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. 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.
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.

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.

The Club continued to progress throughout the decade, despite World War 1, and the twenties and thirties were a period of growing popularity of the breed. In addition to numerous individual owners and exhibitors, this was the time of two major Kennels – Ouborough and Send – each having a major impact on the continuing development of Great Dane’s in this country. The importance, and status, of The Great Dane Club by this time can be gauged from the list of Officers and Committee in 1930:
Patron: HRH The Prince George (King George VI), President: The Hon W B Wrottesley, Vice Presidents: The Viscountess of Wolverhampton, Mrs Napier-Clavering, Mr Cornish-Bowden and Mr Gordon Stewart.
The Committee comprised – Mrs Hornsby, Wymer, Hatfield, Miss Osborn, Stevenson, Captain Greetham, Messrs Boyes, Edwards, Hatfield, Todd, Porch and the Secretary/Treasurer Mrs Blackler.

The start of World War II resulted in the curtailment of Club activities, and placed great strain on the activities of members to maintain the breed. The major Kennels managed, at best, to breed one or two litters to continue their lines and many smaller Kennels ceased to exist. Indeed, the survival of the breed in the UK during this time was due in no small measure to the dedication of a few determined Ladies such as Mrs Nellie Ennals (Blues and Blacks), Mrs Joan Kelly (Harlequins) and Mrs Russell (founder of the Oldmanor line and mother of Mrs Olive Davies). We owe them and their compatriots a great debt.
In 1946 The Great Dane Club organised the first post war Championship Show, the Judge being Mr Gordon Stewart of the Send Kennels.
The following years saw considerable growth in membership, and a rise in popularity of the breed – and in 1953 a Great Dane was Best in Show at Crufts Dog Show (Mr Bill Sigger’s Ch Elch Edler of Ouborough).

In the above photograph HRH Prince George once Patron of the Club, can be seen with his dog Ch Midas of Send bred by the famous breeder Mr Gordon Stewart (left).

Referred to as ‘Mr Great Dane’ Mr Bill Siggers pictured with the Crufts Best In Show Winner 1953 Ch Elch Edler of Ouborough, a feat which to this date has never been repeated.

During the early nineties The Club joined with all the other UK clubs to form a Combined Committee to liase on matters affecting the development and future of the breed and in accordance with The Kennel Club wishes is now working with a majority of other UK clubs to form a Breed Council.The centenary of The Great Dane Club was celebrated in 1983 and the Officers and Committee were: Patron: His Grace the Duke of Newcastle, President: Mrs Edna Harrild, Vice Presidents: Mrs Peggy Laing, Mrs Nellie Ennals, Mrs Gill Le West, Chairman & Vice President: Mrs Olive Davies, Secretary: Mrs Freda Lewis, Treasurer: Mr Tony Pearce, Committee – Mrs Janet Alford: Mrs Joy Butcher, Mrs Peggy Laing, Mrs Diane Norman-Cowley, Mrs Elaine Parish, Mrs Jo Roberts, Mrs Maureen-Anne Temple-Smith, Dr Margaret Lloyd, Messrs Ron Lewis, Rex Primmer and Mike Ramsay.
In 2000 The Great Dane Club organised a Millennium celebration spread over two days and incorporating the annual Championship Show – by general consent this was a spectacular celebration of Great Danes and included a match between Teams representing all the other clubs, a rally and parade of “rescued Danes”, historical displays, a Dinner and Dance and a variety of fun events including a fancy dress competition for Exhibitors and their Danes.
The Great Dane Club now has a membership well in excess of 450 including members from all around the world and is determined to build on the solid foundations provided by its founders and following generations. It will continue to work towards the development of the breed in the UK and to contribute to the well being of our noble breed.

Here are just a small sample of the many trophies which have been presented to the Club over the years to be awarded to winning members at various shows.

These particular trophies form so much of the Club’s heritage and can be seen on display at the Kennel Club.