Many people know Marmaduke, the Great Dane from the newspaper comics. That image is pretty accurate: These huge dogs are loving and lovable -- and like Marmaduke, because they're so big, they can innocently wreak havoc in a household, especially when they're playful puppies.
As it turns out, Great Danes aren't from Denmark at all. Originally bred to hunt wild boar, they're descended from mastiff and greyhound dogs in Germany and England. When hunting boar lost its appeal, the dogs were bred to be human companions. They were popular on large estates, and today they can fit right in with a family with a big, fenced yard. By the 1870s, the Great Dane had become Germany's national breed [source: Great Dane Club of America].
Great Danes are easy-going dogs. They're usually easy to housebreak and don't need much grooming. They love their people and need lots of interaction with the family. Because they're so big, they need to be trained well. Keep an eye on them when they play with small children, whom they can accidentally overwhelm.
How big are they? Male Great Danes may be as tall as 32 inches (81 meters) at the shoulder, weighing up to 140 pounds (64 kilograms). Females are a little smaller.
They take about three years to be fully mature, and usually live seven to 10 years.