Did you know?
Leonbergers are playful and love water. They have even been known to spit water and blow bubbles in their water dishes!
‘Tis sweet to hear the watch dog’s honest bark bay deep-mouthed welcome as we draw near home;
‘Tis sweet to know there is an eye will mark our coming and look brighter when we come. – Lord Byron
Considered to be the oldest German pure breed, the Leonberger or Leo originated in Leonberg, Germany in the mid-1800s.
Leonberg’s Mayor, Heinrich Essig tried to create a large dog that looked like the lion on the town’s crest.
He crossed an ancester of the modern St. Bernard with a Landseer Newfoundland and then introduced other giant breeds including the Great Pyrenees to produce the lion-like appearance. By 1846, the Leonberger was born. The Leo was used as a family, farm, watch, and draught animal and to guard livestock.
The Leonberger dog’s calm and self-assured temperament endears him to all he meets. He even became popular with at the European courts of Napoleon II, Empress Elisabeth of Austria, the Prince of Wales, Otto Von Bismarck, Emperor Napoleon III, and Umberto I of Italy.
The two World Wars almost spelled the end for this beautful breed. Only five Leonbergers survived World War I. The breed was rebuilt only to have World War II take its devastating toll. All Leonbergers today can be traced back to the eight dogs that survived the second world war.
Around the beginning of the 20th century, Leonbergers were imported by the government of Canada for use as water rescue and lifesaving dogs.
Photos displayed courtesy of France Jacob, Beralléo, Quebec
This dog is a true giant. Males can stand up to 31.5 inches (80 cm) at the shoulder and weigh up to 150 pounds (68 kg).
As his name suggests, the Leo is lion-coloured and has a luxurious, weather-proof, double coat. The coat can be lion-yellow, golden to red, red-brown, and sand coloured or any combination of these colours and has black points or tips on the body fur. The Leo’s face has a black mask. True to his name, he has a mane over his neck and chest.
As might be expected of a descendant of Newfoundland dogs, the Leo has webbed feet and is a strong swimmer.
A large and impressive looking dog possessing a friendly, gentle, and open expression, the Leonberger looks to be what he is, a wonderful family companion with a fondness for children. Nicknamed the “gentle lion”, the Leo is extremely family-oriented, playful and kindly. He loves the activity and noise that goes with children in a home. He is content to submit to family members and is calm and collected in the presence of other people. He makes a good watchdog and guardian of his family.
The Leo easily fits in and adapts to a variety of situations. He tolerates other dogs well.
The Leo is loyal, dependable, intelligent, and is easily trained. Proper control and early socialization and training are essential, as this is a giant breed.
Leonbergers happily participate in hiking, running, swimming, and socializing. Although he is lively and enthusiastic in temperament, he is also content to sit at his master’s feet as part of the family unit. Versatile Leos are adept at activities that require strength and gentleness together such as water rescue, carting, agility, tracking, and therapy.
Unfortunately for dog lovers, and as is typical of the giant breeds, Leo’s have a short life span. Canadian surveys put the median life expectancy at 7 years. However, 20% of Leos will live 10 years or more.