Rare Dog Breeds: Leonberger


Leonbergers were developed in small German village called Leonberg, in approximately 1840, by a dog breeder named Heinrich Essig. Being a town official, Heinrich Essig wanted to develop a breed that resembled a lion to go along with the town’s crest. Essig was able to accomplish this by breeding the Newfoundland with the Saint Bernard; which was then crossed with a Pyrenean Mountain Dog. This successful combination provided a large breed with a gentle temperament, that looked imposing. Because there are only 800 registered in the United States, this is considered a rare breed.


If you are looking for a family dog in a larger breed, you may want to consider the Leonberger. This highly intelligent dog has a sweet, gentle disposition, which makes it great for families with children. A highly sociable canine, the Leonberger wants to be involved in all the family activities and loves being around people, even those it is not familiar with.

Leonbergers make great watchdogs, as they are not excessive barkers, and have a very deep bark that will intimidate and frighten intruders. Another great trait of Leonbergers is that they do not drool excessively, which is common among the larger breeds. Pet owners who already have pets, and want to add to their family, will find Leonbergers a great addition, as their non-aggressive personalities are very tolerant of other pets already living in the home. With early training, this breed will become a highly obedient and loyal companion for anyone. Its playful, easily adaptable nature will make him great for a single owner or a family; as he simply craves interaction and attention and will do equally well with either situation.


Classified as a working dog, this very large breed has a generous double coat covering its large muscular body. Despite it’s size, the body has a balanced look, while still having a dramatic and intimidating appearance. With its prominent head with its black muzzle and strong jawline, along with its powerful body, this breed’s appearance proudly displays its intelligence and strength while cleverly hiding its gentle spirit. Leonbergers have a substantial tail which is set just below the level of the back and it is long, reaching down below their hocks, to blend easily with the feathering of the fur which covers the body.

The males are generally larger than the females, approximately 28-to-31 inches high, and weighing anywhere from 120-to-170 pounds; while females are between 25-to-29 inches high, weighing between 100-to-135 pounds. Leonbergers have webbed feet and a robust chest, which help with its fluid movement and strength.

This breed comes in a variety of colors, including red, reddish brown and a sandy color, similar to that of a lion. His fur coat may also be tipped with black markings, which give depth to his overall appearance.


Caring for a Leonberger is simple, requiring you to brush the coat regularly to keep it neat and clean. Because Leonbergers are heavy shedders, its a good idea to brush them several times a week. The fur is sometimes kept trimmed around the feet, but the coat is always left long.


Generally very healthy dogs, Leonbergers still suffer some of the hip dysplasia common to the large breeds; it is greatly reduced as a result of Leonberger breeders screenings their dogs using x-rays to remove and greatly reduce that trait from the gene pool. In fact, hip dysplasia has been reduced to 10% in Leonbergers as a result of breeders adhering to the German breeding program which certified its dogs were dysplasia free for at least three generations.

Although it is not common, Leonbergers can still develop or inherit heart problems, a condition called Inherited Leonberger Paralysis/Polyneuropathy (ILPN), osteosarcoma, and hemangiosarcoma. As with many breeds they can also suffer from allergies, mild digestive and thyroid disorders, and some eye problems such as cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy. One condition that Leonbergers suffer from as a large breed is bloat, which causes the stomach to twist and can be fatal very quickly. Leonbergers unfortunately, don’t have a long lifespan, because of some of the serious diseases that may afflict them. Most Leonbergers live approximately 7 years or less.


As with most all breeds, Leonbergers do need regular exercise. This large breed dog will get bored without activity, and daily walks burn suppressed energy and to keep it healthy and active. Two walks a day for at least 30 minutes each is ideal; longer is even better. Because Leonbergers are a working breed, they also like to run, so an opportunity to do that once a day is important. For people that like outdoor activities such as hiking and backpacking, a Leonberger is an excellent partner. They are also great swimmers, and water-rescue dogs and will enjoy these activities with great energy and enthusiasm.

Training for Leonbergers will be easier than some other breeds, as they are highly intelligent and very willing to please and be obedient. Their calm demeanor makes training easier for both themselves and their trainers, as this is not a stressful activity for them, but rather an opportunity to spend time and interact with their handlers. Early socialization helps Leonbergers quickly become well-mannered and confident around people, even strangers.

You may also like...

1 Response

  1. Christine Proudfoot says:

    Just a quick comment…..I have never heard of this breed before but I was at my local PetSmart and saw a 2yr old Leonberger for the first time now reading about it in the newsletter is kinda cool….They are absolutely beautiful and so gentle ! !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *