FCI standard Nº 145

Mrs. C. Seidler, revised by Mrs E.Peper
Group 2 Pinscher and Schnauzer, Molossoid breeds, Swiss Mountain and Cattle Dogs
Section 2.2 Molossoid breeds, Mountain type
Without working trial
Acceptance on a definitive basis by the FCI
Thursday 17 February 1955
Publication of the official valid standard
Thursday 04 January 1996
Last update
Friday 20 September 2002
En français, cette race se dit
Chien de Leonberg
Diese Norm ist in deutscher Sprache sichtbar
En español, esta raza se dice
In het Nederlands, wordt dit ras gezegd


Watch, Companion and Family Dog.

Brief historical summary

At the end of the thirties, beginning of the forties of the 19th century, Heinrich Essig, town Councillor in Leonberg near Stuttgart, crossed a black and white Newfoundland bitch with a so-called “Barry” male from the monastery hospice Grand St.Bernhard. Later a Pyrenean Mountain Dog was added. This resulted in very large dogs with predominantly long, white coats. Essig’s aim was for a lion-like dog. The lion is the heraldic animal of the city of Leonberg.
The first dogs really called “Leonbergers” were born in 1846. They combined the excellent qualities of the breeds from which they stemmed.
Only a short time later, many of these dogs were sold as status symbols from Leonberg all over the world. At the end of the 19th century, the Leonberger was kept in Baden-Württemberg as the preferred farm dog. His watch and draft abilities were much praised. In both World Wars and the needy post war times, the numbers of breeding stock reduced dramatically.
Today the Leonberger is an excellent family dog which fulfills all the demands of modern life.

General appearance

According to his original purpose, the Leonberger is a large, strong, muscular yet elegant dog. He is distinguished by his balanced build and confident calmness, yet with quite lively temperament. Males, in particular, are powerful and strong.

Important proportions

Height at the withers to length of body : 9 to 10. The depth of chest is nearly 50% of the height at withers.

Behaviour / temperament

As a family dog, the Leonberger is an agreeable partner for present day dwelling and living conditions, who can be taken anywhere without difficulty and is distinguished by his marked friendliness towards children. He is neither shy nor aggressive. As a companion, he is agreeable, obedient and fearless in all situations of life. The following are particular requirements of steady temperament :
• Self assurance and superior composure.
• Medium temperament (including playfulness).
• Willing to be submissive.
• Good capacity for learning and remembering.
• Insensitive to noise.


Cranial region

On the whole deeper than broad and elongated rather than stocky. Proportion of length of muzzle to length of skull: about 1 to 1. Skin close fitting all over, no wrinkles.
In profile and seen from the front, slightly arched. In balance with body and limbs, it is strong but not heavy. The skull at its back part is not substantially broader than near the eyes. 
Clearly recognisable but moderately defined.

Facial region

Rather long, never running to a point; nasal bridge of even breadth, never dipped, rather slightly arched (roman nose).
Close fitting, black, corners of lips closed.
Jaws and teeth
Strong jaws with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, the upper teeth closely overlapping the lower teeth without any gap, and teeth set square to the jaw with 42 sound teeth according to the dentition formula (missing M3 tolerated). Pincer bite is accepted; no constriction at the canines in the lower jaw.
Only slightly developed.
Light brown to as dark brown as possible, medium size, oval, neither deep set, nor protruding, neither too close together nor too wide apart. Eyelids close fitting, not showing any conjunctiva. The white of the eye (the visible part of the sclera) not reddened.
Set on high and not far back, pendant, of medium size, hanging close to the head, fleshy.


Running in a slight curve without break to the withers. Somewhat long rather than stocky, without throatiness or dewlap.


Pronounced, specially in males.
Firm, straight, broad.
Broad, strong, well muscled.
Broad, relatively long, gently rounded, flowing to merge with tail set on; never overbuilt.
Broad, deep, reaching at least to the level of the elbows. Not too barrel shaped, more oval.
Underline and belly
Only slightly tucked up.


Very well furnished; while standing, it hangs down straight; also in movement it is only slightly curved and if at all possible should not be carried above the prolongation of the topline.


Very strong, specially in males.


Forelegs straight, parallel and not too close.
Upper arm
Long, sloping, forming a not too blunt angle, well muscled.
Close to the body.
Strong, firm; seen from the front, straight; almost vertical, seen from the side.
Straight (turning neither in nor out), rounded, tight, toes well arched; black pads.


Seen from the rear, position of the hind legs not too close, parallel. Hocks and feet : turned neither in nor out.
Upper thigh
Rather long, slanting, strongly muscled. Upper and lower thigh form a distinct angle.
Strong, distinct angle between lower thigh and rear pastern.
Hind feet
Standing straight, only slightly longish. Toes arched, pads black.

Gait and movement

Ground covering even movement in all gaits. Extending well in front with good drive from the hindquarters. Seen from front and behind the limbs move in a straight line when walking or trotting.


Medium soft to coarse, profusely long, close fitting, never parted, with the shape of the whole body be visible despite the thick undercoat. Straight, slight wave still permitted; forming a mane on neck and chest, specially in males; distinct feathering on front legs and ample breeches on hind legs.
Lion yellow, red, reddish brown, also sandy (pale yellow, cream coloured) and all combinations in between, always with a black mask. Black hair tips are permitted; however, black must not determine the dog’s basic colour.
Lightening up of the basic colour on the underside of the tail, the mane, the feathering on the front legs and the breeches on the hind legs must not be so pronounced as to interfere with the harmony of the main colour. A small white patch or stripe on the chest and white hairs on the toes are tolerated.

Size and weight

Height at withers
Dogs 72 to 80 cm (recommended average 76 cm). Bitches 65 to 75 cm (recommended average 70 cm).


• Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and its ability to perform its traditional work.
• Faults listed should be in degree of seriousness.

Disqualifying faults

 Aggressive or overly shy dogs.
 Severe anatomical faults (ie pronounced cow hocks, pronounced roach back, bad swayback; front feet turning out extremely; Totally insufficient angulation of shoulder, elbow, stifle or hock joints.
 Brown nose leather.
 Very strong lack of pigment in lips.
 Absence of teeth (with the exception of M3); Over- or undershot or other faults in mouth.
 Eyes without any brown.
 Entropion, ectropion.
 Distinct ring tail or too highly curled up tail.
 Brown pads.
 Cords or strong curls.
 Faulty colours (brown with brown nose and brown pads; black and tan; black; silver; wild-coat colour).
 Complete lack of mask.
 Too much white (reaching from toes onto pasterns), white on chest larger than palm of hand, white in other places).

NB :

• Any dog clearly showing physical or behavioural abnormalities shall be disqualified.
• The above mentioned faults when occurring to a highly marked degree or frequently are disqualifying.
• Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
• Only functionally and clinically healthy dogs, with breed typical conformation should be used for breeding.




Additional information from visitors

Le Leonberg est un chien extraordinaire, obéissant si on a su montrer qui est le maître.
Très famille, collant et à la fois indépendant, un chien sportif, mais il faut le pousser un peu.
Il adore l'eau et adore nager, il adore les enfants, moi j'ai toujours eux des mâles et ils sont très gentil avec les enfants.
Question poil pour ma part j'adore ceux qui ont beaucoup de sous poil de la laine. et une crinière, et les couleurs jaune sable, fauve, charbonné, un masque bien noir et une tête expressive... un peu joueur et coquin...
Eclair est un Leo très obéissant, câlin et indépendant, calme et très vif par moment, adorable avec les enfants et les autres gens, il est très bon gardien mais sans agressivité.
Il adore les chats et les hamsters, sociable, un Leo extraordinaire ... un amour de chien, je peux vous dire que je suis passionnée par cette race.
Un mot significatif de la race : SUPER !!!!
Le leonberg peux vivre en appartement, à une condition qu'il sort réguliérement pour ce défouler, le laisser dans un jardin n'est pas le mieux, il a besoin de sortir de ce jardin, il a besoin de beaucoup d'attention, mais vous pouvez aussi lui donner une piéce rien qu'a lui.
Le leonberg peux faire des promenades de 2 à 3 heures de marches, avec un entraînement quotidien, il en a besoin pour ce développer, pour ces muscles et son bien être. Un brossage 1X par semaine, nettoyer les oreilles réguliérement.
Le leonberg son éducation doit ce faire en douceur et fermeté, il se calmera à 2ans et demi il devient plus adulte.
Il a des leonberg qui font du sauvetage dans l'eau et pistage à la recherche de personnes et aussi des leonberg qui font de l'agility.
Ce n'est pas des gros pantouflars, bien au contraire, ce sont des chiens calme, mais des sujets pourrai être plus vif, il en a qui se plaisent dehors le plus possible et d'autres dans le salon, avant tout être avec son maître qui aime avant tout.
Nathalie Pierret (Belgique)

Detailed history

If the majestic and sweet Leonberg is successful today, it is certainly not thanks to his past. Indeed, nothing is more confused or doubtful than the story of this dog. That he is a worthy cousin of the great European mountain dogs is obvious, and that, by the same token, he has an Asian ancestry is undeniable. But is this race really old, or did its selection date from the middle of the nineteenth century?

The question deserves some clarification, because in the center of the mystery of the origins of Leonberg is a colorful character but somewhat ambiguous by his actions and his assertions. This character, Heinrich Essig (1808 - 1889), was very prominent in Leonberg, the village where he had settled, about fifteen kilometers from Stuttgart, in what was then the kingdom of Wurtemberg: he was one of Councillors. Heinrich Essig introduced the Leonberg dog to the world, including a specimen to all celebrities of the moment (such as Emperor Napoleon III). Claiming to be the creator, he readily indicated which dogs he had used to select him. Essig was also at the head of an important breeding, which would have produced annually between two and three hundred dogs, and this for forty years.

If we now come to the questionable side of the case, we can already give an idea of the honesty and modesty of Essig by pointing out that it was the title of "Baron Leonberg" when he was abroad. Regarding his breeding, as curious as it may seem, it will be noted that there was almost no trace of it after his death, that there was no breeding to perpetuate the lineages. As for the crossings that would be at the origin of the race, they are pure fantasy. Essig said he had left the Landseer and the Saint Bernard, which he later enriched with Montagne des Pyrénées, all to end up with the Leonberg, while he wanted an all-white dog. Anyway, to cross dogs pie, black and white, fawn and white or white and badger to arrive at a dog entirely colored of beast charcoal seems difficult; according to the laws of genetics, it is even quite impossible.

Of all these contradictions, it will be remembered that Heinrich Essig can not be the true creator of the Leonberg. Above all, he was a very knowledgeable businessman, with a keen sense of public relations and an expert in publicity. One fact seems obvious, in any case, is that he managed to scramble the cards to conceal the true nature of his business, namely that he sold large dogs of various origins, many of them , no doubt, were produced by him but were not subject to any real directed selection. What he created was a "label", a "brand": the Leonberg.

Essig's methods and statements have had the effect of bristling the first dog-lovers (dog-breeding, in Germany as elsewhere, was just beginning to structure themselves) and discrediting the dog named Leonberg. In 1878, the German specialist Schmie-Deberger wrote, not without severity: "The clubs no longer consider the Leonberg, and we refer these bastards in the classes to which they most resemble, either Newfoundland or St. Bernard, especially the long-haired St. Bernard. Strebel, in 1905, showed no more leniency: "The Leonberg was an illusion for a while while the St. Bernard recovered and demand surpassed supply. Thus came the time when the Leonberg farm was campaigned as an unpleasant imitation of the breeding of St. Bernard. One ends up putting it on the index: what one could not define, one considered it like a Leonberg. "

A passage in this quote even suggests that the "powder in the eyes" spread by Essig hid perhaps a very specific scam. Strebel speaks of the "recovery" of St. Bernard. However, the kennels of the hospice of the Great St. Bernard were, around 1820, decimated by the disease of Carré, while the race was already weakened by excessive consanguinity. To rebuild the numbers of their dogs, the monks had to resort to another race, in this case Newfoundland. From these crossings was born the long-haired variety of the St. Bernard race, but, inevitably, such a union with uniformly black dogs also produced subjects that did not present the classic colors of the St. Bernard. We know from Heinrich Schumacher, the breed specialist at the time, that these subjects were sold or given by the monks to the benefactors of the hospice and that they found themselves in good numbers in Switzerland, but also in England where There are several examples of Saint-Bernard subjects with long hair, of uniform color, with slender shapes. In Switzerland itself, there were particularly beautiful Löwenberg, "lion's mountain", Leonberg, tawny color, all this does not evoke the "lion" mountain (Lowe in German, leo in Latin, lion in French)? And what if Essig had simply taken advantage of these avatars of the necessary recollection of Saint-Bernard and the near homonymy between his city and the Swiss town?

From a genetics point of view, entirely tawny subjects may result from the union of Newfoundland (black) and St. Bernard (red and white, or yellow-brown and white): in first generation, all puppies that come from this cross are usually black (it is possible, however, that it is born black and white); If, then, we meet again these puppies with a Saint-Bernard, it will be able to be born blacks, black and white, fawn shaded and white and all fawn shaded. A photo of the result was published in a book by American geneticist Leon F. Whitney, How to Breed Dogs. Of course, some will object to this demonstration that the beautiful and elegant head of the Leonberg does not resemble either that of Newfoundland, or that of St. Bernard; they will be told that in the nineteenth century these races may not have had their current appearance. But what is lacking above all to support this bold theory is proof of a relationship between Essig and Switzerland.

There remains a hypothesis which, it is quite likely and more generally accepted. The Leonberg must come from the old "Alpine Dog", a breed mentioned by several authors, such as Delabarre-Blaine (1803), Gayot (1867), Pertus (1893), and which was widespread of the Rhaetian Alps (the Graubünden) to Austria. This breed would have been gradually abandoned in these regions because of the disappearance of the big predators, bears, wolves, lynx. But for many centuries, its main dissemination center for Germany would have been the city of Leonberg, whose dog market has been known since the 13th century. And so, from the Württemberg, the Black Forest, the Harz, where the incursions of wolves decimating herds were frequent, we went to Leonberg, especially to get these mountain dogs. By adapting to these hilly areas, mingling with local dogs and becoming shepherds, these specimens became smaller in size and weight: all in all, they gave birth to Hovawart. The idea that the Leonberg is the heir to the Alpine dog is therefore corroborated if one observes that his head is more like that of the Hovawart than the Saint Bernard. In addition, several elements confirm the Austrian location of this "Alpine Dog", ancestor of Leonberg: Professor von Schulmuth, Vienna, was able to find, in the archives of the princes of Metternich, the mention of dog kennels. mountain like the Leonberg, from 1625; as to Dr. Luquet, he points out in an important study devoted to race that Marie Antoinette (of Austrian origin) possessed a very large specimen.

Fortunately, the Leonberger's modern career is much better known. From the "Essig period", we will remember two dates: in 1846, a Leonberg specimen is presented for the first time; in 1863, in a class created for the race, several subjects won prizes at the exhibition in Hamburg. The first standard was defined by Albert Kull in 1895. At about the same time, a Leonberg Dog Club was established in Apolda (Thuringia); it will be transformed at the beginning of the century in Club Leonberg, fixing its seat in Heidelberg.

The race disappears almost during the Great War, but it will find in Stadelmann and Josenhans the artisans of its renewal, from 1922. A new association, the "Group of dog breeders Leonberg", then selects five well typed subjects and reaches in four years to control a herd of three hundred and fifty subjects. At this time, Stadelmann opens the first book of origins. The Leonberg has not finished with the difficulties: after World War II, its fans can see how much its population has been decimated. The International Cynological Federation recognized the breed in 1949, but it was not until 1958 that its numbers became as important as during the inter-war years, which is to the credit of two enthusiasts: Albert Kienzle and Otto Lehmann.

Since then, the Leonberg has spread throughout Germany, as well as in Austria and other Germanic countries. It should be noted that the North Germans have been reluctant to admit the Leonberg. Dr. Luquet gives the reason: according to them, this dog was likely to bring shade to another very large national dog, the Great Dane. In Great Britain and the Anglo-Saxon countries, the breed was strongly criticized by late nineteenth-century specialists (Vero Shaw, Hugh Dalziel, Idstone), which explains why it is not implanted. However, the Leonberg has been present in France since 1896. For several years, dogs from a farm in the Paris region were presented at the Paris exhibition and won all the first prizes. Dr. Pierre Mégnin, who studied these subjects closely and translated the standard written in 1895 by Kull, made the race known in France. According to this first standard, repeated elsewhere in the famous work of the Earl of Bylandt, The Dog Breeds, Leonberg model was very large, since it was specified that the male had to reach at least 80 centimeters at the withers. Subsequently, the German breeders gave up this very great height as a characteristic of the breed: of minimum desired, the 80 centimeters.with the withers became the maximum envisaged by the official standard.

From there, sometimes, certain differences between the French breeding, more or less faithful to the inheritance of Mégnin (for which the Leonberg appeared like the biggest of the European mountain dogs), and the German breeding, to which, as it has been said above, the difficulties have not been spared throughout this century. These quarrels of specialists are obviously of little interest to most of those who are attracted to the Leonberg, but they explain a certain diversity of types, differences of opinion, likely to strike any slightly observant mind.

However, it should be noted that the rapprochement of the clubs belonging to the International Leonberger Union, the interpenetration of French and foreign breeding tend to level out these differences in appearance and appreciation with respect to the standard, the responsibility of which, within the International Cynological Federation comes under Germany. The Leonberg must have been endowed with immense and obvious qualities, not to have disappeared, through the tangled vicissitudes of its history. It is undeniable that it immediately arouses admiration. Who has not dreamed of owning a great lord, at once dignified, assertive and amenable, who is no more a heavy and apathetic animal than an impetuous and aggressive guardian! In a word, a dog with a natural appearance, by its uniform dress of course, but also because none of its morphological characteristics is exaggerated.

The Leonberg is a "good nature", superlative of course. If his majesty strikes immediately, as its elegant rusticity, the most lasting impression that emerges from the examination of a Leonberg is undoubtedly its sweetness. To the benevolence of the look is a constant concern to avoid any untimely demonstration of force, any brutality.

Certainly, when it comes to celebrating the return of his master, we can see it, all restraint rejected, express his joy by leaps, jump even to his neck to undertake a toilet in order, with great licks. But in the living room, he usually makes sure not to overturn any furniture or trinket, because he is fully aware of the constraints imposed by his volume. Face less strong than him; it can be a child or another pet; he will redouble his precaution and be protective from the outset, displaying an extraordinary patience towards the young man's jokes. The Leonberg, and not only the female, has an indisputable predisposition to the nanny, a role he takes to heart and for which he abandons any other activity. The master can put his child in peace between his large legs: the dog will lend himself gracefully to all the games and activities that the toddler can invent; better, he will ensure his safety.

This great "goodness", this amazing reserve that makes it less cumbersome than many medium or small congeners explain the current vogue Leonberg, France. Moreover, his sociability towards other dogs makes him a very reliable companion, that, moreover, one can take everywhere, without hesitation: he does not tend to drool; he is not afraid of the cold and is not excessively bothered by the heat wave; a stormy or really hot weather makes him look for shade and drafts and limits his activity.

All these qualities of conviviality, of discretion, can not in any way justify an existence in a space too small. Of course, he will do his best to adapt, and it is quite possible that he will not cause any problem if he has to live in a narrow studio or an apartment on the twelfth floor. However, it will be appreciated that this environment is not ideal for flourishing its generous nature. It is highly preferable to offer him the opportunity to easily take all the exercise that is due to him, to put at his disposal a corner of garden, even restricted.

Many Leonbergs have a certain tendency to nonchalance, and the master will take care to provide to his companion a maximum of opportunities to be exerted, to be muscled. Similarly, his education, which is no problem, will aim to make him know a lot of different situations, to stretch his mind as much as the legs. Because, besides its physical abilities, the Leonberg has undeniable faculties in terms of the vivacity of reactions and understanding. Renouncing to profit from it would be a real shame, especially since, if it is not delivered to itself, the dog will be more pleasant to live and also happier.

With the male, it certainly takes a little more firmness, not that it is very domineering or temper runaway, but because it has kept a certain dose of the independent tendency of most large mountain dogs. All the dressage specialists who have had the opportunity to handle specimens of the breed agree to find him skills in this area and to estimate that, among the giant dogs, he would probably be one of those who would be best dressage, even defense. Certainly, his immense balance is, here again, a valuable asset.

However, he does not need to be trained for this function, because, to his dissuasive stature, he adds the guard instinct when placed in a situation. In a pavilion, for example, he will sound his formidable voice and will not hesitate to go to the gateway to the unknown, showing no fear or aggression exaggerated or dangerous. It is not he who will try to tear the arm of the passer-by who approaches too much, of the unconscious that enters the garden.

If he is essentially a family dog, companion and protector, if he can also become the guardian of a large property, the Leonberg has other strings to his bow. His life-saving gifts, for example, are not well enough known. In Germany and Austria it has been successfully tested as an avalanche dog. Many subjects also have a taste for water. They are then good swimmers, very powerful, who, like a Newfoundland; because their interdigital margins are often very developed, their hair very impermeable; could become real lifeguard dogs, be able to tow heavy water on the water. However, this attraction of water is not an obvious feature of the breed and work on the water is not recognized as an open discipline at Leonberg. However, since 1984, access to tracking tests has been officially allowed, because it is undeniable that in this area, his skills are real.

The Leonberg would benefit from being trained more frequently, for pleasure or from a utilitarian point of view. But he is already so busy with his family life.

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