Leonberger is a giant package of hair and love. It’s an eternally loyal family breed that will win your heart forever.
Do you know the expression “gentle giant”? That’s Leonberger. Once a fairly common breed at least in a part of Europe, its numbers are plummeting due to the breeds high demands on space and care.
History of Leonberger
Leonberger is a relatively recent breed. In the 1830s, in the town of Leonberg, Germany, the councilman Heinrich Essig just decided to create a new breed that would bear a notable resemblance to the lion from the town’s coat of arms.
First, he bred a Landseer with a long-haired St. Bernard, after four generations he added the Pyrenean Mountain Dog. The first dogs registered as Leonbergers were born in 1846.
Both World Wars were disastrous for the breed that came very near extinction. Only five dogs survived the first war and eight dogs were the survivors of the second one. During the breed’s revival the Newfoundlands were added into the equation and gave the leongergers their typical mask and black marks.
Since the world wars the leonbergers were used for pulling carts. Their talent for guarding people and their property was known even before and later they started being used also as rescue dogs.
In 1955, Leonberger was recognized by the FCI and only in June of 2020 by the AKC.
Appearance, Temperament and Health
Appearance of Leonberger
Height: 72–80 cm/28–31 in (dogs), 65–75 cm/26–30 in (bitches)
Weight: 40 – 80 kg/88 – 176 lb
Leonberger is a giant breed. The dogs are tall, muscular yet still elegant. The head is relatively wide, the muzzle also but not too short. The ears are set high and framing the face. Legs are long and the body strong but not barrel-like. Paws are wide and strong with webs between the fingers that help the dogs swim.
Leonbergers have a very typical expression, their faces project calmness and intelligence.
One of Essig’s goals was to create dogs with a lion-like mane. This feature is notable especially in the males. Leonbergers also have fringes on the limbs and a very fluffy tail.
Another feature very distinctive of Leonbergers is their coat color. The Leonberger coat is very thick with two layers and of golden to red color with black face mask, black marks and often also a white mark on the chest.
The breed’s distinguishing temperament make Leonberger an ideal family dog. They are intelligent, calm, self-confident but obedient of family members. They have a very high threshold of noise-sensitivity and they usually love children. They are very good watch dogs and although they don’t bark excessively, they won’t let strangers enter the property.
Although Leonbergers like being outside, they need the company of their families and many of them will want to spend the night indoors. They are so protective of their family that if you go for a walk and a part of the family splits to walk a few meters behind, the dog will try to keep you all in one group.
Leonbergers are easy to teach basic orders, some of them can undergo even some form of advanced training. They are fast learners and don’t need high training intensity. They are also fairly easy to socialize.
The average life expectancy of the breed is around 9 years, in some countries even less. However, there are Leonbergers that live 10 years or longer.
Leonbergers need to be checked for hip dysplasia and as with any large breed, healthy diet is of extreme importance. Young dogs shouldn’t be forced to prolonged physical activity and even adult dogs aren’t suitable for sports.
However, Leonbergers need activity, they will enjoy longs walks and water.
Why are Leonbergers relatively rare nowadays?
The breed has seen brighter days when it comes to demand. So why is it that we see less of these wonderful dogs than years ago? It is due to the breed’s demand on care, space and food. Leonbergers need plenty of high-quality food, a garden to call their own and general care which includes everyday coat care. And we mustn’t forget about the veterinary care.
However, if you decide to get a Leonberger and give it all the love and care, you will have a most loyal and loving companion that would gladly give its life for you.
Do you have a Leonberger? Let us know why you chose the gentle giant!
2 thoughts on “Leonberger”
We bought a pedigreed Leonberger because we went to a specialty Leonberger show with about 70 Leos. Nobody barked, except one companion corgi. Many Leos were outside their crates, including intact, breeding males, but there were no problems, no hostility or wandering or untoward behavior–all gentle dogs, all friendly and charming. Needless to say, they’re beautiful and cuddly creatures, great family members, almost immune to noise, love to swim, protective of family, bright, afraid of nothing, and often funny. Our’s is recently deceased at 9 yrs./2 mos. He was the best dog we’ve ever had and we miss him terribly. Yes, they shed like yaks and take a lot of grooming, so your housekeeping will increase, vetting will be more expensive, and you might need a bigger car. In warm climates, they might need an air conditioner because they’re generally not very comfortable when the temp goes over 65F. They like to sleep outside in subzero weather. Ours was such a good swimmer (webbed feet) that he left a wake!
Thank you for your comment, that is exactly my experience with leos. Incredibly calm and friendly, unless their family is at risk. Our leonberger was a great swimmer as well.