Leonberger Health Foundation International

All purebred dogs are more or less inbred, which comes with inherent health risks. That is especially true for large breeds. However, Leonbergers, especially those bred in North America, are fortunate compared to other large breeds. The Leonberger breed standard does not call for traits that can be detrimental to health. The precise and restrictive breeding regulations of the Leonberger Club of America (LCA) and other Leonberger clubs, and the work of the Leonberger Health Foundation International or LHFI, have resulted in Leonbergers being relatively free of inherited illnesses compared to other large dog breeds in America. For more information see Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, “Guide to Congenital and Heritable Disorders in Dogs,” rev. 2011

The Leonberger Health Foundation International (LHFI) was founded in 2000 by Waltraut Zieher and other members of the LCA’s health, education, and research committee to “facilitate the solicitation and distribution of donations given to support health related breed-specific research.” The LHFI also administers a program that collects DNA samples from Leonbergers to share with universities and research institutions.

LHFI’s global biobank contains DNA samples from more than nine thousand Leonbergers. Among the organization’s notable achievements are the eradication of Addison’s disease among Leonbergers and the raising of nearly half a million dollars for research into conditions that affect canine health, including osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, glaucoma, cardiac diseases, thyroid diseases, and neurological disorders. Its research also supports healthful longevity and aging as well as population diversity. Another success is the fact that since 2011, no Leonbergers with two copies of the LPN1 gene mutation (which causes Leonberger polyneuropathy) have been recorded in LHFI’s biobank.

One happy event for our family was when Bronco received his Grey Muzzle Award, which is an award given for longevity by LHFI. LHFI bestows the award on any Leonberger who has reached the age of twelve. These Leonbergers are the canine equivalents of centenarians, humans who are at least one hundred years old. The Grey Muzzle Award is also given to breeders, because they are partially responsible for the dogs’ longevity. The Grey Muzzle Award was certainly a happy event in Wikman family. If you have a twelve-year-old Leonberger, simply fill out a form on the LHFI website or send an email to

The foundation will ask for some information, including the registered name and call name of the dog; the breeder’s name, kennel name, address, and email; the dam’s registered name; the sire’s registered name; the owner’s name, address, and email; the birth date of the dog; and whether the dog is alive or dead. If the latter, they will want to know the cause of death. In addition, they would like you to write a one-paragraph tribute to the dog and send two (preferably high-resolution) photos—one head shot and one favorite photo. To find out more about the Grey Muzzle Award click here. To see the 2019–2020 awardees video featuring Bronco click here.

Photo of Bronco's Grey Muzzle Award certificate from the Leonberger Health Foundation International
Grey Muzzle Award certificate from the Leonberger Health Foundation International
Picture of the The Grey Muzzle Award given by the Leonberger Health Foundation International
The Grey Muzzle Award from the Leonberger Health Foundation International

I can add that when Bronco passed away, we sent his DNA to the University of Minnesota to be used in research. This was facilitated by the LHFI.

Picture of the front cover of the book The Life and Times of Bronco von der Löwenhöle, Stories and Tips from Thirteen Years with a Leonberger.  All proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the Leonberger Health Foundation International.
LHFI is one of my favorite charities and all proceeds from this book will be donated to the Leonberger Health Foundation International.

By thomasstigwikman

My name is Thomas Wikman. I am a software/robotics engineer with a background in physics, but I am currently retired. I took early retirement. I am a dog lover, and especially a Leonberger lover, a home brewer, craft beer enthusiast, an amateur astronomer, I’m learning French, and I am an avid reader. I live in Dallas, Texas, but I am originally from Sweden. I am married to Claudia, and we have three children Jacob, David and Rachel. My blog feature the crazy adventures of our Leonberger e Bronco von der Löwenhöhle as well as information on Leonbergers

11 replies on “Leonberger Health Foundation International”

Bronco seemed to live a happy life. That’s the best gift. It wasn’t without some problems, but he enjoyed himself. And he led a long one, too, especially for a dog his size. A breed coming back from such a small population was fortunate to be healthy.

Friends of my parents when I was a kid had a psycho dog, a poodle. IIRC, they called him Lautrec? like the painter. I don’t know why. Even the owners could barely pet him. We were told to ignore the dog. We were told he was nuts because he was so severely inbred. I was surprised that the wife—who’d had polio and walked with a cane—put up with the dog, but she really loved the little maniac. My brother and I ignored him as told.

Once, I was sitting outside in a patio chair. I didn’t even see the dog. He came tearing after me out of nowhere. All I could do was pull my feet up on the chair. After he finished barking and growling, he just walked away as if nothing had happened. It was the weirdest thing.

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Thank you Denise. Yes you are right about the recovery from the small population. Hadn’t it been for organizations like the LHFI it would have been much worse. Today Leonbergers are relatively healthy. 17% of Leonbergers have / will get hip dysplasia while 43% of St. Bernard’s another closely related breed. I can add that the Leonbergers is a very friendly breed and they are calm, confident and unafraid. They are perfect family dogs. That poodle certainly sound crazy. I wonder what the reason for his behavior was. What a story.

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Wow! 43% of St. Bernards! I didn’t know that. My uncle had one years ago. Beautiful, friendly dog. Her favorite place was standing in front of the TV. She died fairly young six or seven years? I don’t know why. But she was a friendly, playful dog.

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Yes the history of Leonbergers and St. Bernards is intertwined. St. Bernards were used to create Leonbergers in the 1830’s and later that century Leonbergers were used to saved the St. Bernard breed. Despite the genetic bottlenecks in the two World Wars (Leonbergers were used to pull ammunition carts and cannons instead of horses during World War I) the Leonberger ended up being the healthier of the various giant breeds. However, there are a lot more St. Bernards than Leonbergers. This is due to organizations such as the various Leonberger clubs starting with the German one, but also the Leonberger Club of America, but foremost the Leonberger Health Foundation International. I should say their research benefit all giant breeds and potentially even people since there are cancers common in dogs that are rare in humans but do occur.


With this comment I just wanted to make sure to tell all of you that on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble you can find my book “The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle” as an e-book as well as the printed edition. You can searching for the book by searching for the title, or my name “Thomas Wikman”, or the ISBN number for printed edition: 978-0998084954 or the ASIN number for the e-book edition: B0B5NN32SR.


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