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10 Mighty Facts About Great Danes

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Great Danes are known for casting a shadow over most other dogs—and small children. Learn more about what makes this colossal canine tick. 

1. The name is misleading. 

Despite being called the Great Dane, these dogs have ties to Germany, not Denmark. Some believe the name came about when French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon happened upon the breed while traveling in Denmark in the early 1700s. He called the large dog "le Grande Danois" or Great Dane, and the name just stuck.  

2. Great Danes were once used for hunting boars. 

The gigantic canines were probably bred from the Irish wolfhound and the old English mastiff. Great Danes were used to take down wild boars, and needed to be physically strong as well as brave. The powerful hunters were quick and deadly; their aggressive behavior wasn't anything like the temperaments of the Great Danes you see today.

Although not a distinct type until roughly 400 years ago, the Great Dane’s origins extend even further back in history—their ancestors may have mingled with the ancient Egyptians. Depictions of giant dogs can be seen on Egyptian monuments dating back to 3,000 B.C. Other ancient art and literature in countries like Tibet, Greece, and China allude to the dogs as well. 

3. Gentleness was bred into them.

Today Great Danes are known as gentle giants. As hunting became less popular, the breed evolved from vicious killers to show dogs. The fight has been bred out of the canines, and now modern day Danes prefer a more leisurely lifestyle. In fact, the docile pooches make good additions to families and are rarely aggressive. 

4. There is a reason Scooby Doo was a Great Dane.

Great Danes were once thought to ward away ghosts and evil spirits, which was why Scooby was the perfect companion for those meddling kids. While that may not have been on the cartoon creators' minds while they were developing characters, there was a lot of debate about Scooby’s breed during the show’s conception.

Originally called “Too Much,” the dog was either going to be a large cowardly dog, or a small courageous pup. When the former was chosen, they had to decide between a sheepdog or a Great Dane. The Great Dane was eventually picked to avoid overlap with Hot Dog, the sheepdog in the Archie comics.  

5. They’re not the tallest breed.

Great Danes are huge, with an average height of 2.5 to 2.8 feet, but Irish Wolfhounds tend to grow a hair taller. That said, the tallest dog in the world was a Great Dane named Zeus.

6. One was awarded two Blue Cross Medals. 

In 1941, Juliana the Great Dane was awoken when a bomb fell on the house she lived in. The dog did what any canine in need of a walk would do—she peed on it. The urine diffused the bomb and earned her her first medal. She was awarded her second medal three years later, when she alerted authorities that a fire was raging in her owner’s shoe shop. 

7. Another joined the Navy. 

Just Nuisance, the Great Dane, remains the only dog to be officially enlisted in the Navy. The dog was born in the late 1930s and grew up in the United Services Institute. There he befriended the Navy sailors that commanded the base. Just Nuisance liked to take the train with his new friends, but the train conductors were less than thrilled with having a dog stowaway (it’s not easy hiding a Great Dane on a train). The railways threatened to put down the dog if he continued to ride on the train without paying his fare.  

The Navy loves this traveling pooch so much, that they decided to have him enlist. Sailors were allowed to ride for free, which meant as a Navy man, Just Nuisance was able to ride with his friends without fear. The canine never went to sea, but he did keep the sailors company and appeared at promotional events. Eventually he was “married” to another Great Dane named Adinda.

When Just Nuisance passed away, he was buried with full naval honors at a former SA Navy Signal School. 

8. Pennsylvania loves Great Danes. 

The Great Dane is the official state dog of Pennsylvania. You can find a painting of the state's founder, William Penn, and his Great Dane hanging in the Governor's reception room.

9. They grow fast.

When Danes are born, they weigh only one or two pounds. In just half a year, they can weigh as much as 100 pounds. The dogs can continue to mature and grow until they’re two or three years old. 

10. Great Danes and goats can be friends. 

A goat and a Great Dane were found wandering around a Dallas-area chapel together in 2010. The trouble began when Minnelli the goat unlatched the gate of his home, also releasing Judy, the Great Dane. Perhaps hoping to elope, the two animals fled to a nearby church, leaving behind their other friend, a three-legged yellow lab named Lucky. Still, the three animals were inseparable and captured the hearts of Americans across the country. The original owners of the motley crew decided they could not afford to take care of them, and put them up for adoption. Luckily, a kind couple named Norman and Sandy Williams took in the trio.

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Martin Wittfooth
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Art
The Cat Art Show Is Coming Back to Los Angeles in June
Martin Wittfooth
Martin Wittfooth

After dazzling cat and art lovers alike in 2014 and again in 2016, the Cat Art Show is ready to land in Los Angeles for a third time. The June exhibition, dubbed Cat Art Show 3: The Sequel Returns Again, will feature feline-centric works from such artists as Mark Ryden, Ellen von Unwerth, and Marion Peck.

Like past shows, this one will explore cats through a variety of themes and media. “The enigmatic feline has been a source of artistic inspiration for thousands of years,” the show's creator and curator Susan Michals said in a press release. “One moment they can be a best friend, the next, an antagonist. They are the perfect subject matter, and works of art, all by themselves.”

While some artists have chosen straightforward interpretations of the starring subject, others are using cats as a springboard into topics like gender, politics, and social media. The sculpture, paintings, and photographs on display will be available to purchase, with prices ranging from $300 to $150,000.

Over 9000 visitors are expected to stop into the Think Tank Gallery in Los Angeles during the show's run from June 14 to June 24. Tickets to the show normally cost $5, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting a cat charity, and admission will be free for everyone on Wednesday, June 20. Check out a few of the works below.

Man in Garfield mask holding cat.
Tiffany Sage

Painting of kitten.
Brandi Milne

Art work of cat in tree.
Kathy Taselitz

Painting of white cat.
Rose Freymuth-Frazier

A cat with no eyes.
Rich Hardcastle

Painting of a cat on a stool.
Vanessa Stockard

Sculpture of pink cat.
Scott Hove

Painting of cat.
Yael Hoenig
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Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images
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Animals
How a Pregnant Rhino Named Victoria Could Save an Entire Subspecies
Sudan, the last male member of the northern white rhino subspecies, while being shipped to Kenya in 2009
Sudan, the last male member of the northern white rhino subspecies, while being shipped to Kenya in 2009
Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images

The last male northern white rhino died at a conservancy in Kenya earlier this year, prompting fears that the subspecies was finally done for after decades of heavy poaching. Scientists say there's still hope, though, and they're banking on a pregnant rhino named Victoria at the San Diego Zoo, according to the Associated Press.

Victoria is actually a southern white rhino, but the two subspecies are related. Only two northern white rhinos survive, but neither of the females in Kenya are able to reproduce. Victoria was successfully impregnated through artificial insemination, and if she successfully carries her calf to term in 16 to 18 months, scientists say she might be able to serve as a surrogate mother and propagate the northern white rhino species.

But how would that work if no male northern rhinos survive? As the AP explains, scientists are working to recreate northern white rhino embryos using genetic technology. The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research has the frozen cell lines of 12 different northern white rhinos, which can be transformed into stem cells—and ultimately, sperm and eggs. The sperm of the last northern white male rhino, Sudan, was also saved before he died.

Scientists have been monitoring six female southern white rhinos at the San Diego Zoo to see if any emerge as likely candidates for surrogacy. However, it's not easy to artificially inseminate a rhino, and there have been few successful births in the past. There's still a fighting chance, though, and scientists ultimately hope they'll be able to build up a herd of five to 15 northern white rhinos over the next few decades.

[h/t Time Magazine]

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