At the beginning of 2020 Bronco our old Leonberger received an award for longevity: the Grey Muzzle Award, given by the Leonberger Health Foundation International, which bestows the award on any Leonberger who has reached the age of twelve. The Grey Muzzle Award is also given to breeders, because they are partially responsible for the dogs’ longevity. This is a special award and it made us very happy that Bronco got it.
For those who do not know, giant breeds such as Leonbergers tend to live much shorter lives than small dogs. This may seem backwards to some, after all elephants live longer than mice, but it is a fact. Leonbergers live on average 8-9 years, Bernese dogs live on average 7 years, Great Danes live 8 years, while Pugs live 12-15 years, and Chihuahua’s can live up to 20 years.
The Leonbergers receiving the Grey Muzzle Award are the canine equivalents of centenarians—humans who are at least one hundred years old. You don’t have to have your Leonberger registered with the LCA or AKC to apply for the award—it’s open to all purebred Leonbergers around the world. You can also apply if your dog is deceased, as long as he lived past the age of twelve. Incidentally, the oldest Leonberger on record is Su-Riya (formally Genette of Mutsugoro), who lived in Japan and died in 2017 at the ripe old age of sixteen years and three months.
If you have a twelve-year-old Leonberger, simply fill out a form on the LHFI website or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
I found out about the Grey Muzzle award via a Facebook group called the Leonberger Double Digit Club. We applied for the award a little bit late, but we received it in February of 2020, when Bronco was twelve years and seven months old. At the time, he had recovered from a heart failure the previous October and was doing pretty well. He was subsequently mentioned at the LCA’s awards banquet and featured in a video about long-lived Leonbergers produced by the LHFI.
I would encourage anyone who owns a Leonberger who is at least ten years old to join the Facebook Leonberger Double Digit Club. There you can gather a tremendous amount of information and helpful tips. Its members share photos and stories and advice for dealing with old-age problems, food issues, and more.
LHFI (the Leonberger Health Foundation International) is an organization that exist to improve the health of the Leonberger breed. They 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, in addition to administering the Grey Muzzle Award. I can add that when Bronco passed away, we submitted his DNA for research.
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. LHFI is one of my favorite charities
For more information, see http://www.lhfi.org/grey-muzzle-hall-of-honor.html; to see the 2019–2020 awardees, including Bronco, visit https://youtu.be/qS9w6Zk1Hz4.