The Leonberger dog breed is rather recent; it was created in the first half of the 19th century by Heinrich Essig. He was a town councillor in the German town of Leonberger, near Stuttgart. His intention was to breed a dog reproducing the lion depicted in the heraldic coat of arms of his town. According to his reports, the black and white Newfoundland, the long-haired Saint Bernard and the Pyrenean mountain dog were used. Later, several Saint Bernard and Pyrenean mountain dog specimens were crossed from the Great Saint Bernard hospice, to which he then sent his own specimens to the hospice, at the request of the monks, who had had their herd decimated by disease. So the origins of the breed are rather nebulous. However, recent cross-breeding has perfected the appearance of the new dog breed.
This theory has been refuted by other canine experts; according to Herbert Schiffmann, some shepherd dogs found in the Caucasian-Alpine areas were used to create the Leonberger.
However, this research was a success, because these imposing dogs combined all the best qualities of the breeds that had been used and became very well known and sold all over the world. That was until the two world wars. With the advent of the two wars and the consequent post-war poverty, very few in Europe could afford to maintain such large and demanding dogs, so their numbers dropped dramatically.
It was only thanks to a few lionberger lovers that this breed was saved from extinction. These few remaining owners joined forces and with commitment developed a new breeding of the breed. And it was thanks to them that today there are numerous dog associations all over the world that breed this fascinating and imposing animal.
It has also been a famous dog; Garibaldi gave a puppy to his Anita and even the Empress of Russia, Elisabeth, i.e. Princess Sissi is said to have owned seven of them.
Character of the Leonberger dog breed
Despite its imposing size, the Leonberger is a good and peaceful dog. It is described as well-balanced, calm and thoughtful, and is very suitable for family life, as it has a real fondness for children in particular. He has a lot of patience and a great sense of responsibility, things that make him a very reliable playmate.
He adapts very well to his family’s needs, becomes an active dog for long walks when necessary, a working dog, very useful in water rescue. In fact, it possesses a natural predisposition towards swimming and water in general. And again it can be a perfect companion dog, in fact this breed develops a deep relationship with its loved ones and for this reason suffers particularly from loneliness. It is not an independent dog and needs to constantly participate in family life. He can, however, also lead a placid and relaxed lifestyle, although he does need some exercise. Ideal for him would be a house with a large garden, where he can romp around.
Due to his never aggressive nor fearful character, he can be taken to everything, despite his size. He adapts and always reacts very calmly to new situations and strangers. In its environment it is an excellent guard dog, very protective of its family.
As far as its upbringing is concerned, this breed does not pose any particular problems; it usually responds very well to commands and is well prepared from the start to submit to its master. It is therefore particularly suitable for those who do not have much experience in dog training, provided it is done consistently and consistently.
As already mentioned, it can be used as a rescue dog; in Austria and Germany it is also used as an avalanche dog. It barks little, but defends the house in times of need, and in the event of a serious threat to its family it can become very dangerous. Because of its peaceful disposition it gets along well with its peers and also with other animals.
Appearance of the Leonberger dog breed
The Leonberger is a giant dog breed, a male at withers can be 80 centimetres tall and weigh up to 75 kilograms. Females are smaller, their height can vary between 65 and 75 centimetres and weight around 60 kilograms. It is an imposing dog, but always elegant, harmonious and well-proportioned; its proud appearance and noble bearing certainly do not go unnoticed.
It is a very robust and muscular dog, with large but well-proportioned bones. Its legs are powerful and muscular, covered in fur with long fringes. Its front end is impressive in size and strength. Its tail is long, and is generally carried slightly curved.
The head is deeper than wide, the muzzle is long, but not pointed. The muzzle, tending to black because of the characteristic black markings, resembles that of a bear, (it is really huge). The ears are triangular and pendulous. The eyes are almond-shaped, have a very sweet expression, and a colour ranging from hazel to dark brown.
Its impressiveness is amplified by its hair; it has so much of it that a veritable mane forms on its neck and chest. The coat is long, medium soft to hard, with a thick undercoat.
The colour of the coat, with the exception of the mask on the muzzle, which is black, and the darker hair tips, ranges from lion yellow tending to brown, red, sand-coloured and all gradations of these colours.
Health and care of the Leonberger dog breed
Unfortunately, the average lifespan of the Leonberger, like all large dogs, is not very long, reaching a maximum of 10 years, which is quite rare. Many specimens die around 5-6 years of age and sometimes even earlier due to two diseases. The first is typical of the breed; it is called hereditary leonberger polyneuropathy, while the second is the so-called 6-year-old sarcoma, which also affects other medium to large breeds. The most common is bone sarcoma. In general, large breeds have a much higher risk of developing it than small breeds.
He may be prone to stomach torsion and hip dysplasia. Its diet should be well balanced, encouraging the consumption of vitamin D and calcium. Being a greedy dog, it has a tendency to put on weight.
With regard to coat care, this is rather demanding and time-consuming. Its long, thick coat needs to be brushed very often to prevent it from curling. Despite the dense coat, the loss of hair is limited to the two annual moults, but during these periods the loss is copious.
Heat is badly tolerated, so it must be kept in the shade and always have fresh water available. Cold, on the other hand, is not a problem, and this animal loves snow. However, it is recommended not to keep it in the rain, as it risks ear infections.