How to Distinguish Between American vs European Great Dane Breeds: A Beginner’s Guide

🦴 Updated on July 4th, 2023

this european great dane is different if you compare to american great dane

The differences between an American vs European Great Dane can be obvious to someone who knows the breed well. But, what if you are new to Great Danes or want to learn more about your pet? This helpful guide can give you all these necessary details to differentiate between the two. 

Why are there Differences in American vs European Great Dane?

You may not have known that there are two significant types of Great Danes until now. However, both of these variations originated in Europe and are majestic animals that can be a terrific addition to any home. 

So, why are there differences between the two types? The simple answer comes down to breeding lines and purpose. All Great Danes will contain genetic lines from these three breeds: 

  • Greyhound
  • Irish Wolfhound
  • Mastiff

The original purpose of owning Great Danes was to hunt wild boars, making this breeding combination ideal. Greyhounds are exceptionally fast, while Irish Wolfhounds are quite large, and Mastiffs are highly strong. These characteristics make the Great Dane the perfect hunting dog. 

However, the percentage of each element will vary when analyzing American vs European Great Dane dogs. These dogs came from Germany, and even centuries ago, the Germans bred two separate types for alternative purposes. 

They would breed lighter dogs to withstand traveling through steep regions, while the larger, bulkier dogs would remain on the flatter plains. Therefore, the animal’s environment helped determine their size and bloodlines. 

The European Great Dane vs American Dane Differences 

There are several ways to distinguish between an American Great Dane and its European counterpart. However, it is easy to tell once you know which elements stand out. 

Physical Appearance 

One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between the different types of Great Danes is their appearance. 

European Bloodlines 

A European Great Dane has a large square-shaped head with long hanging lips. Their muzzle will be short and blunt, and they will sport thicker necks. 

The eyes of Euro varieties will appear more droopy. In addition, their body will look fuller with more muscle mass and have a more wrinkled look, distinct from its counterpart. As a result, they will resemble their Mastiff ancestors more.  

American Bloodlines

The American Great Dane will have a smaller, more elongated head that resembles a rectangle more than a square with a thinner muzzle. Because of these elements, its lips will not be as prominent. 

This breed variation has a smaller frame overall. As a result, its body will look lean and thinner, with less muscle mass and tighter skin. Therefore, American Great Danes will bear more resemblance to their Greyhound ancestors. 

Size and Weight 

The size and weight of the dog is another quick way to distinguish an American Great Dane vs European Great Dane. 

European Bloodlines 

The European variations are the giants of the Great Dane breed. These dogs will grow until they reach between 28 and 32 inches tall, depending on if they are male or female. Their massive size is impressive, and although their height can be quite similar to their American cousins, their weight is not. 

These Euro dogs weigh 180 pounds on average but can grow to 220 or 240 pounds. Because of their additional muscle mass, they appear thicker, stockier, and bulkier than American variations. 

American Bloodlines 

American variations still carry the tall genes and will mature between 28 and 32 inches high, but that’s where the similarities end. Instead, these dogs will have a thinner stature with a lankier frame. 

You should not expect the American Great Dane to be heavier than 160 pounds, though they typically stop around 125 pounds. Because of their thinner physique, these American Great Danes appear more graceful and stealthy. 

Personality & Temperament 

You would not think there would be much temperament difference between two types of dogs in the same breeding category, but surprisingly enough, there is. 

European Bloodlines 

The Euro Great Dane maintains a friendly and affectionate demeanor while being overly gentle and goofy. This variation is the typical laid-back, lovable giant that spreads out on your couch. Some dog owners refer to their Euro Great Danes as lazy couch potatoes. 

American Bloodlines 

While the American variation is still quite friendly and affectionate as all Great Danes are, they can appear more high-strung and possess more energy than their European counterparts. Because of their smaller size, they may also be more graceful and active. 

What Does “Full Euro” or American Lines Mean with Great Danes? 

If you find a dog from a breeder that claims it is ‘full Euro’ or from American lines, it can get confusing. Some breeders may state their puppies are 50% Euro or more, but does it make a difference overall? 

All Great Danes originally came from Europe, but not all stayed there. Because some breeders continue the smaller bloodlines in America, European vs American Great Danes contain significant variations. 

Pet owners looking at 100% European Great Danes can be sure that the dog comes from two parents of European bloodlines. The mating pair can be living in Europe or have been brought into the United States as a breeding pair, but they will not have been bred with any American Great Danes.

Great Danes with American lines can vary, depending on what the breeder stipulates as its breeding lines. The resulting dog will have both parents from American bloodlines that generally reproduce in the United States. This distinction helps keep the smaller stature of Great Dane that some pet owners prefer. 

Typical Health Conditions and Life Span

You may wonder if there are subtle differences between these two types of Great Danes regarding their overall health and life span. As a responsible pet owner, it is vital that you know of any predisposed health issues and how long these gentle giants live. 

As a general rule with any canine breed, the higher the dog’s body mass, the lower the life span will be, and the Great Dane reflects this. 

Their shorter life is the result of a few contributing factors: 

  • Organs work harder and will shut down sooner due to the massive size  
  • More susceptible to developing cancer 
  • Increased chance of gastric torsion or dog bloat  
  • Dealing with heart conditions, including cardiomyopathy and tricuspid valve disease
  • Facing hypothyroidism 
  • Suffering from cruciate ligament tears or hip dysplasia 
  • Females can develop Addison’s disease 

Although both varieties have shorter lifespans than other popular dog breeds, there is a difference between them. 

European Great Danes will typically live between six to eight years. Although some European Danes have lived healthy lives up to ten years old, this is not the average life expectancy. 

Great Danes with American parents have a similarly shorter lifespan but typically live longer than their European counterparts. So you can expect an American Great Dane to live between nine and ten years. 

Surprisingly, notable studies correlate a dog’s coat color to how well they can hear and if they will develop congenital deafness later in life. Therefore, if you prefer one color over another, it can be beneficial to explore the chances of having a hearing issue because of their genetics. 

Color Differentiated Great Danes

Now that you know the two Great Dane types, the color might be your next concern before choosing a family pet. So, are there color differences between American vs European Great Danes? 

The short answer is no; both American and European Great Danes will contain the same color groups, with each group possessing two distinct colors. These color groups are: 

  • black and blue
  • fawn and brindle 
  • harlequin and mantle 
  • brown and chocolate 

Black and Blue 

Both black and blue Great Danes have markings on their feet and chest. Additionally, black Danes will sport a glossy dark coat, and blue Danes will have steel blue coloring with white markings. 

Fawn and Brindle 

Fawn-colored Great Danes are a tan, yellow-gold hue with dark markings on their eye rims, eyebrows, darker ears, and a dark black face mask. 

The brindle-colored Danes are a mixture of fawn colors and black as a striped pattern. This pattern can resemble a chevron style or marble-type mix.  

Harlequin and Mantle 

Harlequin Great Danes possess a full white base color with black patches that form a unique pattern for each dog. These patches can range from medium- to large-sized and primarily cover the body, legs, and head, leaving the neck a pure white. 

Mantle-colored Great Danes also contain black and white coloring, but they differ significantly from harlequin styles. 

Also known as the Boston effect, these dogs will have a completely black blanket of color, leaving their muzzles, blaze, and chest white. Some mantle Great Danes will also sport white fore and hind legs and necks. 

Brown and Chocolate 

While the first three color groups are widely popular in standardized dog breeding, the brown and chocolate variations are not a typical breeding standard. Although not rare, many reputable breeders will refrain from reproducing brown and chocolate puppies. 

Grooming and Training Great Danes Types 

Grooming and training are two specific elements that many pet owners consider when choosing a new pet. How much time and money you will spend on keeping them looking good and how easy it is to train them are important factors. 

European Bloodlines 

European Great Danes have a short, dense coat that appears glossy. As a result, they require regular grooming, including brushing and bathing, and do shed moderately. Unfortunately, their shedding may seem excessive. Because of their large size, there is more hair to lose. 

This Dane variety requires exceptional consistency during training. They are highly intelligent but can be aloof and lazy. These dogs need 30 to 60 minutes of regular daily exercise. 

If you fall short with training schedules, they may become confused and not follow directions. However, they respond well to verbal commands and hand cues with proper and consistent training. 

American Bloodlines 

The coat on American Great Danes is short and glossy. These dogs will shed a moderate amount and require regular brushing and bathing. 

American Great Danes are eager to please their owners and love everyone. They are more friendly and are gentle with children and other animals when given proper training early on. 

However, these gentle giants still require a firm and consistent training schedule for best results. Additionally, they need at least one hour of exercise per day to ensure they focus and respond well to commands.

The Costs of Great Dane Types 

Naturally, there is a distinct difference in what pet owners will pay for their Great Dane, depending on the type they choose. 

With both European and American variations, the total price will depend on the breeding lines, microchipping, kennel club registration, health guarantee, certification, and transportation or shipping of the animal. 

You should expect to pay between $1,000 and $2,000 for a European Great Dane, although some breeders may be slightly cheaper or more expensive than this. 

Dog lovers who want an American Great Dane may have more variety, though. Depending on the breeder, color, sex, and location, your new dog can cost anywhere from $600 to over $3,000. 

This variance primarily depends on whether you are purchasing a dog for competitive showing or as a family pet

The Bottom Line: Which One Will You Choose?

The Great Dane is a terrific option for animal lovers who want a gentle giant as their new furry family member. These fun-loving dogs are affectionate and integrate well with homes for singles, couples, and children. So, how do you choose which Great Dane variation is best? 

It can be easier to choose between these two types when you take a look at these contributing factors:   

  • How much do you want to spend purchasing a new pet? 
  • Do you prefer a shorter or long-term commitment for a dog? 
  • Is your lifestyle busy and active enough to provide enough exercise for the breed? 
  • What size of dog can you accommodate in your home and yard? 

Simply put, if you want a very large dog breed that is laid-back and gentle to be a terrific companion, choose the European Great Dane. 

However, if you prefer a slightly smaller version and can provide an active lifestyle for their goofy antics, selecting an American Great Dane will suit your home perfectly. 


Read over the frequently asked questions below if you have any other questions about this gentle breed. 

Which is the Largest Great Dane Dog Breed? 

The European Harlequin Great Dane tops the chart as the largest dog breed available. This color combination from European ancestors also takes exceptional breeding lines and appears majestic and intimidating, the perfect combination for many pet owners. 

Do European or American Great Danes Bark a Lot? 

Naturally, any dog that does not receive positive correction during training will develop negative habits, including excessive barking. When comparing European to American Great Danes, the American variation tends to be more vocal than the European Danes. 

Are There Miniature Great Danes? 

While you may come across a breeder that offers miniature Great Danes, this size is not a recognized breed type. Miniature Danes are typically dogs that were the runt of the litter and bred with other smaller dogs to produce naturally smaller offspring than usual. 

What is the difference between European Great Danes and American?

European Great Danes are typically taller and leaner with a more elongated head and body, while American Great Danes tend to be shorter and stockier with a more square-shaped head and body. Additionally, European Great Danes tend to have a more refined and elegant appearance, while American Great Danes have a more muscular and athletic appearance.

Another notable difference is that American Great Danes often have a wider color range and patterns, while European Great Danes are typically only found in the traditional fawn, brindle, or harlequin colors.

What 2 breeds Make a Great Dane?

Great Danes are a cross between the English Mastiff and the Irish Wolfhound.

Which Great Dane is best American or European?

It is subjective as to which Great Dane is best – American or European. Both have their own unique characteristics and qualities. It ultimately depends on the individual’s personal preference and what they value in a Great Dane.

Which breed of Great Dane is the biggest?

The Harlequin Great Dane is considered the biggest breed of Great Dane.

The Takeaway 

There are many distinct differences between the American vs European Great Dane breed variations. Although both types of Great Danes are large dogs with a friendly and affectionate nature, knowing what makes each type special can be helpful when choosing your next family pet.  

Recommended Great Dane Gear

Picture of Jennifer Grucci | Dog Breeds Expert
Jennifer Grucci | Dog Breeds Expert
Our talented copy editor Jennifer ensures all doggie info published on our site is accurate, clear, and perfectly suited for pet parents of all experience levels. When not reading and writing about dogs, Jennifer enjoys playing with her own pets at home.