An In-Depth Look Into the Beauty of a Harlequin Great Dane

Harlequin Great Dane

Great Danes are one of the most sought breeds as they are one of the friendliest, most patient, and dependable dogs out there. This large and noble dog can be taller than most people, which people might find it intimidating and look imposing.

Still, they are sweet and are gentle with children. Because of their elegance and kind nature, they rank 16 out of 196 in breeds popularity based on the American Kennel Club (AKC) survey. 

Nowadays, most breeders and show dog owners show interest in Great Danes’ coats’ color as it comes in various colors. And one of the most popular and rarest colors of a Great Dane is the Harlequin.

While the name sounds confusing, it is easy to recognize. So, if you are interested to hear more about this breed color, here are the things you need to know.

What Is a Harlequin Great Dane?

According to the AKC’s website, there are nine standard colors: Black, Black and White, Blue, Brindle, Fawn, Harlequin, Mantle, Merle, and White. 

What is a Harlequin Great Dane? A Harlequin Great Dane is one of the rarest out of the nine officially recognized standard colors by the AKC. It is hard to perfect and attain it through breeding. Some Harlequin Great Danes may look similar, but there will never be two identical coats.

So, it is safe to say that most of them are unique. Even though there are significant and apparent differences, some people might find the color similar to that of a Dalmatian, which is pretty neat.

There is also a variation of a Harlequin Great Dane on the market called a Blue Harlequin Great Dane, where it has a blue coat with a harlequin marking on its body. This variation would be the result if you bred a Blue Great Dane with a Harlequin Great Dane. 

Unfortunately, they will not allow you to join if you intend to participate in dog shows with a Blue Harlequin Great Dane.

Based on the AKC breed standard, Blue Harlequin Great Dane falls under the imperfect and flawed Blue Great Dane line. However, if you are looking only for a family pet, then there’s nothing for you to worry about its markings.

Now that we’ve learned a bit about a Harlequin color, let’s talk about how it should look so you will not get confused with other colors.

What Does the Harlequin Great Dane Look Like?

Great Danes are known for their giant size, so it is not hard not to notice them. What makes them beautiful is that they have a well-formed and smoothly muscled body and a long and graceful neck. 

A Harlequin Great Dane has a pure white base color with irregular black torn patches over the entire body with a partial white neck. 

Here are few markings notes defined in the breed standard that you need to take notice of:

  • The black spots must be evenly-spread throughout the body and may also appear on chest and legs. 
  • It should also never be too small to look like dappling or too big. 
  • The marking should also not be wholly round, but instead, it has torn or ragged edges. 
  • A few small grey patches or black hairs are showing through the white base coat are okay and eligible for shows. However, it is considered less desirable by many breeders and show dog owners. 

Remember that these are just the breed standards if you intend to join dog shows. Also, while breeders try their best to avoid mismarked Harlequins, there is still no guarantee that there will be no puppies without these mismarking.

Breeding a perfect Harlequin might take generations and a lot of trial error before you get to own one because of their genetics, which I will discuss later.

Do Harlequin Great Danes Have Blue Eyes?

It is great to see a Harlequin Great Dane with blue eyes; however, not all Harlequins are born to have it. It is rare as their coat so that it would be a surprising addition to its already beautiful look.

Generally, Great Dane’s eye coloration does not stay long or last forever. It starts to change to its permanent coloration after about 9-12 weeks or as late as 16 weeks.

The only exception to this is the Harlequin Great Dane, which their blue eyes could stay throughout their entire life. Bright blue eye color for Harlequin Great Danes remains the same as they grow old; but, darker blue shades might not turn to brown color.

Just in case you are wondering, blue eyes result from having a merle gene that can affect nose, coat, and eyes. The merle gene creates mottled patches of color in blue or odd-colored eyes due to cells being unable to form pigments.

The more pigment dilution the dog has on their coats, the more chance they will be born with blue eyes rather than standard brown eye color.

Yet, having a merle gene is not favorable because it increases puppies’ chances of being born deaf, blind, or with microphthalmia. That is because of the lack of pigment in some vital regions: the eyes and inner ears.

Some Harlequin-bred dogs have “wall-eyes,” where the eye is a partially brown and partially pale bluish-white iris, while some have blueish-stormy grey eyes. 

What Makes a Harlequin Great Dane Different From Other Great Danes?

There is not much difference between Harlequin Great Danes with other Great Danes. Their size is still similar to breed standards and requires a lot of space. So, they aren’t suited for small apartments or houses because of their vast size.

But what makes Harlequin Great Danes different from other Great Danes is that they have the most demanding coat color since it is hard to breed a perfect Harlequin with the right pattern and markings.

It also holds many genes from other colored families, making it more expensive than other Great Danes and attractive for many dog breeders.

Another thing that makes them different from other breeds is their eye color. Some Great Danes that were born with blue eyes don’t last long except for Harlequin Great Danes.

Like we have mentioned earlier, it could stay throughout their lives. But at the same time, it also increases the chance that it’ll be born with unfavorable diseases such as blindness and deafness.

As for the growth, Harlequin Great Dane is spontaneous, unlike other dogs of the same breed, so that it might experience growth spurt even at 11 months of age.

Do Kennel Clubs Like AKC Recognize the Harlequin Coloring?

Harlequin is recognized as one of the standard colors for Great Danes by the American Kennel Club and the Great Dane Club of America.

However, for conformation shows or dog shows, any variance in the patterns or markings of a Harlequin Great Dane, as described earlier, shall be faulted to the extent of the deviation.

According to the Great Dane Club of America’s illustrated standard, Harlequin Great Dane must not have very few patches or a few white areas left due to having too many black spots.

No patch should also be as large as a blanket and nor so small that it appears to have stippled or dappled effect. Take note of the few small grey patches or black hair showing through the white base coat.

If your dog has black hairs, then worry not as it is okay and eligible for shows. If it has grey patches, it is permitted under the AKC standards but not acceptable for dog shows.

Another case is if its markings have well-rounded edges instead of required torn edges, then it does not fall into the Harlequin classification.

Other than that, there’s nothing to worry about the Harlequin color. You can freely brag this rare coat color of your dog to other dog owners. Some breeders may even want to get hold of one of its puppies for breeding purposes.

Now that we have a good idea about the Harlequin grade color, let’s go more in-depth and talk about its genetics.

Harlequin Great Dane Genetics

First of all, no matter how many breeders try, it is inevitable to get many mismarked puppies. It is not guaranteed to get a perfect Harlequin puppy even if you bred two Harlequin Great Danes. That is because of their genetics.

According to veterinarian Lynn Buzhardt in her article, two colors will determine the dog’s color. These two essential pigments are eumelanin (black) and phaeomelanin (red). 

Each of these pigments, black and red, can be modified or diluted by various genes. Genes could change eumelanin to create other colors, which affects the dog’s eye and nose color. 

Genes also control the intensity of phaeomelanin, making the color stronger or weaker. This modification only affects the hair and coat’s color.

To make things short and easier to understand, the color of a dog’s coat will depend on its parents’ inherited gene pool. Then the gene will modify the two pigments responsible for the dog’s appearance.

Furthermore, a particular study with the American Genetic Association shows that Harlequin-Harlequin breeding has a roughly 33% rate of producing a Harlequin offspring.

So, even though the puppy carries the two foundation colors in its genetics or bred two Harlequins, it is not guaranteed that the offspring will also turn into a Harlequin. Also, there is an underlying health risk breeding two ideally marked Harlequins, which I will tackle next.

Effects of Harlequin Coloring on Health & Behavior

Great Danes are generally healthy, but they are not immune to certain diseases or health conditions. There is also a chance that they might be born with some ailment due to their genes since it does not only affect the dog’s coat color but also linked to several health issues.

If you bred two Harlequins, there is a big chance that the offspring will be born with a double Merle gene or produce white puppies or, worse, likely not survive to birth. Double Merle dogs usually suffer from hearing and vision impairments while white puppies are deaf or blind.

Being deaf or blind is not the only risk for doing this, but other health issues include:

  • Social Instability and Inadequacy: Dogs with sensory deficiencies are often unable to interact with other dogs with great success, resulting in failing to adapt and adjust to their environment.
  • Atopic Dermatitis: An inherited skin disease.
  • Follicular Dysplasia: A genetic condition that causes hair loss to dogs.
  • Congenital Cataracts: A blinding disorder.
  • Microphthalmia: A hereditary eye disease that often leads to total blindness.
  • Heterochromia: An eye condition where one eye color is not the same as the other, which puts the dog at risk for cataracts or glaucoma.
  • Skin Cancer
  • Multiple Congenital Disabilities 

So, those are reasons why breeding two dogs with the Merle gene is not recommended or considered unethical as it may result in litters suffering from health conditions. It is much better to ask your vet regarding other acceptable approaches to breeding Harlequins pups with far less risk.

Harlequin Great Dane Temperament

Harlequin Great Danes share the common trait with other Great Danes of different colors. They are gentle, affectionate, obedient, and easy-going dogs.

No wonder they are called gentle giants because of their nature except when they are young. Young Great Danes are adorable dogs, but they can be boisterous and rowdy unless supervised.

One of the most endearing things about this breed is thinking they don’t grow as big as their actual size and still consider themselves a lap dog. So, don’t be surprised if they suddenly sit on you and crush you with their massive size. 

They are also known for seeking physical attention, so they love to be with their owners and don’t do well if left alone for a very long period.

They are also patient and good with the children. But even with their gentleness, it is advisable to teach your Harlequin Great Dane how to behave.

Because just like any other dog, if not properly trained and socialized, they may become fearful or aggressive towards strangers, so they need proper training. 

It is best to make your dog attend obedience training classes at an early age since it might get hard to control Great Danes as they get older and grow bigger. But don’t worry much as their “eager to please” personalities make them good responders to training.

Great Danes are not an outdoor dog and would prefer staying inside, but they are not too active. Despite their immense size, they don’t require a high level of physical exercise. 

Lastly, even though they generally do not exhibit extreme aggressiveness and are a people pleaser, they are very protective of their owners. 

Harlequin Great Dane Health

If there’s one disadvantage of having a Harlequin Great Dane, it is their short life expectancy. Their average life span is 6 to 8 years, but some could reach 7 to 10 years of age.

Like many larger breeds, they are also susceptible to hip dysplasia and life-threatening digestive order called bloat. Bloat or otherwise known as gastric torsion.

It is considered the number one killer of Great Danes, according to the American Kennel Club. It is a painful disease in which the stomach becomes overstretched and cuts off the blood supply. Luckily, treatment is possible, and a higher chance of saving your dog if detected early.

Great Danes are also likely to develop a deadly heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy and many other congenital heart diseases such as subaortic stenosis and valve diseases.

Another thing commonly found in Great Danes is cancer, especially osteosarcoma or malignant bone cancer. Osteosarcoma is by far the most common tumor found in large dogs. 

Other health issues that you need to watch for are:

  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Problems: It is when cranial cruciate ligament is torn and causes sudden extreme pain and severe hindlimb lameness. This problem could eventually lead to osteoarthritis. 
  • Hypothyroidism: It is a disorder caused by a lack of sufficient amounts of circulating thyroid hormone that controls metabolism. 
  • Osteoarthritis: It is the joints’ inflammation, leading to swelling, pain, and stiffness, typically arising from an injury or the normal aging process.
  • Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy: It is an auto-inflammatory disease bone disease that occurs in fast-growing large and giant breed dogs. 

Harlequin Great Dane Price: Do They Cost More Than Other Great Danes?

Before we talk about if Harlequin Great Dane costs more than other Great Danes, let’s look at the average cost first of a Great Dane.

A Great Dane’s average price can range from $600 up to 3,000 but still depends on numerous factors such as age, coat color and quality, health, gender, and their lineage. The location and breeder’s certification where you will buy or adopt a Great Dane, can also affect the average price range.

Moreover, show quality dogs are more expensive than dogs. They have probably inherited the excellent bloodlines from the award-winning parents.

The price will also depend if the breeder is registered to an official club like the American Kennel Club as they have to meet its standard. Meaning, they will have to pay more to keep up with the standards.

As I mentioned, the price could also depend on coat color and quality. And as you might have guessed, the Harlequin coat is much expensive than other Great Danes because of its popularity and rarity.

It can be quite challenging to meet both the health and markings requirements; that’s why the price is not as low as other Great Danes. A show quality Harlequin Great Dane’s price might be somewhere between $2,000 to $4,000

If you were to purchase it from a shelter adoption, it will cost you way less or the same as any other Great Dane color from the same shelter.

Shelter adoption fees vary by region and location; nevertheless, you should expect that it might cost you around $150 for old dogs and $300 to $400 for a puppy.

Where to Find Harlequin Great Dane Puppies for Sale?

If you don’t have the faintest idea of where to find a reputable place, an excellent place to start would be from the American Kennel Club’s marketplace. You can check their listing via marketplace.akc.org. As of writing, there are at least 215 Great Dane puppy litters for sale. 

One thing that stands out in their listing is that they have included the breeder distinctions and profile. Take note that even if it is on sale, you should expect that the price is higher due to the breeders’ certifications.

Your next option would be buying from the local breeders.

Here are some local breeders where you can buy a Harlequin Great Dane puppies at a much lower price and contact them:

  1. Olympic Danes (Port Angeles, Washington) – www.olympicdanes.com
  2. PKY Danes (Conroe, Texas) – www.pkydanes.com/
  3. Lancaster Puppies (Dog listings) – www.lancasterpuppies.com
  4. Carolina Great Danes (Kannapolis, North Carolina) – www.carolinagreatdanes.com
  5. Next Day Pets (Dog listings) – www.nextdaypets.com

There’s also a breeder directory from the Great Dane Club of America that you can check out, accessible via www.gdca.org. Here, you can contact the breeders thru phone, email, and website if they have one. 

Where to Find Harlequin Great Dane For Adoption from Rescues and Shelters?

If you prefer adopting instead of buying a pet, then that’s a great choice. You’re also doing good service to the community and the animals. It may be a little tricky and might take you to a long process, but we can assure you that it is much better to adopt if you’re looking to add a new member to your family.

Several rescue organizations might be able to help you out. The Great Dane Club also keep a list of rescue organizations on their website.

Some of these fantastic teams are:

Former adoption home, Dane outreach, are also recommending the following local resources:

Other reputable rescue centers may also help you, such as Vital Puppies HomeAdopt A Pet, and Great Dane Friends.

Most of these organizations work on a regional basis and will be able to help you out in more ways than one. Though, a little patience is required as they do their assessment processes before rehousing a Dane with you.

If you don’t see any rescue centers listed above for your area, you can contact a local breed club. They can help and advise you where you can find reputable adoption places or websites.

Male vs. Female Harlequin Great Dane: What’s the Difference?

There is not much difference between a male and female Harlequin Great Dane. 

Full-grown male Great Dane is taller than the female counterpart by 2 inches. The height difference is very noticeable due to the male dog’s build as they look more muscular. But still, they both have massive size.

When they reach 18 months, the male could reach up to 32 inches while the female is 30 inches, so it is essential to have ample space. 

Female Harlequin Great Dane mature faster and likely to hit maturity than the male Harlequin Great Dane. With this in mind, you can make a female dog attend training schools at an early age. They will be much easier to teach as they take it more seriously because of their maturity. 

But at the same time, they are much moodier than their male counterparts. There can be several reasons why they behave like that, such as pregnancy, or change in hormones. Still, no evidence that proves which gender is more aggressive. 

Male dogs can sometimes be more easy-going and affectionate with their owners and their family. In contrast, female dogs tend to be closed only to only one person in the family.

Final Thoughts

Owning a Harlequin Great Dane is such a joy and welcoming addition to your family. While you could always go with brindles, blacks or blues, a Harlequin would be a unique sight and a beautiful choice for a Great Dane.

Harlequin Great Dane is perfect for families looking for a sweet-natured dog who is also gentle with the kids. 

Unfortunately, it has a short lifespan and susceptible to several health issues. Having a Great Dane can be a blessing, but if you think that you cannot handle all things that come with it, especially with the responsibilities, then maybe you should hold it off.

Nevertheless, with proper care and lots of love, your dog will live longer and have the best time of their life. He or she will repay your affection and effort throughout their lives.

So, educate yourself on the signs and symptoms by consulting with your vet to learn more about your dog’s care and needs.

With that, go ahead and have wonderful times along with your Harlequin.

John Carter

My name is John Carter and I absolutely love pets, especially dogs. I've got a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and have several years’ experience working in animal shelters and rescues. My passion for animals started at a very young age as I grow up on a farm with several horses, cows, cats, chickens, and dogs on our property.

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