The Leonberger is a very large, majestic dog with a medium-sized head and a black mask that ideally extends above the eyebrows. The nose and lips are black. There are no loose flews to collect saliva, so this breed does not drool. The teeth should meet in a tight scissors bite. The skull is somewhat domed. It is important that the brown eyes have a gentle, kindly expression. The hanging ears are medium-sized. The Leonberger's body is a little longer than it is tall. The neck should be elegant and strong with no dewlap. The rough-looking waterproof coat is gently wavy to straight, tawny to reddish-brown, and may have black-tipped hairs on the outer coat. A small white star on the chest and a little white on the tips of the paws are permitted. The Leonberger male's thick mane creates a lion-like impression. (The mane takes several years to develop to its full glory.) The fore and rear legs are feathered and moderately angulated. Rear dewclaws should be removed. The tail is bushy and set low, reaching at least to the hocks; the feet have black pads. The Leonberger has webbing between the toes to aid in swimming. History:
The Leonberger was developed in 1846 in Leonberg, Germany, by Heinrich Essig, one of the city's aldermen, from crosses between the Newfoundland, Great Pyrenees, St. Bernard, and other, unknown breeds. Herr Essig was attempting to create a breed that would closely resemble the lion featured on the town crest. The Leonberger's tawny coloration and thick mane are evidence that Essig succeeded in his quest. To promote his majestic breed, Essig donated many of his dogs to celebrities and royals, including Empress Elizabeth of Austria (who eventually owned several) and King Umberto of Italy. Many Leonbergers were also exported to Russia during the nineteenth century. However, the two world wars almost destroyed the breed, as it was difficult for people to feed these huge animals when food was scarce.
In 1945, at the end of World War II, several Germans gathered together some of the few remaining Leonbergers and reestablished the breed. Today, the Leonberger is once again popular in Europe. More than 25,000 Leonbergers are registered there, although the breed remains rare in the United States. The first Leonberger was imported to the U.S. in 1971; the breed entered the AKC Working group in 2010.
A versatile breed, the Leonberger has been successful in many endeavors, including herding and guarding livestock, obedience, and tracking. German search and rescue teams also use the Leonberger in their work, and the dog has a reputation as a great water-rescue dog. The Leonberger's warm, gentle personality makes him a fine family companion dog.