Leonberger Character |
History of the Leonberger | Is
the Leonberger right for You and Your Family? - Buying
a Leonberger Puppy | I am your Puppy |
AKC Breed Standard
The Leonberger was originally breed to resemble a lion
and it is indeed considered a lion among dogs. The Leonberger
is known to be a faithful, intelligent, and a friendly
dog who adores the company of children. The Leo dislikes
being alone and thrives where they are loved and part of
the family circle. It is their lively, fun-loving devotion
to their family that makes them a true family dog. Also
referred to as the "Gentle Giant", the Leonberger
is considered man's best friend where ever they may be...
land or water. Leos are known to excel in water work and
work as enthusiastically as they play. At the same time,
Leos are just as content in the living room surrounded
by their family.
Their temperament is calm, loving, and friendly taking
all situations in stride. The Leonberger often can be head
strong which requires proper training and socialization
as a puppy and well into adulthood. Although they are considered
the "Gentle Giants", their power and size requires
proper socialization and training as early as 8 weeks until
they reach maturity. And this breed doesn't reach maturity
until 3 years of age! Socialization with people, multiple
environments, and other dogs is paramount for a Leonberger
to live up to his full potential.
Yes, Leos shed especially in the spring! Don't be fooled
by beautiful pictures of this magnificent breed with glistening
groomed coats, because the Leo adores the mud. From his
Newfoundland heritage, the Leonberger has inherited his
webbed feet and love of water, but in the absence of a
suitable body of water any mud puddle will suffice. Your
home and yard can easily become a muddy mess!
The decision to bring a Leo into your home as a family
member should not be made lightly. Research the breed and
breeder before making such a commitment. They require patient,
consistent love combined with positive reinforcement, as
well as regular exercise and proper socialization. If all
of these needs have been met, there is no doubt; the Leonberger
can become an intricate member of your family.
History of the Leonberger
The background of the Leonberger is a very clouded one,
full of mysteries and turbulent tales. Many things have
been written, sometimes accounts contradicted others, and
little proof has been given for many of the stories. It
was not until the early part of the 20th century that litters
were registered and records were kept.
To start at the beginning, we go back to the early years
of the 19th century. In Leonberg, a small rural town 20
km northwest of Stuttgart in Wurttemberg (Germany) Heinrich
Essig was born in 1809. He turned out to be a very ambitious
man, and he became a very prominent citizen, elected to
the town council and possessing a strong talent for marketing
and trading. His greatest passion was for all kinds of
animals and his house (Schwyzerhaus) was more like a private
little zoo, with all kinds of dogs, foxes, turkeys, peacocks
and so on.
This account was written of Essig's creation of the Leonberger: "Amongst
his dogs there was a black and white Newfoundland female
(Landseer type). He crossed her with a longhaired Barry-dog
(St. Bernard) he owned also. He crossed them for 4 generations,
out crossed again with a Pyrenean Wolfhound (Pyrenean Mountain
Dog) crossed again with a St. Bernard". There is,
however, no proof that this is in fact what was done and
that there were no other dogs involved. Essig started breeding
in 1846, which is the date we now attribute to be the birth
of the Leonberger.
In an article in the "Illustrierte Zeitung",
dated November 1865, there is mention that Essig had 17
years of breeding experience. In another paper (Illustrierte
Handwerkers Zeitung Nummer 10 Jahrgang 1870) Th. Haring
writes a story of a dog breeder in Leonberg (Essig) where
Essig claimed that he had been breeding dogs for about
20-24 years. In the same article, the dogs mentioned are
Leonberger or Gotthard dog and a picture was published
to show to readers what they looked like.
Large impressive dogs were very much in demand and there
were years that Essig exported more than 300 dogs. The
St. Bernard was very much in favor, but had become very
rare. In fact, after a catastrophe in 1855, there was only
one couple left at the St. Bernard pass. These dogs were
crossed with Newfoundland females from Stuttgart, other
local dogs, and English breeders crossed them with Mastiffs
to obtain a more powerful head.
So, it is quite logic[al] that sometimes Leonbergers were
announced as a new breed with the old St. Bernard blood.
We see pictures of what appear to be Leonbergers under
the names Berghund, Alpine Mastiff, St. Bernard, Leonhardiner
and so on. However, to add more confusion, sometimes St.
Bernards were presented with these same names. By the way,
according to records by the Monastery at the St.Bernard
pass it seems that the name St. Bernard was used for the
first time at the Show in Birmingham in 1862. As member
of the town-council Essig was not only able to promote
the town of Leonberg but could also do a lot of marketing
for his dogs. By donating Leonbergers to royalty and other
celebrities like Garibaldi, the Prince of Wales, King Umberto
of Italy, The Czar of Russia, and Empress Elisabeth of
Austria, he became very well known and he could easily
sell more of his dogs. At one time, Empress Elisabeth possessed
It was quite normal that a successful businessman was
imitated. Since a written standard did not exist, and therefore
one could call every dog a Leonberger, many more breeders
or dog-merchants went into business. A well-known trader
in Leonberg was Mr. Burger; Mr. Bergmann, in Waldheim,
promoted his Casar in papers and magazines; and Mr. Otto
Friedrich, in Zahna, publicized his Berghund Moulon.
As sales of Leonbergers flourished, the official cynologists
tried to ban these breeders from shows because they believed
it was unethical to produce dogs only for the money.
Sometimes things were very confusing. For example, Mr.
Essig wrote in 1882, "My nephew will show three dogs
in the Hanover dog show. If they are judged as St. Bernard,
Leonberger or Newfoundland is of no importance to him."
A woodcut of a dog named Caesar was published in "Der
Gartenlaube", 1885. It was probably this Ceasar that
got a prize of honor at the 1880 Berlin Dog Show as "long-haired
Alp Dog". At another dog show, an English judge found
him a marvelous St. Bernard, while Dr. Kunzli, a St. Bernard-expert,
thought him to be a beautiful Leonberger.
In a sales brochure from Mr. Friedrich in which he gives
a description of all the breeds he sells we find under
chapter 6: "Der Berghund (former St. Bernard)",
a pompously ode on the Berghund and a nice drawing of Caesar.
In chapter 8 he describes in a few sentences "Der
Leonberger or Boblinger Hund". Even in the 20th century
(1908) we find a reference to the Leonberger or Boblinger
Hund by the Italian cynologist F. Faelli.
Today we know that there must be more dogs involved than
the ones with which Essig claims he started the breed.
Modern genetics tells us that is impossible to create the
Leonberger from the 3 breeds as described. In old photos
we see black and white dogs, black dogs, red or yellow
colored dogs--all said to be Leonbergers.
As said before Essig had his little private zoo. At the
height of his career he was selling up to 300 puppies a
year. Essig was helped a lot by his niece Marie, who practically
did all the kennelwork. Later a relative, perhaps the nephew
Essig mentioned once, took over the kennel. Essig died
in 1889. It was in the early 1880's that some breeding
rules were written by Kull (a painter from Stuttgart) and
a Mr. Boppel from Cannstatt. He was a judge and also a
breeder of St. Bernard. It was after Essig and Burger in
Leonberg died that the first Leonberger Clubs were founded.
The Leonberger Klub Berlin began in 1891 and Klub fur Leonberger,
Heilbronn in1895. These two clubs probably did not exist
for very long, because in 1895 the "Internationaler
Klub fur Leonberger Hunde Stuttgart" was founded.
The International Club President was Albert Kull and he
created the first standard for the Leonberger. In 1901
the "Nationaler Leonberger Klub, Apolda (Thuringen)" was
also founded. These two clubs were still active in 1904
when they were mentioned in Count van Bylandt "Dogs
Encyclopedia". If we look at the portraits from this
era, we see that the type has improved as a result of the
breeding rules and the written standard (or it may be just
a bunch of well-selected pictures.) The type is more uniform
and the almost white dogs are gone. Leonbergers were no
longer a bunch of different dogs but an official breed
and again quite popular. They did very well on shows and
had their own specialized judges. They were not unknown
in Holland, France, Austria and Bohemia.
Also in 1901, there was the "Internationaler Klub
fur Rottweiler und Leonberger, Stuttgart", followed
in 1907/1908 by the "Leonberger-Klub Heidelberg".
Our guess is that the Heidelberg Club existed until perhaps
after World War I. (1914-1918). WW I turned out to be a
real catastrophe for the Leonberger. All written records
were destroyed, not only from the Apolda club, but also
from the International Klub.
Following the war, it is due to Stadelmann and Josenhans
that we have our Leonbergers today. Stadelmann started
from zero with his breeding records.
The two men tracked down Leonbergers, sometimes with unknown
and sometimes partially known ancestors. They found approximately
30 dogs and with about 6 males and 6 females, they began
breeding in 1922/1923. Following a lot of hard work, Leonberger
number 342 was registered in 1927. They founded the "Leonberger
Hunde Club Leonberg" in 1922 but the Club was renamed
by the Reich in 1933 in "Fachschaft fur Leonberger
Hunde" and kept that name until after WW II (1940-1945).
During this war, breeding continued and even after the
war there were some litters. In 1945, there were 22 puppies
registered and in1947, 27 were registered.
After the war, rivalry struck. The "Fachschaft fur
Leonberger Hunde" was renamed to "Verein fur
Leonberger Hunde" and in 1947 the "Club fur Leonberger
Hunde" was established. Both clubs considered the
other an enemy, which was a pity. People on both sides
had brought the Leonberger through the tough times of the
war. In the fifties, the "Verein" no longer existed.
The "Club fur Leonberger Hunde" added "Deutscher" to
the front of its name in 1948 and is still going strong
After WW II the committee leaded by Hans Weigelschmidt
as President and Albert Kienzle as Secretary worked very
hard to rebuild the breed. One of the first things they
did was to revise the German standard. The rather long
(but well commented) standard of 1895 was shortened. The
height of the dogs was brought down to at least 76 cm.
for males and to 70 cm. for females. (It previously has
been at least 80 cm for males and 70 cm. for females).
In the 60s the standard was again revised and the heights
were now changed to 72 cm.minimum, and 80 cm. maximum for
males and 65 cm. minimum with 74 cm. maximum for females.
Unfortunately this revised standard was never taken to
the FCI, so we had German judges that were judging according
their standard, and the international judges who were using
the FCI standard with the old heights. This caused some
trouble between France and Germany, because France had
always defended the standard of 1895.
After Weigelschmidt's death Dr. Herbstreith took over
as President, and Otto Lehman became later secretary. In
1964 Robert Beutelspacher was in charge of the breeding
records, and in 1968 introduced the first European breed-book.
He became president Of the DCLH in 1974, but in the meantime
had discovered that there were in fact 2 standards. One
of the first things Robert Beutelspacher did, as President
was to take the German standard to the FCI so at least
every judge would be working with the same standard. After
Robert Beutelspacher death in 1991 Gerhard Zerle became
President of the DCLH.
Edited by Metha Stramer
Is a Leo right for you and your family? Before Buying your
As with any expensive purchase, buying a Leonberger puppy
requires a great deal of forethought. You must consider
the care, attention and exercise required, also the costs
of feeding and medical care. Remember, like most things
in life, that purchasing a pet has both an up side and
a down side. Playing ball with your dog in the park is
FUN; stopping and scooping poop is NOT.
Getting a pet is not a decision to be taken lightly. Some
of the questions your entire family should first resolve
- Who will feed and walk your Leonberger everyday?
- Do you have the time and desire to train a dog?
- Can you afford the cost of food and vet bills?
- What happens to your Leonberger when you go on vacation?
- Can your home accommodate this giant breed? Will
you share your home?
- Are you prepared for an 8-10 year commitment?
Dogs have feelings too. A visit to your local Humane Society
will soon impress upon you what happens to man's best friend
when they are acquired in haste. Please, for the dog’s
sake, do not make this mistake!
I am Your Puppy
I am your Puppy and I will love you until the end of the
Earth, but please know a few things about me…..
I am a Puppy; I will chew EVERYTHING I can get my teeth
on. This is how I explore and learn about the world. Even
HUMAN children put things in their mouths. It's up to you
to guide me.
I am a Puppy I cannot hold my bladder for longer than
1 - 2 hours. I cannot "feel" that I need to poop
until it is actually beginning to come out. I cannot vocalize
nor tell you that I need to go, and I cannot have "bladder
and bowel control" until 6 - 9 months. Do not punish
me if you have not let me out for 3 hours and I tinkle.
It is your fault.
As a Puppy, it is wise to remember that I NEED to go potty
after eating, sleeping, playing, and drinking and around
every 2 - 3 hours. If you want me to sleep through the
night, then do not give me water after 7 or 8 p.m. A crate
will help me learn to housebreak easier, and will avoid
you being mad at me.
I am a Puppy I like to play. I will run around, and chase
imaginary monsters, and chase your feet and your toes and
'attack' you, chase other pets, and small kids. It is play;
it's what I do best! Do not be mad at me or expect me to
be sedate, mellow and sleep all day. If my high energy
level is too much for you, maybe you could consider an
older rescue from a shelter or Rescue group. My play is
beneficial, use your wisdom to guide me in my play with
appropriate toys, and activities like chasing a rolling
ball, or gentle tug games, or plenty of chew toys for me.
If I nip you too hard, talk to me in "doggie talk",
by giving a loud YELP, I will usually get the message,
as this is how dogs communicate with one another. If I
get too rough, simply ignore me for a few moments, or calmly
put me in my crate with an appropriate chew toy.
I am a Puppy hopefully you would not yell, hit, strike,
kick or beat a 6-month-old human infant, so please do not
do the same to me. I am delicate, and also very impressionable.
If you treat me harshly now, I will grow up learning to
fear being hit, spanked, kicked or beat. Instead, please
guide me with encouragement and wisdom. For instance, if
I am chewing something wrong, say, "No chew!" and
hand me a toy I CAN chew. Better yet, pick up ANYTHING
that you do not want me to get into. I can't tell the difference
between your old sock and your new sock, or an old sneaker
from your $200 Nikes.
I am a Puppy, and I am a creature with feelings much like
you, but yet also very different. I truly DO want to please
you, and be a part of your family, and your life. You got
me because you want a loving partner and companion so do
not relegate me to the backyard when I get bigger, do not
judge me harshly but instead mold me with gentleness and
guidelines and training into the kind of family member
you want me to be.
I am a Puppy and I am not perfect, and I know you are
not perfect either. I love you anyway. So please, learn
all you can about training, and puppy behaviors and caring
for me from your veterinarian, books on dog care and even
researching on the computer! Learn about my particular
breed and it's "characteristics", it will give
you understanding and insight into WHY I do all the things
I do. Please teach me with love, patience, the right way
to behave and socialize me with training in a puppy class
or obedience class, we will BOTH have a lot of fun together.
I am a Puppy and I want more than anything to love you,
to be with you, and to please you. Won't you please take
time to understand how I work? We are the same you and
I, in that we both feel hunger, pain, thirst, discomfort,
fear, but yet we are also very different and must work
to understand one anther's language, body signals, wants
and needs. Someday I will be a handsome dog, hopefully
one you can be proud of and one that you will love as much
as I love you.
I am a Puppy accidents WILL happen, please be patient
with me! In time I will learn.
Love, Your Puppy Adapted from J Ellis 2000
AKC Leonberger Breed Standard, 2009
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.
SIZE, PROPORTION, SUBSTANCE
Size: A mature (18 months) male, when measured at the withers, is 28 to 31.5 inches in height at the highest point of the shoulder blades (30 inches preferred). The mature (18 months) female is 25.5 inches to 29.5 inches (27.5 inches preferred). Weight is in proportion to the overall size and structure. When proportion, substance, and balance are present, a slight deviation above standard is tolerated.
Proportion: Height is measured at the withers; body length is measured from point of shoulder to point of buttocks. Desired proportion of height at withers to length of body is 9 to 10. The depth of chest is ideally 50 percent of the height at withers; brisket reaches to elbow. The angulation of front and rear quarters is in balance. Overall balance and proportion are equally as important as size.
Substance: Bone is medium to heavy and in proportion to size of body with sufficient muscle to support frame.
The head, in its entirety, is deeper than it is broad, rectangular shaped. The length of muzzle to length of back skull is approximately equal, with no wrinkles, and cheeks are only slightly developed. Males have a strong masculine head while female heads express femininity.
Expression/Mask: A good-natured, soft, and intelligent expression is required. Face is covered with a full black mask that extends from the nose up to and over the eyes. A lesser mask is acceptable, but not desirable.
Eyes: Dark brown is preferred over light brown. Eyes are medium size, oval to almond shaped, neither deep-set nor protruding, neither too close together nor too wide apart. Eyelids are close fitting, not showing any haw.
Ears: When alert, ears are level with top of skull and set slightly forward. Ears are of medium size, triangular, fleshy, hanging flat and close to the head. Tip of ears are level with corners of the mouth.
Skull: As seen from the front and in profile, backskull is slightly arched. Skull is slightly longer than wide and the width of back skull is only slightly broader than it is at the eyes.
Stop: Clearly recognizable and moderately defined. Muzzle: Rather long, never running to a point, nasal bridge of even breadth, can be slightly arched (Roman nose) or level; never dipped. The jaw remains broad and strong between the canines.
Planes: As seen from the side, the planes of muzzle and skull are parallel; planes rather close as defined by the moderate stop.
Nose: Large with clearly outlined nostrils, always black. Lips: Tight, outer lips are black in color, with corners of lips closed and dry. Some de-pigmentation due to aging is acceptable.
Teeth/Bite: Complete dentition of 42 teeth (20 upper, 22 lower), strong, correctly placed, meeting in a correct scissors bite, lower incisors touching inside of upper incisors. Missing M3s are permissible. A level bite is accepted. Dropped lower incisors, in an otherwise normal bite, are not indicative of a skeletal malocclusion and are considered only a minor deviation.
Serious Fault - Lips - Drooling or wet mouth.
Disqualification - Expression/mask: Complete lack of mask. Teeth/Bite: Any missing teeth other than M3s.
NECK, TOPLINE, BODY
Neck: Muscular, well set on shoulders, of sufficient length to allow for proud head carriage; blends smoothly into withers. No dewlap.
Topline: Withers set above a firm level back that flows smoothly into a gently sloping croup. Rump not higher than withers.
Body: Chest is broad, roomy, and deep, reaching at least to the level of the elbows, pronounced pro-sternum. Fore and rear quarters well muscled.
Ribs: Well-sprung, oval. Underline: Only slightly tucked up. Loin: Broad, compact, strong, well muscled.
Croup: Broad, relatively long, gently sloped, flowing smoothly into root of tail.
Tail: While standing relaxed, tail hangs straight down with the last vertebrae reaching to or below the hock. In movement, tail is ideally carried no higher than the level of the back, with a curve up at the end permitted. An exuberant tail carriage, though higher than ideal, should not be confused with a high, incorrectly placed tail. Serious Fault - High tail carriage with tail carried over back due to short, level croup.
Shoulder Angulation: Well laid-back and well muscled; the shoulder meets the upper arm at approximately a right angle allowing for excellent reach. Shoulder and upper arm rather long and about equal in length.
Elbows: Close to body, neither in nor out when standing or gaiting. Forelegs: Well-boned, muscular, straight and parallel to each other.
Pasterns: Strong, firm and straight when viewed from front, slightly sloping when viewed from side. Dewclaws: Usually present.
Feet: Turn neither in nor out, rounded, tight, toes well arched (cat foot), pads always black.
Angulation: In balance with forequarters. The rear assembly is powerful, muscular and well-boned. Legs: Viewed from the rear, the legs are straight and parallel, with stifles and paws turned neither in nor out, placed widely enough apart to match a properly built body.
Thighs: Upper and lower of equal length, slanting and strongly muscled.
Stifles: Angle clearly defined.
Hocks: Strong of bone, distinctly angled between lower thigh and rear pastern; well let down.
Dewclaws: Rear dewclaws may be present.
Feet: Turned neither in nor out, but may be slightly elongated compared to forefeet. Toes arched; pads always black.
Leonbergers have a medium to long, water resistant, double coat on the body and short fine hair on the muzzle and front of limbs. Outer coat is medium-soft to coarse and lies flat. It is straight, with some generalized wave permitted. Mature males carry a mane, which extends over neck and chest. The undercoat is soft and dense, although it may be less so in summer months or warmer climates. In spite of the double coat, the outline of the body is always recognizable.
Leonbergers have distinct feathering on backside of forelegs and ample feathering on breeches and some ear feathering. Tail is very well furnished. Females are less likely to carry a coat as long as males and this disparity must not be a consideration when judged against the male.
Natural appearance of the coat is essential to breed type. Therefore, except for neatening of the feet, Leonbergers are to be presented naturally, with no alteration of the coat, to include sculpting, trimming of whiskers, or any other alterations whatsoever. NO RIBBON SHALL BE AWARDED TO A DOG WHOSE COAT APPEARS TO BE ALTERED, AND JUDGES ARE TO ERR ON THE SIDE OF WITHOLDING OF RIBBONS IF THERE IS ANY DOUBT. Fault: Parted or curly coat.
Coat colors are lion-yellow, golden to red and red-brown, also sand colored (cream, pale yellow) and all combinations thereof, always with a black mask. All colors may have black tips (some with long black tips) on the outer coat. All coat colors are accompanied by a lighter colored undercoat and feathering which blends well with the dominant body color. A small, unobtrusive stripe or white patch on the chest and some white hairs on toes is tolerated. Disqualification: Any coat color other than those listed. White hair on chest that exceeds 5 inches in width; white extending beyond toes.
The Leonberger has a ground-covering, even and balanced gait. The stride is powerful, easy, free and elastic, with good reach and strong drive giving the impression of effortless power. In motion, the Leonberger maintains a level topline. Viewed from the front and from behind, forelegs and hind legs travel straight. As the dog?s speed increases, the legs tend to converge toward the centerline. Essential to sound movement is the balance of correct front and rear assemblies and anatomically correct overall structure.
The gentle character and even temperament of the Leonberger is of utmost importance for fulfilling their role as a family companion. The Leonberger is self-assured and calm, with a steady, playful demeanor. He is willing to please and possesses a good capacity for learning. The Leonberger exhibits a marked friendliness towards children and is at ease in all situations, never showing fear, shyness or aggression.
Quarrelsomeness or hostility towards people or dogs in normal situations, or an unwarranted show of timidity or nervousness, is not in keeping with Leonberger character and shall be penalized to the extent that it is effectively eliminated from competition.
Any deviation from these specifications is a fault. In determining whether a fault is minor, serious, or major, these two factors should be used as a guide:
Deviation - The extent to which it deviates from the standard; and Impact - The extent to which such deviation would actually affect the Leonberger's ability to fulfill its role as a family companion, working ability or phenotype.
Mask - Complete lack of mask
Teeth - Any missing teeth other than M3s.
Color - Any coat color other than those listed. White hair on chest exceeding 5 inches in width, white extending beyond toes.