merle to Mantle and fawn colors, among others. Has a longer muzzle with tight lips. The neck is longer and sleek.
Life Expectancy8-10 years8-10 years
TemperamentVery loyal and gentle. It is an excellent play companion and loves children. Has an easy going temperament and is highly trainable. It would rather sit by the fireplace than play outside. This variety is notorious for being a goofball.Very even-tempered, gentle and loving. They can be active and playful and love the outdoors. This variety is also quite trainable, obedient and follows instructions. They love a household full of kids and other pets
Health IssuesSusceptible to torsion and dental issues. Also prone to joint problems and some cancers.Gum disorders and other dental diseases are prevalent. Also suffers from wobbler syndrome and some cancers.
GroomingModerate grooming needsModerate grooming needs
TrainabilityHighly intelligent and obedient but tends to be lazy. Needs 30 to 60 minutes of exercise daily.A highly trainable dog that loves to please. Reacts well to obedience training and has an agile and lithe body for exercise. Needs at least one hour of exercise daily.
European Great Dane vs American Great Dane — Comparison Table

Related post: Irish Wolfhound vs. Great Dane

1. Personality & Temperament

A typical scene in a Great Dane’s home: you’re sitting at the edge of a big, cozy couch and there’s a ginormous, long-legged pooch occupying nine-tenths of it.

Indeed, Great Danes (especially European!) just LOVE to lounge on your furniture.

If there’s one thing they love more than that, it’s to curl up by your side! What would life be without snuggles?

great dane snuggles owner
Hugz hooman, hugz!

Even though it can be painful when this dog kicks you in their sleep or slaps you with their tail because they are happy to see you, all Great Dane owners will agree on one thing.

You could hardly imagine a more affectionate dog!

They adore kissing, hugging, intimately drooling on your knee. They’ll keep you company in everything you do as long as it means spending time together. Quite clingy breeds, actually!

The Great Dane is a giant that likes to imagine being a lap dog.

Both European and American varieties are also incredibly sociable. They will be happy to meet new people and are incredibly careful around children and other pets.

When my Akita Hector was a toddler pup of some 8 months, he made friends with a Euro Great Dane called Bibber in the dog park. While Hector was prancing and biting and having his toddler tantrums, Bibber would lie down and silently tolerate all the frolicking, just occasionally patting the little brat with a paw.

I almost felt sorry for him!

You should know, however, that American Great Dane is more active, which is basically the only significant difference in character between two breeds. 

Even though this breed might look a bit intimidating with the pointy ears, the looks can deceive. It’s every bit as friendly and easygoing as Euro is!

2. American Great Dane vs European Great Dane: Appearance

Both are very old breeds of dog that are thought to have been around for at least the last 400 years.

Although they are gentle giants, believe it or not, these dogs are descendants of hunter dogs used to hunt wild boar and protect estates!

Hard to imagine, right?

great dane playing with kitten
Shtap it!

The initial generations of Great Danes had maintained the ferocity needed to track and hunt their equally formidable quarry.

But with time, breeders began to breed these dogs with other more docile breeds to make them companion dogs that stayed indoors with their owners.

And this contributed to the difference in their appearance.

They were both bred from the Irish wolfhound, greyhound, and English mastiff. 

However, the American Great Dane favors the greyhound appearance with a rectangular head while the European Great Dane has a mastiff look with a square head.

Apart from the shape of the head, there are also differences in height, weight, and other physical attributes.

European Great Dane vs American Great Dane Weight and Height of Males and Females
European Great Dane vs American Great Dane Weight and Height of Males and Females

You will also notice the American Dane is lithe and agile compared to the muscular stocky body of its European cousin.  

Eyes

The eyes of the American Great Dane are not as droopy as those of their European cousins. 

No mournful side eyes that could make you do ANYTHING they want you to do!

As a result, the American variety looks more alert.

But what about eye color? It’s the same for both breeds, ranging from deep brown to even BLUE eyes depending on the dog variety. 

It is not uncommon to come across Euro and American Great Danes with heterochromia or two different-colored eyes.

Both Dane varieties are susceptible to the uneven distribution of melanin that causes the condition. 

Great Danes are among the breeds most likely to get heterochromia. While it doesn’t necessarily lower their life quality in itself, it puts them at a higher risk of developing glaucoma and cataracts.

We’ll discuss their health issues in more detail later on, so bear with us!

Musculature

Both dogs have benefitted from the strong musculature of their ancestors. The three dog breeds that make up their ancestry are known for their physical abilities and imposing nature.

Mastiff, Greyhound, Irish hound
From left to right: Mastiff, Greyhound, Irish hound
  • The mastiffs have a dense muscle mass that gives the Danes their ample athletic build.
  • Greyhounds are masters of speed reaching speeds of 72m/h at maximum race speed (perhaps that explains the name of Greyhound Bus). They give their descendants excellent speed during sprints.
  • Irish hounds provide the imposing height that makes the Dane stand out.

The American Great Dane is lighter in weight with a less dense body, just like a greyhound. That means they are also faster than the European variety.

Although the body of the American Dane is lightweight, it is tightly defined with compact muscles.

European Great Danes, on the other hand, are massive with fuller bodies and large chests. Since this variety favors mastiffs they have muscular bulk.

The European Danes have thicker necks and a wider girth in the chest area. That makes them look larger and stockier.

Lips and Muzzle

The European Great Dane has loose lips compared to their American cousin. Their lips hang loosely from the mouth and this can cause quite a bit of drooling and slobbering.

Yes, you’ll need to hang towels all over your place. When this Dane starts shaking its head, it’s a proper drool show!

Take a shower hooman!

When you look at the American Great Dane, the mouth area is tighter and more compact. This variety of Dane does NOT drool.

So if you want to keep your walls, ceiling and the countertop drool-free, the American Dane is the way to go!

You will also notice that the muzzle of the European Dane is shorter and thicker. In comparison, the American Dane has a longer muzzle which looks slimmer.

Ears

Both European and American Great Danes have natural floppy ears. However, you may find that some people like cropped ears on their Danes.

Cropped ears are more common among the American Great Danes because they are accepted by the AKC as the brand standard.

In comparison, European Great Danes tend to have their natural floppy ears. 

The dog’s ears are cropped at the age of 6 to 8 weeks. And it is done by a vet. 

Half of the ear is shaved off and tapped for the next 6 to 12 months to train the ears to remain tall, standing, and erect.

But if you don’t want to put your dog through this procedure, I hear you! Even though proponents argue that it’s painless, it’s still a long period of inconvenience for the dog.

I prefer my dogs to freely flop their doggie ears, to save them any pain and discomfort that I can, even if it means they would never be deemed fit to hit the catwalk at a dog exhibition.

Coat

great dane dog with shiny coat
Do I look pawsome or what?!

Both European and American Great Danes have single coats that are easy to maintain. However, the European Great Dane has a denser coat which is also short and glossy like the American variety.

Despite the difference in their physical appearance, there are seven typical coat colors you can expect with these breeds:

  • Brindle coat
  • Fawn coat
  • Blue coat
  • Harlequin coat
  • Black coat
  • Mantle coat
  • Merle coat

American and European Great Danes with a fawn coat appear yellowish to light tan in color with a black mask on the face. 

They are the classic Great Dane with the fawn coloring covering all areas of the dog’s body. The black mask starts from the ears and covers their nose and eyes as well. 

The American Kennel Club accepts this coloring as a breed standard. 

However, if the dog has white or dark markings on the body or paws, the club considers this a fault and doesn’t recognize the dog as a fawn Great Dane.

The brindle coat also occurs in both Euro and American Great Dane. It is a coloring pattern on the coat that has all sorts of colors ranging from:

  • Fawn and black
  • Blue
  • Red and black
  • Shades of gray

Brindle colors sit on top of a base fawn or red color. 

However, the American Kennel Club doesn’t accept blue brindle as they see it as a serious fault in the breed standard.

A blue coat is also common to American and European Great Danes and it is downright MAGNIFICENT. The steel blue covers the entire body of your dog without any other colored markings. 

Any markings on the coat are not acceptable to the American Kennel Club.

The blue color is a result of a recessive gene. Both doggie parents must carry the gene to produce a complete steel blue coat.

The same applies to a black coat in these Danes. 

Black-coated Danes are popular during shows so most breeders breed black-coated Danes for showing purposes.

Harlequin coats are also synonymous with both Great Dane breeds. A harlequin coat looks like a Dalmatian’s. 

Great dane with dalmatian coat
Can you spot it?

So the dog’s coat has pure white as the base color and black markings dotting it irregularly all over the body. However, the splotches must not be too dominant in one area to provide over-coverage. 

If this happens, the American Kennel Club considers that a fault in the breed standard. (Quite a sourpuss!) Also, the neck must be completely white with NO markings.

The harlequin coat is passed down in the genes but it also denotes congenital deafness. This condition is predominantly inherited by Great Danes with a dominant white color.

To mitigate the inherited deaf condition, some breeders prefer to breed the Harlequin coated Danes with mantle coated Danes that aren’t prone to deafness.

The mantle coat has only two colors: white and black. However, black is the dominant color on the coat. 

White is expected on the muzzle, chest, collar and all four legs.

The good news is that white mismarkings can be accepted by the American Kennel Club as part of the breed standard.

That is why many breeders prefer to mix harlequin and mantle-coated dogs.

The Merle coat hits a sweet spot of a combination of colors from blue and red to fawn and gray.

This coat was the last one to be recognized by the American Kennel Club as recently as 2018. It closely resembles the harlequin coat, which causes some confusion but Merle coat mixes up grey with different variations of white and black.

Remember, both Dane varieties come in ALL these coat variations.

3. Grooming a European vs American Great Dane

Grooming these big dogs requires excellent preparation. 

Even though they are gentle, they are still strong and can knock you over if you are not prepared.

As a rule of thumb, they are VERY tolerant and would never consciously hurt you. But at the same time, they can be incredibly hen-hearted!

young girl hugging a black american great dane
Wuv this hooman hugs!

Brushing the Glossy Coats

Both Great Danes from Europe and America have single coats. If you are thinking of getting these dog breeds, you won’t have too much grooming to worry about. 

Their short, silken coats are super easy to brush.

However, the single coat has its flip side as these dogs may not do so well in cold climates or outdoor living.

They shed an average amount of hair throughout the year. However, those are BIG bodies so the sheer amount of fuzz you’ll have to deal with is greater than with other single-coat breeds.

Also, the European Great Dane produces more hair than its cousin from over the pond. After all, they are bigger so they have more fur to shed.

Shedding is more noticeable in the spring.

Brush the coat once a week to distribute the dog’s natural oils all over the coat. 

For both the European and American Great Danes, it is best to brush the coat in the same direction it grows. Brushing in the opposite direction pulls the dog’s skin and is uncomfortable.

Long gentle brushing works best for their coats. These long brushes are relaxing and result in calming the dog rather than over-exciting it.

(Although these dog breeds are pretty calm as it is!)

The LAST thing you want is a big dog like a Great Dane whelping and running away every time they see a brush.

Use a brush with rubber prongs to remove the dead hairs while massaging the dog’s skin. A Kong Zoom Groom brush is an excellent option. Regular brushes do not do a good job of removing dead skin, loose hair, and distributing the natural oils.

You do not need to restrain the dog if you brush gently and the dog knows you are not going to hurt them. If the dog is spooked, consider using grooming gloves!

It’s like: here boy, lemme scratch your back! **Grooming in disguise begins.**

Ear Care: Floppy versus Cropped Ears

goofy great dane dog
Doin’ me goofy look!

The floppy ears of a European Great Dane can trap moisture, dirt, and debris more than the cropped ears of the American Great Dane.

Floppy ears tend to get VERY warm which makes them damp and susceptible to ear infections

The dampness and moisture promote the growth of bacteria. You have to perform more routine checks on European Danes’ floppy ears than you need to on the American Danes.

Dog ear drops like the Zymox Otic Enzymatic Solution with Hydrocortisone will come in handy for their floppy ears to prevent ear mites and yeast infections.

On the other hand, the ears of American Danes (if cropped) DO NOT require drops because their ears are upright, preventing the build-up of moisture or damp conditions.

However, both dogs need to have their ears cleaned. The methodology of cleaning is the same for each.

Pour ear cleaning solution into the ear canal while holding the dog’s pinna (outer ear). Let the solution swirl for 30 seconds and then let the pinna go.

Some Oral Hygiene! 

The European Great Down with its loose lips needs to have its drool wiped off all the time to prevent trails all over the place. You may need to keep a box of wipes handy to help clean up the drool.

Keeping an eye on the drooling helps you determine whether it is the dog’s regular dribble or if the dog has a dental issue like inflammation, mouth injuries, or a growth in the mouth, among other things.

By contrast, since the American Great Dane does not drool. When you see this variety drooling, you should know something is not right. 

Despite the issue of drooling, Great Danes from Europe have EXCELLENT teeth, just like their American cousins.

great dane smiling

Brushing with dog toothpaste is usually sufficient to clean out these dog’s teeth. However, you have to maintain regular dental checkups for these breeds for professional cleaning.

Some dog owners prefer to alternate cleaning methods using dental wipes one day, dental chews the next, and brushing only twice a week.

Both breeds have large jaws and deep mouths. It is best to use a long-handled brush for tooth brushing.

Time for a Bath, Please!

The European Great Dane will benefit from a conditioning shampoo that detangles its dense coat while conditioning the short hairs.

A great option that offers a rich lather and leaves the coat soft and shiny is the Hartz Groomer’s Best Conditioning Shampoo. And it can be used on European Danes at all stages of life.

On the other hand, American Danes, with their less dense coat, will benefit from a formula that conditions their hair as well as the skin beneath it. It should be a lightweight formula that does not leave any residue. Consider using the Legger Certified Organic Dog Shampoo which offers a lightweight formula that takes care of the skin and coat.

The American Dane may not need to bathe as often as its European cousin because its coat is not as thick.

4. Training a Great Dane American vs European

You need to pay more attention to the European Great Dane’s exercise routine. While these gentle giants are playful from time to time, they will spend giant portions of their day zizzing – as much as 18 hours!

That means that they may not have as much exercise as they should. If you ask them, at least!

On the other hand, the American Great Dane is more active and loves to run around. This variety can easily get as much exercise as they need. Their greyhound genes make them love to run and enjoy extra playtime.

But the good news is that both varieties are easy to train

Start small by preparing the basics for the training. The Euro Great Dane needs extra treats to stay motivated to exercise. They prefer to hang around you rather than run outside.

So make exercise time a fun activity for both of you. Take your Dane to the park and enjoy one to two hours of running around and exercise. Once the European Dane gets out to play, you may need a leash to control it.

To train your European Great Dane to sit, stand in front of the Dane and hold it up. Your dog may jump up to reach the treat but take it away and order the dog to sit. When the dog sits, give the treat. Repeat this several times until the dog learns to sit on command.

Use the same training method for other commands like stay, come, go, and even for leash manners.

When training commands to both varieties, you should do the following:

  • Use short training sessions to keep the dog focused
  • Learn what motivates your Dane 
  • Stay consistent in the training technique to avoid confusing the dog
  • Focus on one trick at a time to avoid overwhelming the dog
  • Keep practicing as much as possible and be patience

It is not uncommon to find that the American Dane quickly adapts to the training compared to the European Dane. 

Not because the latter is less smart. They just like to take their time to implement training.

5. Health Conditions of American vs European Great Danes

big dog sleeping

Great Danes and Gum Disorders 

Unfortunately, the two varieties of Great Danes are prone to Gingival Hyperplasia. They are susceptible to this disease because of genetics that causes overgrown gums.

The overgrown gums trap bacteria and other harmful organisms. As a result, the overgrown gum becomes inflamed due to the buildup of plaque. 

An overgrown gum can even cover half the tooth. 

The vet will remove the excess tissue surgically to reduce the amount of gum. 

Joint Problems in Great Danes

Because of their size, the Euro Great’s weight tends to place ENORMOUS strain on their joints. The common problem includes pain and inflammation in the joints from conditions like Osteoarthritis.

The condition occurs gradually and can greatly affect the quality of life of the dog. 

Hip and elbow dysplasia also tend to affect the European Great Dane a bit more than their American counterpart.

Skin Allergies and the Great Dane 

An American Great Dane is more likely to get skin allergies because its coat is thinner than the European Dane’s. 

The latter’s skin has more coverage due to the dense short hairs. That prevents over-drying and exposure to elements that cause skin allergies.

The longer neck of the American Great Dane may be more susceptible to Wobbler Syndrome that causes compression of the spinal nerve roots and spinal cord. As a result, the dog suffers from excruciating neck pain and nervous system deficits. 

This disease also affects European Danes.

Cancers in Great Danes

Unfortunately, both varieties suffer from similar cancers like Osteosarcoma. This is a form of cancer of the bones. This condition is quite common in Great Danes.

Eye and Heart Issues

Cataracts affect both the Euro and American Danes. As mentioned above, it is especially common in dogs with heterochromia.

Also, you can expect heart disease where the heart’s chambers become enlarged with one becoming more severely impacted than the other one.

Another condition to expect is torsion or bloat. Because both varieties have deep chests, they are prone to bloat when they eat too much, too quickly, or exert themselves physically immediately after eating.

However, the European Dane is more likely to develop bloat because it has a deeper chest. 

So if you notice your Dane is particularly voracious (which is often the case), you should teach them to eat more slowly. There are excellent slow feeder bowls to help you with that!

6. How Much Do They Cost: European Great Dane Puppy vs American Great Dane Puppy

Great Dane puppies

European Great Danes are more expensive than American Great Danes.

A European Dane pup will set you back between $2000 and $3500. They are a favorite of many people because of their gentle, playful, and loving nature and their sheer size.

On the other hand, an American Dane pup can cost you from $600 to $3000 depending on the breeder. 

In both varieties, if a dog is bred for shows, it means it is a pedigree pooch and the price becomes steep. 

So a Great Dane Pup bred for shows is likely to go for an estimated $1500 to $2000

The Harlequin coat is more popular making dogs with this color more expensive. You can expect to spend up to $2500 for a Harlequin Great Dane pup.

7. Great Danes Through the Ages: History and Fun Facts

If Great Danes could talk, they would probably say to us, “Enough with the identity crisis.”

Let’s go back in time and track the Great Dane’s journey. And how they found themselves as cousins rather than actual siblings.

They were the fourth dog breed to be admitted into the American Kennel Club. Great Danes are classified as one breed by the club and have been ranked number 16 out of 197 in popularity.

Breeders, breeding clubs, dog show judges and organizers, and even the government have all contributed to the identity crisis of the Great Dane breed.

But with time, the two varieties have settled down to the specifics named above to differentiate them. 

So how did a German dog become associated with Denmark?

It is because Great Danes are descendants of German mastiffs bred by the nobility. But good old migration with their owners to Denmark introduced the dogs to the new country.

A Frenchman who traveled to Denmark saw the boar hunting dog and named it the “Grand Danois.” That name was eventually translated to English to become the Great Dane which remains to this date.

Did you know that Scooby-Doo, the doggie cartoon character, is a Great Dane?

Guess why they chose this breed?

In history, Great Danes were believed to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Combine that with its gentle friendly nature, Scoob, a Great Dane, was the perfect companion for those “pesky, meddling kids” in a ghost-busting childhood story.

These dogs have diffused a bomb, alerted authorities to danger, and joined the navy!

Bottomline: Which One Will You Choose?

Large black dog breed

Whether you choose a European or American Great Dane, you are in for LOTS of cuddles, standing hugs, and gentle snores

These gentle giants are exceptional companions and they also show courage under fire.

Keeping one is like keeping a treasure trove of love, affection, loyalty, and laughter. Because they can be very goofy.

Just ask Scooby-doo’s friends Shaggy and the rest of the gang!

Frequently Asked Questions

Which of these Great Danes barks the most?

Great Danes generally are not barkers.

That is good news because it means you will not experience much barking with either variety. Owners say that when a Great Dane barks, take notice and stay alert.

It’s a BIG bark though, so it’s very likely to scare away an intruder!

However, while they will rarely bark, they are pretty vocal. Oftentimes you’ll feel as if they are talking to you with different sounds!

What is the rarest color of Great Danes?

Silver is a rare color in Great Danes although it is not recognized as a breed standard.

It occurs after a genetic watering down of the jet black coat to produce an almost steel gray/silverish glint in the coat.

When it comes to patterned coats, Merle is uncommon among the Great Danes. 

Fawn and black coats are the most readily available coat colors when it comes to both Great Danes,

Are Great Danes high maintenance?

Although they are a gentle breed, their sheer size means you have to be extra careful during playtime, grooming, and feeding. You need to take great care not to overfeed because of bloat that may kill the dog.

Obedience training is critical to prevent jumping, leash pulling and jumping because of their size and weight.

Grooming is not high maintenance but you have to be careful about keeping the skin clean and the coat brushed.

Editor’s Picks