What is a harlequin Great Dane? (Complete guide & facts)

The Harlequin Great Dane is a rare variation of the 7 recognized Great Dane colors. This Harlequin coat pattern has a white base color with irregular and random black secondary patches. The Harlequin Great Dane pattern results from the Merle (M) gene mutation.

These dogs have large bodies weighing up to 175 pounds like other Great Dane.

With that said, keep in mind that the Harlequin Great Dane is not a separate breed as Harlequin is only a pattern.

Here is a complete list of the Great Dane colors and types.

Harlequin Danes puppies are often confused with Dalmatians due to the coat coloration but it’s worth noting that the Harlequin Great Dane has torn patches and the Dalmatian is made up of spots.

So what makes this Dane variation unique? Stick with us to learn why.

Harlequin Great Dane information

The Harlequin Great Dane color is an alternate color to Merle and one of the most identifiable color variations.

As mentioned earlier, this dog should have a white base color with irregular black patches well distributed throughout the dog’s body.

The uniqueness of this coat is made more interesting by the fact that no Harlequin Great Dane can be identical to the other.

This Harlequin Apollo of all dogs also has additional characteristics with some being deemed preferable.

Here are some of the main characteristics; 

  • Black patches should not be too large.
  • The patches should be balanced and not too many nor too few and can appear on the legs and chest as well.
  • These patches should be torn (have jagged edges) and should not be rounded.
  • A Harlequin Great Dane with a white neck is preferred.
  • It is preferred that no black hairs should show through the white base coat color.
  • This color variation may also have merle patches.

You can also get a mismarked Harlequin Dane giant but this should not be an issue if you don’t plan to show your Great Dane.

But what is the reason behind this rare coloration? Genetics 

Great Dane price

Harlequin Great Danes genetics

Several studies show this Harlequin Dane color is brought about by mutation of the Merle gene (M) in Great Danes. We could not be having these Harlequin giants without the merle gene.

To get a Harlequin Dane, both the dogs need one or two copies of the mutated Merle gene. This dilutes the base color with dark patches on the top. Also, this pattern cannot be expressed in Danes with red pigmentation or that are not marle.

It is also suggested that you can get a Harlequin Dane by breeding a Merle and Blue Great Dane.

Learn more about the Blue Great Dane.

However, the breeding of a Merle/Harlequin with a mantle Great Dane produces the largest number of show-marked harlequins.

Breeding two Harlequin Great Dane

Breeding two Harlequin Great Danes is highly discouraged as there are several health issues related to this. Doing this results in white puppies that often end up deaf or blind.

Mating 2 Harlequins does not also guarantee Harlequin puppies.

Even when harlequin offsprings are produced in a litter, there will be pups with other colors as 556 n the parents carry other color genes such as black, fawn, and so on.

For example, a litter of 7 puppies may have 1 to 2 merle pups, 2 to 3 harlequin pups, 2 white puppies (probably deaf), and 2 black or mantle pups.

6 Harlequin Dane Fun Facts

  1. This dog can also be referred to as the Harlequin Apollo of all dogs or Harlequin Gentle Giant.
  2. These dogs originated from Germany and not Denmark as the name may seem to suggest.
  3. They were once used to hunt and take down wild boars.
  4. These canines friends grow fast and can reach 100 pounds within 6 months.
  5. Harlequin Danes may be large but they are super gentle, a trait that was bred into them hence the name Gentle giants.
  6. They have one of the shortest lifespans of between 7 and 10 years. This applies to all Great Dane colors.

Pros and cons


✓ Gentle and great with children.

✔ Love to snuggle.

Good looking.

✔ Great watchdog.

✓ Low grooming needs.


✘ Not suitable for apartment living.

✗ Short lifespan.

✘ Get tangled up easily.

✗ They shed.

Harlequin Great Dane characteristics and appearance

Harlequin Great Dane summary table
Height Males: 30 to 32 inches, Females: 28 to 30 inches
Weight Males: 140 to 175 pounds, Females: 110 to 140 for females
Lifespan 7 to 10 years
Breed Type Mastiff
Purpose companion dog
Suitable For families
Grooming requirements moderate grooming
Color Variations White base color with Darker patches
Health concerns Bloat, Congenital Deafness, Autoimmune Thyroiditis, Hypothyroidism
Temperament friendly, patient, dependable, moderately playful, affectionate
Other Names Harlequin gentle giants, Harlequin Apollo of dogs

Height and weight

The Harlequin Great Dane is a giant dog breed.

  • Male Harlequin Danes can stand between 30 and 32 inches and weigh between 140 and 175 pounds.
  • Female Harlequin Danes can stand between 28 and 30 inches and weigh between 110 and 140 pounds.

The physical appearance

Apart from the color, one of this dog’ most notable features is his muscular body.

This dog should have a massive and flat head that is narrow at the top with long and strong necks.

The ears are floppy and eyes heavenly and quirky. These eyes come in a variety of colors ranging from blue, brown, and dark brown. In other cases, the eyes can be colored differently (heterochromia).

This dog is born with a pink nose that changes to black as he grows up.

Great dane Harlequin

Coat appearance and shedding

This dog should have a short and smooth coat that sheds moderately throughout the year.

Unfortunately, the Harlequin is also not great for allergy sufferers since he is not hypoallergenic.

Looking for a hypoallergenic dog, check out our list of  hypoallergenic dogs.


As I mentioned earlier, the Harlequin Great Dane should have a white base coat color with torn black patches.

However, some Great Danes may be colored differently and include the following;

Merle Harlequin

This is a Great Dane with both the mutated Harlequin gene and a merle gene giving him a peculiar appearance.

He has a white base coat with merle-torn patches.

Blue Harlequin

Blue Harlequin Great Danes offspring come from breeding of Harlequin and Blue Great Danes.

This dog has a white base color with blue patches and blue eyes. The blue patches should be steel blue.

What is a Merlequin Great Dane?

A Merlequin Great Dane is a Dane that is double merle (MM) and not harlequin (hh). This Merlequin Dane is also known as a Merlekin and can produce Harlequin pups if mated with a Mantle Great Dane that carries the Harlequin gene.

Harlequin Great Dane temperament

The harlequin gene does not affect the temperament or any traits of the Great Dane. He still retains his endearing and gentle personality forgetting that he is a big dog.

These dogs may be large but they love to cuddle and snuggle on the couch although they do not always fit.

They love adventure, lazing around, and having fun.

With that said, you should note that the Harlequin is an outdoor dog and is not suitable for apartment dwellers.

They are also great watchdogs and will alert you when things aren’t right with their sheer barks.

Is the Harlequin Gentle Giant a good family dog?

The Harlequin Great Dane is an exceptional family dog with one obvious downside, his sheer size. He is great with children but supervision will be necessary during play.

Also, if you have no experience handling large dogs, this canine friend may be a bit too imposing.

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between Merle and Harlequin Great Danes?

The main difference between Merle and Harlequin is the base coat color. Merle Great Danes have a greyish base color with colored patches while the Harlequin Great Dane has a white base color with dark patches. The patches on a Merle Great Dane can be dark or light-colored.

Why are Harlequin Great Danes more expensive?

Harlequin is a unique and popular Great Dane coloration making them a more expensive Great Dane variation.

Are Harlequin Great Danes high maintenance?

In terms of grooming, the Harlequin Great Dane is low maintenance but is high maintenance in terms of exercise and feeding. Harlequin Great Danes will need regular exercise and eat a lot due to their massive size.

How long do Harlequin Great Danes live?

Harlequin Great Danes have one of the shortest dog lifespans. These Harlequin Danes live for between 7 and 10 years with a few reaching the age of 12 years.

Do all Harlequin Great Danes have blue eyes?

Not all Harlequin Great Danes have blue eyes, others may have dark or brown eyes. Blue eyes are, however, common in Blue Harlequin Great Danes with some Harlequin Danes having different-colored eyes.

The harlequin Great Dane guide

How much do Harlequin Great Danes cost?

A Harlequin Great Dane puppy will cost you anywhere between $1000 to upwards of $2500. This cost can vary from one breeder to another and depending on your location and pedigree.

Visit our guide on the cost of a Great Dane where we go into detail on all the costs that a Great Dane owner may incur.

Litter size:

Between 7 and 10 puppies.

These puppies grow fast and can reach 100 pounds within 6 months and continue growing even after 2 years.

Harlequin Great Dane care guide

1. Grooming needs

The Harlequin Great Dane has low grooming needs.

However, you will need to brush the coat at least 3 times a week to minimize shedding and to maintain the coat’s sheen.

Bathing this dog can be a challenge and it would be advisable that you seek the help of a professional groomer. This should be after every 6 weeks.

The floppy ears will also need to be checked and cleaned every 2 weeks.

You should also remember to keep the nails short and to maintain the dog’s dental hygiene.

2. Exercise requirements

Daily exercises such as walks could help keep the dog in a healthy condition.

30 to 45 minutes of exercise should be enough for this dog. They can play in the yard as a form of exercise as long as it is fenced.

This dog also enjoys daily walks to the dog park and hikes of about 2 miles.

You should not over-exercise this dog, especially in the pup stage when his bones are still developing rapidly.

3. Feeding requirements

One thing that you will need to consider when feeding your dog is weight.

A general rule of thump is giving the dog about 30 calories for every pound of his weight. Puppies may need to be fed on slightly more to keep up with their energy needs.

Harlequin Great Dane Daily Food Consumption
Calories 2700
Cups of Kibble 🍗🍗🍗🍗🍗🍗

This dog is also prone to bloat and you should, therefore, split the meals into 3 or 4 daily portions.

You will need to ensure the diet is made up mostly of meat proteins.

Known health concerns

Some of the common health issues that this dog is susceptible to are;

  • Bloat
  • Congenital Deafness
  • Autoimmune Thyroiditis
  • Hypothyroidism

Breed summary

The Harlequin Great Dane is a massive, unique, and great-looking dog.

However, he is also prone to several health issues such as bloat and will need you to feed him on a balanced to ensure that he stays healthy.

This dog will also need a lot of love, some tasty treats for good behavior and adventure to help him stay active.

There you go, WOOF!

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