Canine Breed Menu

Gentle Lion

Gentle Lion

No Additional Pictures
Breed Organization
Leonberger Club of America
Native Country
Other Names
Leo, Gentle Giant, Leonberger
Life Expectancy
Approximately 8-9 Years
Litter Size
Average 6-8 Puppies
Breed Group
AKC Working
Breed Appearance
The Leonberger is a calm, non-aggressive, large, muscular, working dog with a proud head carriage. He is distinguished by his balanced build, black mask, and double coat. Adult males, in particular, are powerful and strong and carry a lion-like mane on the neck and chest. A dog or bitch is easily discernable as such. For its size, the Leonberger is light on its feet and graceful in motion. Because natural appearance is essential to breed type, the Leonberger is to be shown with no trimming, sculpting or other alterations of the coat.

True to his original purpose as a family, farm and draft dog, today's Leonberger excels as a multi-purpose working dog; the most important task being a reliable family companion. The Leonberger is vigilant, obedient and quietly confident in all situations. He exudes good-natured watchfulness, depicting intelligence and vigor.

-Breed Standard

Breed Description
Head: Fairly narrow, longer than wide. Moderately domed skull. Moderate stop. Slightly aquiline nose bridge (like that of a ram). The muzzle is never pointed. Black, tight lips.
Ears: Set on high, drop, falling flat against the head.
Eyes: Medium size. Light to dark brown color.
Body: Slightly longer than tall. Powerful neck. Deep chest.
Tail: Very richly clad (brush). Carried half down, never too high or curled over the back.
Hair: Medium fine to coarse, thick, long, smooth, lying close to the skin. Presence of undercoat. Beautiful mane on the neck and forechest.
Coat: Lion-colored: fawn, gold yellow or reddish-brown with black mask. A small white spot on the forechest is permissible. Sable with a black overlay is also permissible. The collarettes, trousers (feathering on the back of the legs), culottes, and feathering on the tail may be lighter in color than the rest of the coat.
Size: Dog: 72 to 80 cm Bitch: 65 to 75 cm
Weight: 60 to 80 kg.

This breed is named after a town in Wurtemberg, Germany where it is thought to have existed for many years. Or perhaps it was named after the town of Lowenberg in Switzerland. Some experts believe the Leonberger is descended from the Tibetan Mastiff, while others, believe that H. Essig from the town of Leonberg crossed Newfoundlands, St. Bernards, and Great Pyrenees in 1846, creating the breed. However, it is more likely that this breed is the last descendant of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog , a breed distinct from the St. Bernard. The first standard for the Leonberger was established in 1895, and the FCI established a standard in 1973.

First and foremost a family dog, the Leonberger's temperament is one of its most important and distinguishing characteristics. Well socialized and trained, the Leonberger is self-assured, insensitive to noise, submissive to family members, friendly toward children, well composed with passersby, and self-disciplined when obliging its family or property with protection. Robust, loyal, intelligent, playful, and kindly, they can thus be taken anywhere without difficulty and adjust easily to a variety of circumstances, including the introduction of other dogs.

Leonbergers are strong, generally healthy dogs. Hip dysplasia, which devastates many large breeds, is largely controlled because of the effort of many breeders who actively screen their Leonbergers using x-rays evaluated by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and leave dysplastic specimens out of the gene pool, thereby reducing the risk of bone/joint problems. For over twenty years, breeders belonging to the Leonberger Club of America, which issued pedigrees for the Leonberger breed in America, adhered to many aspects of the German breeding program whereby member kennels may only choose to breed dogs that were certified as three generation free of hip dysplasia. As a likely result, the incidence of hip dysplasia in the breed was reduced to almost 10% and the occurrence of OFA rated "Excellent" hips increased by over 60% in just twenty years. Current incidence rates of hip dysplasia in Leonbergers are likely around 13%. After 2010, when the Leonberger Club of America joined the American Kennel Club, the formerly strict breeding rules are no longer mandatory for all Leonbergers.

Though not common, Leonbergers do inherit and/or develop a number of diseases that range in their impact from mild to devastating. In addition to hip dysplasia, Leonbergers can inherit and/or develop heart problems, Inherited Leonberger Paralysis/Polyneuropathy (ILPN), osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, Osteochondrosis Dissecans, allergies, digestive disorders, cataracts, entropion/ectropion eyelids, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), perianal fistulas, and thyroid disorders. Though rumors persist of Leonbergers being more sensitive to anesthesia than other breeds of dog, they are largely untrue. Leonbergers, like other large breed dogs, require less dosage per pound of sedative than smaller breeds to yield the same effect. The Leonberger Health Foundation, a private nonprofit foundation whose sole mission is to support major researchers who are seeking to identify genetic markers for serious diseases which affect the breed, is currently focusing on osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, and Leonberger Polyneuropathy.

The Leonberger needs exercise and room to run. He does not like to be tied up or left alone. Weekly brushing is sufficient, except during the twice-yearly seasonal shedding, when more frequent brushing is required.

Traditionally, Leonbergers were kept as farm dogs and were much praised for their abilities in watch dog and draft work. They were frequently seen pulling carts around the villages of Bavaria and surrounding districts. Around the beginning of the 20th Century, Leonbergers were imported by the Government of Canada for use as water rescue/lifesaving dogs. The breed continues in that role today, along with the Newfoundland, Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever dogs; they are used at the Italian School of Canine Lifeguard.

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