Some Fun Leonberger Facts

Coat of arms for the city of Leonberg, Germany
The coat of arms of the town of Leonberg, Germany, was allegedly the inspiration for the first breeder of the Leonberger, Heinrich Essig
  • The Leonberger takes it name after the town of Leonberg in Germany
  • The Leonberger breed was originally created by Heinrich Essig (1808–87) in the German town of Leonberg, in what was then the kingdom of Württemberg
  • The coat of arms of the town of Leonberg, Germany, was allegedly the inspiration for the first breeder of the Leonberger, Heinrich Essig (maybe you can say that the Leonberger looks the way it does because Germans were bad at drawing lions back then)
  • The breed was first registered in 1846
  • According to Essig, the Leonberger is a cross between a Saint Bernard, a Newfoundland, and what is thought to be Great Pyrenees or a Pyrenean Mastiff (not known which). In reality the mixing and matching went back and forth between these three breeds throughout history and it may be more complicated.
  • In the 1870s, Leonbergers were brought to Newfoundland to invigorate the stock of Newfoundland dogs
  • In 1879 President Ulysses S. Grant gave two Leonbergers gold medals
  • The first Leonberger breed standard was created in 1895
  • Leonbergers were used in the World War I to pull ammunition carts and cannons, which was one of the reasons the breed was decimated during World War I
  • Leonbergers have webbed paws
  • Leonbergers are double coated
  • Until 1985, there were only seventeen Leonbergers known to be living in the United States
  • The Leonberger Club of America was founded in 1985
  • The Leonberger was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2010 as its 167th breed.*
  • The Leonberger is unique in the AKC for being the only dog in the Working Group originally bred to be a companion.†
  • According to an estimate prepared by BioMed Central, there were around 30,000 Leonbergers in the world in 2020 (registered only).‡
  • There are around 3,300 Leonbergers in North America—2,300 in the United States and 1,000 in Canada.§
  • The five countries with the most Leonbergers, in order, are France, with nearly 8,000; Germany, with more than 4,000; and Great Britain, the United States, and Sweden, with approximately 2,300 each.¶
  • The country with the highest number of Leonbergers per capita is Finland, with nearly 2,000 Leonbergers among a population of 5.5 million people.

AKC Communications, “AKC Welcomes the Cane Corso, Icelandic Sheepdog and Leonberger,” June 30, 2010,

†  AKC staff, “Meet 31 Purposely-Bred Dogs,” August 1, 2020,

‡  Anna Letko et al., “Genomic Diversity and Population Structure of the
Leonberger Dog Breed,” Genetics Selection Evolution 52, no. 61 (October

§  Sharon Springel, “Understanding Mean Kinship,” LeoLetter, October 2018,
¶  “Springel, “Understanding Mean Kinship.”
**  “Springel, “Understanding Mean Kinship.”

Leonbergers on-screen

Did you know that three Leonberger dogs played the main character, Buck, in The Call of the Wild: Dog of the Yukon (1997)?

*   See Stuart Fitzgerald, “Leonberger,”, at

And that a Leonberger named Hagrid appeared on Britain’s Got More Talent in 2017? Hagrid was attempting to set a new Guinness world record for catching the maximum number of sausages in his mouth in the shortest period of time.

You can watch Hagrid’s attempt below

The Leonberger Hagrid and his world record in sausage catching