It is reported that the Great Dane was developed from mastiff-like dogs taken to Germany by the Alans. According to Barbara Stein, "The breed originated in Germany, probably from a cross between the English mastiff and the Irish Wolfhound." However, other sources maintain that the breed originated in Denmark and still others report the question as controversial and unsettled. In 1749 Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon used the name "le Grand Danois," (translated by William Smellie as "Great Dane"). Up until that time the hound was referred to in England as "Danish dog." According to Jacob Nicolay Wilse the Danes called the dog "large hound," a terminology continued well in to the 20th century. As late as in the 1780 Germany the hound is referred to as "Grosser Dänischer Jagdhund" (English: Large Danish Hunting Hound). At the first dog exhibition, held in Hamburg 14–20 July 1863, eight dogs were called "Dänische Dogge" and seven "Ulmer Doggen."
In Germany, Great Danes were used to hunt wild boar. Upon the breed's arrival in America in the late 1800's, Great Danes and other large hunting breeds were often referred to as Boar Hounds.