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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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holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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Animals
If You Want Your Cat to Poop Out More Hairballs, Try Feeding It Beets
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Have you ever wondered if there’s a way to get your cat to poop out its hairballs instead of hacking them up? If so, you’re likely a seasoned cat owner whose tolerance for gross stuff has reached the point of no return. Luckily, there may be an easy way to get your cat to dispose of hairballs in the litter box instead of on your carpet, according to one study.

The paper, published in the Journal of Physiology and Animal Nutrition, followed the diets of 18 mixed-breed short-haired cats over a month. Some cats were fed straight kibble, while others were given helpings of beet pulp along with their regular meals. The researchers suspected that beets, a good source of fiber, would help move any ingested hair through the cats’ digestive systems, thus preventing it from coming back up the way it went in. Following the experiment, they found that the cats with the beet diet did indeed poop more.

The scientists didn’t measure how many hairballs the cats were coughing up during this period, so it's possible that pooping out more of them didn’t stop cats from puking them up at the same rate. But considering hairballs are a matter of digestive health, more regular bowel movements likely reduced the chance that cats would barf them up. The cat body is equipped to process large amounts of hair: According to experts, healthy cats should only be hacking hairballs once or twice a year.

If you find them around your home more frequently than that, it's a good idea to up your cat's fiber intake. Raw beet pulp is just one way to introduce fiber into your pet's diet; certain supplements for cats work just as well and actually contain beet pulp as a fiber source. Stephanie Liff, a veterinarian at Pure Paws Veterinary Care in New York, recommends psyllium powder to her patients. Another option for dealing with hairballs is the vegetable-oil based digestive lubricant Laxatone: According to Dr. Liff, this can "help to move hairballs in the correct direction."

[h/t Discover]

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