This majestic dog is named after a town in Baden-Wattenburg, Germany. According to legend, the Leonberger was bred through a combination of Newfoundland, St. Bernard and the Great Pyrenees in order to resemble the lion in the town’s crest. We guess some ‘lion’ characteristics are inherent when you take a closer look at the Leonberger.
Leonbergers are quite a versatile breed and excel at guarding livestock, performing search and rescue missions (including water rescue), tracking and last but not least… being a devoted and faithful family companion.
Remarkably, a variety of royal families have owned one of these impressive canines. These include Napoleon II of France, the Prince of Wales, Empress Elizabeth of Austria and Italian King Umberto.
During the world wars throughout the first half of the 20th century, Leonbergers were almost wiped out because people were unable to feed and take care of them. In 1945, the Deutsche Club for Leonberger Hunde located the last remaining Leonbergers and bred them to ensure their survival.
In today’s world, Leonbergers may still be rare but are gaining popularity throughout Europe & United States. The United Kennel Club recognized the Leonberger in 1991.
The main characteristic? Their huge stature of course! You can’t miss one of these pooches in a crowd.
Their second defining feature is their thick mane that looks similar to a lion. For males it can take a few years before their manes are fully developed. For females, the mane is less obvious.
These dogs fur shades can come in light yellow, golden to red/brown with a black mask. The hair located under their tail, throat and front legs tends to be a lighter shade than the rest of their body. In some cases, their chest may be white.
The males average about 74-80cm in height and weigh roughly 59-77kg. Females on the other hand are a tad smaller in stature usually 61-74cm in height and weighing 45-59kg.
Leonbergers tend to be more chilled and relaxed then other dogs. But in saying that, these dogs are huge fans of socialising and love being included in all family outings. Noisy children do not irritate them and these dogs tend to get along with them very well. They would rather be in the same room as you then rather hang out on their own. If you are going for a swim then along they come too, showing off their excellent doggy paddle.
It is possible to train a Leonberger as they are quite intelligent. However, they can be stubborn so strict rules may have to be enforced to ensure obedience!
This particular type of dog breed does not require a great deal of exercise, although daily walks are mandatory. It is recommended that owners show them whose boss! If you are the leader, then act the leader. Otherwise they tend to not be as obedient or listen to instruction.
Although they don’t need much exercise, they should be provided a large back garden to roam freely in.
Leonbergers can be trained to pull carts and sleds once they are fully grown!
Luckily, these dogs don’t tend to shed their hair too much. Although they should be brushed regularly to ensure their loose hairs do not become knotted and/or matted.
The Leonberger does not live as long as other typical household pet dogs. The average lifespan is 8 – 9 years which is typical for dogs their size. Although some have reported Leonbergers living into their teens.
Leonbergers do not suffer from as many health ailments as you would find in other household pet dogs. They can suffer from bone defects and hip dysplasia but the likelihood of this occurring can be reduced if they are fed a healthy and nutritious diet. It is recommended that Leonbergers are checked by a veterinarian for any hip issues as they progress into their elderly years.
A serious condition that Leonbergers can be afflicted with is Gastric Dilation Volvulus which is commonly referred to as ‘Bloat’. Bloat causes the stomach to twist which can potentially be fatal. To offset the chances of this horrible condition occurring, it is best to feed a Leonberger twice a day rather than one large meal.
Other health ailments which have been found in the breed include eyelid defects, cataracts, and polyneuropathy.
Is a Leonberger the right pet for you?
Leonbergers are best suited to a social person and/or family that have a decently sized back yard. Furthermore, they should be able to be taken on walks at least once a day. Apartments are not suited for these type of dogs as they are quite large physically and usually need a place to stretch their legs. They are not fond of being left alone for long periods of time. If you tend to work long hours and no one is at home to keep them company, than this is probably not the dog for you. Due to them carrying around a heavy coat all the time, Leonbergers are more suited to colder climates. Therefore, we would not recommend them to be brought up in places like Hawaii or Thailand!
All in all, if you do decide to adopt a Leonberger, ensure that you acquire one from a reputable breeder with excellent credentials. This will lessen the chance of having a dog that is inbred or suffering from health defects.