Pippa Elliott
Dr Pippa Elliott (BVMS MRCVS, University of Glasgow)
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The Daniff is a hybrid dog, which is a mixture between one Great Dane and one Mastiff parent. They are also known as the Mastidane, English Daniff, and Great Daniff. But if ever there was a case of not judging a book by its cover, the Daniff is it. Although a giant dog, with a size many find intimidating, they are the epitome of the gentle giant.

The Daniff takes a lot of their laidback character form the Great Dane side of the family. They have a reputation for being fantastic companions for children and affectionate to boot. But where the Great Dane is often a sleepy fellow, the Mastiff is energetic. Thus, the Daniff does require a fair amount of exercise or else they risk gaining weight.

About & History

As a hybrid dog, the Daniff’s history is relatively short. The fashion for deliberately mating together two different purebred dogs is a relatively new phenomena, going back just a few decades. The history of the Daniff is therefore best described by the stories of the two parent breeds.

The Great Dane

The Great Dane is a dog that over time has undergone a full-turnaround in character. Dogs matching the description of the Great Dane’s massive size can be found in 3,000 BC in Egypt, and 2,000 BC in Babylon. These dogs accompanied Assyrian, Roman, and Greek traders to become established throughout Europe.

In the Middle Ages, these dogs were known as "Boar Hounds", because they were used to hunt wild boar. Indeed, at that time, their ears were often cropped in order to prevent the earflaps being gored by boar tusks. Of course this task required the dogs to be extremely fierce and bold, and their character was far removed from today’s gentle dogs.

The change of temperament was deliberately engineered, starting in the 19th century. It was reasoned that the Great Dane was a handsome, but dangerous, fellow and so deliberate efforts were made to rehabilitate them into a peace-loving companion. Happily, those efforts succeeded and are evident in the placid dogs we know today.

The Mastiff

The Mastiff is another massive dog with working origins. Their ancestors were the Molosser dogs, so large and fierce that they accompanied soldiers into battle. These ancient dogs gave rise a whole number of large dog breeds, such as the Rottweiler, St Bernard, and the Tibetan Mastiff. It’s interesting to note, that they also gave rise to some smaller breeds, for example the Pug, which carries a tiny twist of Molosser DNA.

Mastiffs became popular in the 16th century, as a ‘sporting’ dog to take part in bull baiting. Once these blood sports were outlawed in the 19th century, the numbers of mastiffs dipped. They dropped again during the two world wars, because of the amount of food they consumed.

The Mastiff underwent resurgence in the second half of the 20th century thanks to the introduction of Canadian blood lines. They too have enjoyed increased popularity in their gentler reincarnation.


With two giant breed parents, true to form, the Daniff also has massive proportions. But where the Great Dane is elegant, the Mastiff is stockier, and this tends to show through in the Daniff. The Mastiff also errs towards a wrinkled face, and this influences the long muzzle and elegant looks of the Great Dane, giving the Daniff a slightly worried or furrowed brow. The Daniff is also well-equipped with jowls, so drooling is to be expected.

Both parent breeds are short with a dense coat. Colours can range widely from the Apricot or Fawn of the Mastiff, through to the Brindle, Blue, Black, or Harlequin of the Great Dane. What can be said with certainty is the Daniff has drop ears and a long, strong tail.

Character & Temperament

The outstanding thing about the Daniff (apart from their size) is their reliable character. They are also intelligent, but to learn they require patience, consistency, and a good attitude from their owner. Because of their great size, it’s crucial that the puppies are well socialised so that they grow into calm, well-adjusted adults. An overly anxious Daniff could cause real harm if they became fear-biters.


A Daniff’s size and strength means it’s impossible to physically force the dog to do something they don’t want to. This makes regular, reward-based training sessions essential. The idea is to have the dog understand that acting correctly is rewarded, thus the dog takes responsibility for their actions and doesn’t play up.


There is a lack of statistics when it comes to the health disorders affecting the Daniff. However, both parent breeds carry similar health risks, so it seems fair to extrapolate this to their joint offspring.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a condition where the hips are poorly shaped so that movement causes inflammation and pain. In such a large dog, any lack of mobility becomes a major problem since they can’t be carried in the same way a smaller dog can.

Mild cases can often be managed with pain relief and nutraceutical products that nourish the joints. However, if the discomfort is severe then total hip replacement is the only way to keep the dog on their paws.


The deep chest of the Daniff predisposes them to bloat or gastric dilation and volvulus (GDV). Factors that make bloat more likely include a poor quality dry food high in fermentable carbohydrate, eating too quickly, and exercising soon after a meal.

The condition itself is life-threatening. The most common symptom is non-productive retching, such that the dog tries to be sick but nothing comes up. If an owner sees this, they should contact the vet as an emergency.


Large breed dogs are at greater risk of developing serious cancers, such as osteosarcoma (bone cancer), haemangiosarcoma (neoplasia affecting blood vessels and vascular organs), and mast cell tumours.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Given their large size, the Daniff is ‘economical’ with their energy. Yes, they require regular walks and a fair amount of exercise, but this isn’t in proportion to their large size. Their preference is for long steady walks, rather than the dashing, sprinting efforts of a dog such as the Greyhound.


The Daniff’s short, smooth coat is easy to care for. However, the large size and therefore large surface area of these dogs mean that they shed a lot. The wise owner gives their dog a brief daily brush in order to capture that shed hair rather than have it waft round the house.

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