Height: 25½-31½ in
Weight: 100-170 lbs
Life Span: 8-10 yrs
Coloring: Single, bi- and tri- colors – burnt yellow, pale yellow golden, gold-red, always having a black mask; black points are also common
Area of Origin: Germany
Similar Breeds: Newfoundlander, St. Bernard, Great Pyrenees
History and Origin:
Developed in Leonberg, Germany, in the mid nineteenth century, the first Leonbergers were bred from mixing Newfoundlander, St. Bernard, and Great Pyrenees blood to give the appearance of a lion, the animal on Leonbergs coat of arms. The Leonberger is an all-around working breed, used as a herder, guard dog, and draught dog (for pulling equipment and supplies). It enjoyed widespread popularity across Europe as a family-oriented farm dog, however it risked extinction after the World Wars. After World War II it was so rare that it took intentional initiative from a group of Leonberger enthusiasts to begin rebuilding the breed that they loved. It came to North America in the 1970s, and has found success in search & rescue, tracking, and obedience trials, in addition to being a wonderful family companion.
Personality and Temperament:
The Leonberger is bright, brave, and lively; it loves its family and is extremely dependable. It is fantastic with children and has unparalleled patience. Calm and stoic, the Leonberger is more likely to walk away from a confrontation than fight. It is eager to please and is attentive to its owner, but needs strong leadership. This breed is very sensitive to the emotions of its family, and may try to interfere if an argument gets too heated. The Leonberger can get extremely attached to its people, and is best suited for an active family that wants to include the dog in their lives. It is very good around other animals, including cats and horses, and is completely at home around livestock.
Exercise & Training:
As a working breed, the Leonberger is an extremely active and energetic breed that has seen a lot of success in obedience trials and agility. It requires extensive exercise to avoid it becoming bored, and should have a large yard to run and play in. It is a highly trainable breed, and its devotion to its owner makes it a pleasure to work with. It does need a strong alpha leader who is consistent but gentle; this leadership, along with proper socialization, will allow the Leonberger to blossom into a well-adjusted, active member of the family. As it is a large working breed with strong instincts, the Leonberger is not an ideal breed for a nervous or first time owner.
For most of the year, the Leonberger requires weekly brushing to keep its long coat tangle-free. It sheds heavily twice a year in spring and fall, and requires extensive grooming during these periods to help remove clumps of undercoat and keep the skin healthy.
The Leonberger is most closely related to the St. Bernard, the Newfoundlander, and the Great Pyrenees, all of them integral to the development of this giant breed. These mountain dog breeds were likely influenced by the ancient Tibetan Mastiff, and through it, the Leonberger has some shared ancestry with the Molossian breeds such as the English Mastiff, Cane Corso, and Dogue de Bordeaux.
Interesting Facts about the Leonberger:
1. Among its common nicknames are Leo, Gentle Lion, and the Gentle Giant.
2. As the Leonberger possesses some different physical characteristics to the three breeds from which it is descended (St. Bernard, Newfoundlander, Great Pyrenees), there are theories that a wolf-dog hybrid was used at some point to give the Leo a narrower and longer face than the other three dogs.
3. Many members of European royalty have owned the Leonberger, including Napoleon III of France, Edward VII of England, Umberto of Italy, and Elisabeth of Austria.