Developed in the Wurttemberg region of Germany in 1846 by the breeder Heinrich Essig of Leonberg, the Leonberger came into existence during the Victorian era when dogs were highly sought. Heinrich wanted to create a dog that closely resembled a lion, the animal appearing on Leonberg's coat of arms. To achieve this, he claimed to have selectively crossed the Lanseer Newfoundland with the St. Bernard, with contributing blood from the Pyrenean Mountain Dog. A large-sized breed capable of many working fulfillments, the Leonberger became a popular breed choice of the European royals, appearing in the courts of Napolean II, Empress Elizabeth of Austria and the Italian King Umberto. During both World Wars, the Leonberger was widely enlisted as an ammunitions cart puller, being highly prized for its strength and willingness.
Distinctive for its black mask, the Leonburger of today developed from the 5 remaining dogs of breeding capability following WWI. Boasting a muscular and powerful build, the Leonberger is both elegant and imposing, possessing a proportioned body, a deep chest for enhanced lung capacity, a well-defined head and muzzle, small, triangular ears and a profuse double coat. The coat is typically wavy and common in colours of amber, yellow, red, brown and sand, with black and minimal white markings. It is easy to determine the gender of a Leonberger just by looking at it. The modern Leonberger is observed in livestock guarding, obedience, water retrieving and rescue, tracking and as a companion dog.
Leonberger owners have often described the breed as obedient, intelligent, adaptable and vigilant, traits that make it well suited to domestic family life. Protective of children, playful and confident, the Leonberger makes a great addition to any home setting, providing its needs for regular exercise, mental enrichment and human companionship are met. Due to the size and strength of the breed, early socialisation, consistent training and firm but fair leadership is essential. On average, a healthy adult Leonberger will weigh 45-75 kg depending on its gender, with a relatively short life expectancy of 6-8 years.
Besides the common health afflictions prevalent across breeds, including optical disorders, skin allergies, orthopedic problems and epilepsy, the Leonberger is susceptible to various health complaints ranging from mild to more serious. Neurological disease, bone cancer and gastric tortion have been identified, with the latter occurring quickly and proving fatal if not immediately treated.