The Leonberger was first reconginzed in 1846 in Leonberg, Germany. A man named Heinrich Essing wanted a dog that looked like a lion, but had strengths of particular dog breeds. He took the St. Bernard, Newfoundland and Great Pyrenees to form a large, muscular dog. In the 1800’s this breed was imported to Russia where it was owned by the royal family. Like many other dog breeds, they thinned out during the World Wars, but made a comeback and are now gaining in popularity in Europe. The Leonberger arrived in the United State in the 1970’s and has been greatly accepted due to their unique look. This breed has been trained in many areas such as: guarding livestock, search and rescue, water rescue and tracking.
The Leonberger is a massive dog reaching 20-31 inches tall and weighing up to 170 pounds. They have a large muscular body, with huge rectangular heads. The face has a black mask that can cover the eyes but not the entire head. Their ears are medium size and hang down close to the head. One downside is that this breed can be quite drooly. The coat is medium to long in length and is water resistant with a double coat. The colors are yellow, golden to red, red-brown, sand, cream, pale yellow and any combination of the above. Regardless of the coat color, the Leonberger will always have a black mask and black tips on the outer coat. They are known for their “mane” which can take up to 4 years to completely grow. It is more obvious on males than females, but both have them. This breed also has webbed feet!
Known as a gentle giant, the Leonberger is an extremely lively and intelligent breed that is great with children. This breed loves everyone they meet, and is a very sweet and affectionate dog. Because of their massive size, it is very important to train this dog manners such as not jumping on people from a very young age. The Leonberger is much more active and coordinated than other giant breeds.
As with most large breed dogs, the Leonberger is predisposed to hip dysplasia and other skeletal problems. Other issues common with this breed are eyelid defects, bone disease and behavioral issues. The average life expectancy for the Leonberger is 8-9 years.
The Leonberger cannot happily live in an apartment or house with a small yard. This breed needs a large yard where they can use up their energy. The Leonberger thrives in cooler climates so they can be active outdoors, where they love to swim, hike, pull carts and sleds. Make sure that you do not overdo things until your dog is at least 18 month old.
The heavy coat of the Leonberger should be brushed weekly to avoid matting. Special care should be taken to keep the ears clean and dry, especially if the dog is a normal swimmer. This breed sheds heavily during the change of seasons.
- Owned by, Empress Elizabeth of Austria
- Owned by, King Umberto of Italy
- Owned by, Napoleon II
- Owned by, Prince of Wales
- “Buck” in the movie The Call of the Wild: Dog of the Yukon
Click here to view other Breed of the Week posts for dog breed information!