The Leonberger: A Lush-Coated Gentle Giant


The Leonberger is a giant size dog breed that was developed in 1846 in Leonberg, Germany by a German breeder named Heinrich Essing. He wanted to create a dog breed that would look like a lion. So, dog varieties like the Newfoundland, St. Bernard, and the Great Pyrenees were cross-bred to create the Leonberger breed.

The dog became a popular pet among royal families in Europe, the like of which are Napoleon II of France, Empress Elizabeth of Austria, the Prince of Wales, and Italian King Umberto.

But during the Second World War, the population of the Leonbergers was greatly reduced and only after the war was there a renewed interest among the German dog breeders to re-create this dog species once again.

From its fame, in Europe, this dog breed was imported to the US in 1971 and more of its type has continued to flourish there.

The Leonberger is not just popular as a house pet. It is also a guard dog in livestock farms, a search and rescue dog that excels in tracking and water rescue, and a dog that is trainable in obedience training.

Traits and Behavior

Being a highly intelligent dog, Leonbergers possess an ideal, canine temperament, which is loyal, submissive to family members, friendly and sociable, well-composed with passersby, trainable, and self-disciplined.


Its bravery is unparalleled that is why they excel as search and rescue dogs. A gentle giant, they respond well to training showing eagerness to learn However, these dogs are incapable of responding to harsh training; instead of showing aggression they just simply walk away.

Special training is needed if the intention for this type of dog is to make them watchdogs. Patience is needed for this dog to become sensitive to imminent danger or strangers as they are born to be sociable to humans and other animals.

Pet Care and Diseases

Due to its heavy coat covering and heavy shedding, Leonbergers must be given regular grooming.

Weekly brushing is needed to avoid matting of hair and prevent experiencing hotspots. Bathing is given only when necessary. Because they are large dogs, ears and teeth must be kept clean.

Feeding must be substantial but manage so that the dog is not overfed resulting in obesity which should be avoided for giant dogs like this type, especially since this dog does not necessarily need lots of exercises except a daily walk.


To maintain their well-developed built, swimming, pulling carts, hiking is some exercise activities that help keep them fit.

Although they remain robust, they are prone to common health problems when they aged, such as hip dysplasia, eyelid defects, and bone diseases.


Because of its large-size built, the Leonberger is well-muscled, balanced in body structure, and has an elegant dog stand. The dog has a height range between 26 – 30 inches at the withers and weighs heavily between 115 – 145 pounds. Its body frame is well-proportioned from medium to the heavy bone, the chest that is broad and deep.


The head of the Leonberger is its outstanding feature. It is well balanced to the size of the dog, deeper with the length of its muzzle equal to the length of the skull. Its head is covered with a striking black mask that reaches above the eyes which results in a good-natured expression.

The nose and lips are also black blendings with the head color and with almond-shaped eyes that are rich in dark brown. Ears are moderately sized and pendant shaped which hang close to the skull. Leonbergers have strong scissor bite with full dentition. Its lips are tightly drawn supported by a strong lower jaw that does not drool under most circumstances.


Considered as a mountain dog variety, Leonbergers are made up of double coat covering which is water-resistant, long and straight overcoat and a soft but dense undercoat.

This dog exhibits a well-defined mane which is prominent at the neck and chest projecting a lion-like outline. Apart from the black mask, the coat fur may have color variations of lion-yellow, red, red-brown, and sand.

General Information

Like many large dogs, their life expectancy is rather short-lived, about 8-9 years.  For this breed, about 6-4 puppies can be born in any one litter. It is also known as Leo, Gentle Lion or Gentle Giant.

Breed Club

Visit this dog club website dedicated to Leonbergers. Click this link:

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