Our History Page 1

History of The Great Dane Club

A specialist club for Great Danes was first formed in the United Kingdom in April 1883 – primarily due to the efforts of Mr Frank Adcock, Mr R Leigh Pemberton and the Rev Gambier Bolton (read correspondence here). It was proposed to call it The Great Dane Club and under that name would be included all the various coloured specimens known as  – Boar Hounds, Tiger Mastiffs and German Mastiffs. The April edition of the Kennel Gazette for that year which contained a letter from Prince Albert Solms of Prussia, welcoming the news and quoting “it is the best way to cultivate the breed in Britain”. The officers and committee were President – The Right Honourable The Earl of Latham, Vice President – Mr R Herbert, Treasurer – Mr R Groom, Secretary – Mr M del Riego, Messrs. Adcock, Arbuthnot, Bryen, Francis, Groom, Herbert, del Riego, Sutthery, Thomas and Wilbey. 

The annual subscription was set at Two Guineas and those joining after April 1885 had to pay an entrance fee of a further Two Guineas.

Original Club Logo

The total number of members was 29 and no new candidate could be admitted unless they signed the printed standard adopted by the Club – the standard being that fixed by the principal clubs and breeders abroad at a meeting held in Berlin in 1880. 

The following is an extract from that standard – “Colour and markings; the recognized colours are; the various shades of Grey (commonly termed Blue), Red, Black, or pure White, or White with patches of the before mentioned colours. The above colours also appear in the Brindles, and are also the ground colours of the mottled specimens ………”

In 1894 King Edward VII (then Prince of Wales) expressed the wish that cropping of ears be done away with – this caused consternation amongst the members, fearful that it would destroy the character of Danes – and many of them ceased to be active in the breed. However, there were some who preferred to keep Danes uncropped rather than not at all, and at the Crufts Dog Show in 1895 Mr. Hood Wright convened a meeting that resulted in the formation of what has now become one of the most important specialist Clubs in the U.K.

By 1896 the Club was well established and the Officers and Committee included; Messrs. Leadbetter, Herbert, Miller, Hood-Wright, Morley, Allanson, Baehr, Bartlett, Clemmens, Cook, Fox, Head, Hales, Parry, Pendry, Petrywalski, Trainor and Transel. 

In these early days classes for Great Danes at shows were few and far between – exhibitors were few and scattered – amongst the principal kennels were Mrs Violet Horsfall of Redgrave Hall, Norfolk (hence the famous Redgrave affix), Mr Leadbetter of Buckinghamshire and Mr Hood-Wright of Frome, in the North Mr Boyes and Mr Slack and in the West Mr & Mrs Herbert had a good kennel but only showed cropped dogs.

Ch’s Lot, Viking, and Viceroy of Redgrave

In 1897 there were still few dogs actually bred in England, the winners at shows being mostly imported dogs – a notable event of this year being the victory of Mrs. Horsfall’s Ch. Hannibal of Redgrave over the German Ch. Bosco Colonia brought over by Mr. Dobblemann to challenge all comers.



Mrs. Horsfall’s Champion Viceroy of Redgrave, born March 02nd 1899. Note that both the grandsires of Viceroy were bred in Berlin, coming from the oldest strains existing. 

By 1899 average entries at big shows was about thirty to forty – mostly imported and there were two Ch dogs; Hannibal and Count Fritz, and two Ch bitches; Ch. Mammoth Queen and Ch. Santa Valeria (a Harlequin). In these early days there was a scale of points on which assessment was based – it was revised from time to time and below is one of the revised lists, compiled by Mrs. Horsfall;

General Appearance 3 points
Activity 5
Neck 5
Back 8
Belly 4
Forequarters 10
Hindquarters 10
Coat 4
Size 13


By 1904 the efforts of The Great Dane Club were making progress all over England, so much so that owners in the North of England discussed the advisability of starting another Club having as its objective the advancement of Great Danes in the North by guaranteeing classes at shows. The Northern Great Dane Club was formed with Mr Boyes as its President and this Club has played a significant role in the advancement of Great Danes since that date.

The growing popularity of Great Danes can be seen from show entry records about this time – Crystal Palace 1907/202, 1908/254, 1909/231 & 1910/303.

By now a number of other Clubs had been formed bringing the number of specialist Clubs up to seven – including Scottish and Irish (Mr Boyes is quoted as saying “if we wish to maintain and increase the popularity of the breed some scheme should be drawn up whereby all the different clubs should be amalgamated or affiliated under a central management or representative body”. (authors note: now, almost one hundred years later the present nine U.K. clubs are developing an affiliation!).

The following photographs are taken from The Great Dane Club archives and evoke the spirit of the early years and reflect the major part played by Mrs Horsfall in the foundation of our noble breed in the United Kingdom.

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