The Leonberger is a gorgeous, large breed of dog, listed by the AKC as a working dog. (For breed standards, see the link below). They’re a very sweet dog and a great family companion. We had one Leonberger in the vet hospital who came up almost to my shoulder (I’m only 5’3″). She was SUPER sweet and the hair on her ears was crimped, which made her look even sweeter.
Leonbergers hail from Leonberg, Germany around the 1800’s where they were bred to be family, farm and draft dogs. They are reported to be a cross between a female Newfoundland and “a “barry” male from the Great St. Bernard Hospice and Monastery (which would later create the Saint Bernard breed). Later, according to Essig, a Pyrenean mountain dog was added, resulting in very large dogs with the long white coats that were the fashion for the time” (#2). “The breed caught the attention of popular German artists who used them as models, and they’ve even been featured on the stamps of various European countries as well” (#1).
After World War I and II the Leonbergers faced extinction. A mere 5 dogs survived WWI and 8 survived WWII. Many lost their owners and had to fend for themselves. Leos were also used to pull carts of ammunition.
They are a generally healthy breed. As hip dysplasia plagues large breeds, Leonberger breeders tend to screen their litters and leave dysplastic individuals out of the next breeding round. Other ailments for the Leonberger that they can develop or inherit include (#3):
- heart problems
- Inherited Leonberger Paralysis/Polyneuropathy (ILPN)
- Osteochondrosis Dissecans
- digestive disorders
- entropian/ectropian eyelids
- progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
- perianal fistulas
- thyroid disorders
The average recorded lifespan for this breed is 7 years as they can be affected by some serious diseases.