My great dane book pick for March is "The Great Dane: Dogdom's Apollo" by Nancy-Carroll Draper. Well, I really can't be more enthusiastic about this book! If you are interested in great danes at all, GET THIS BOOK! Seriously! I love this book!
Draper starts off with a general history of the dogs who are believed to be the progenitors of what we now know as the great dane. It's a fascinating history lesson covering areas that I hadn't read about before. A rather violent history where a rougher version of the great dane was used very effectively as a weapon of sorts during battles. Dogs who fearlessly fought the enemies that they were unleashed upon, regardless of the wounds they received. Once more sophisticated weapons of war were developed, the great dane moved into the role that it is historically better known for. That of the boar hunter by day and the manor guard by night.
With such a "colorful" background, I think it's important to talk about the temperament and demeanor of the past great dane, to really appreciate how far the breed has come today. I mentioned in a previous book review that I was disappointed that the author glossed over this fact. While it may be unpleasant to think about, facts is facts! Needless to say, I was very pleased that Draper included a brief description of the temperament of the danes from around the 1870's for what they really were.
"The danes were so bad-tempered and started so many fights during the show, amongst each other and with every other breed, that they were barred from further show competition ." An excerpt from a section talking about the first major show that great danes were entered as Great Danes.
"They exhibited a ferocity found only in trained attack dogs which, in many instances, they were. The vast German royal estates demanded guard dogs of size and aggressiveness. It is a tribute, indeed, to those early American Dane breeders that in less than twenty years they were able to reduce that facet of the Dane character and virtually eliminate the unmanageable bad temper."
From the history, the author moves on to talk about general aspects of living with a great dane. What their character is like, how to train them, how to house them, and what it's like to live with a dog breed that is so larger than life.
The next section is another reason why this book stands out as a must have for dane lovers. The breed standard! Not just the breed standard that we in the US know today, but the early American standard. But wait, there's more!! Draper also includes the German breed standard, the English breed standard, and an illustrated standard! While the technical standards may not be as universally interesting, the illustrated standard is something that any layman can relate to. There are pictures of what is meant by the verbiage in the standard as well as pictures of what is considered incorrect and should be penalised.
Following the breed standard chapter are a couple of chapters relating to breeding. What the American breeder's code of ethics entailed at the time (copyright 1982). As well the all important coat color genetics. For those who may not be as familiar, the great dane breed is broken down by color and the majority of people breed danes according to the three color families. These color families are the fawn/brindles, black/blues, and harlequin/mantles. At the time that this book was published, mantles were not a recognised color in the show ring. I believe that didn't happen until 1998 or 1999. And yes, it was that recent. Because most breeders want to be able to combine two dogs who will not only complement each other conformationally, but genetically, the study of coat color genetics is a big deal. I won't even bother to touch on it except to say that there's a good reason why harl breeder's are not envied!
Following the chapters on breeding are a couple of chapters discussing nutrition and diseases that the breed is prone to. Nutrition is important regardless of the dog or the breed. However, some breeds require more forethought into what they eat than others. The great dane is one of those, if for no other reason than growing giant breed puppies take special consideration.
These more sobering topics are followed by a subject that makes me smile. The chapter is titled "The Dane and Obedience.":) This chapter was written by Rose Sabetti, who was not only a dane fancier, but was there on the ground floor for the "obedience movement." It was fascinating to read about how the sport got started and how the number of great danes titling in obedience increased as the years went on. If you're a nut about this kind of stuff you'll love it. If you're also enough of a history buff to recognise the names of the early dane people competing in obedience as well as the dogs, you'll be over the moon!
The next chapter is about the Great Dane Club of America and how it got started. It's a little more history and just another nugget of knowledge that's fun to read.
The book is finished up by Draper talking about the great dane in art. In a nut shell, how much more complete could this book be?? She includes lovely pictures of various dane figurines, paintings, and stamps in addition to more history about the specific pieces.
All throughout the book are pictures of great danes. The majority are show pictures that include little captions about the dog, parentage, and the owner(s). These pictures serve to demonstrate the great continuity in type and structure that breeders strive for. The dogs pictured could easily be competing with today's dogs and winning. Their beauty is stunning and serves as a testament as to why the great dane has been dubbed the Apollo of dogs.