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When Heinrich Essig decided to create a dog resembling a lion in Leonberg's Coat of Arms in 1840, it is said he crossed early St.Bernards with Newfoundlands. It is more likely that the "Newfoundlands" he used were actually continental Landseers, seing how they were described as black and white in colour, at the time not considered a variant, but a separate breed. The Alp Mastiff, as well as the Great Pyrenees are also mentioned as being introduced in as the 2nd generation outcrosses. The influence of the English Mastiff and Swiss rural shepherds is also a possibility, since some enthusiasts believe that the Leonberger is a result of a collaboration and exchange of dogs between Essig and the St.Bernard hospice in Switzerland. In any case, it didn't work. The ambitious Mayor failed to produce his Lion dog.

The dogs he created in 1846 were multicoloured and of varying sizes and coat types. Then, seemingly out of thin air, these giant golden-coloured leonine dogs appeared in 1865, sparking theories of a "mistery" breed added to the mix. Essig stuck to his story and insisted he developed the Leonberger from only two breeds, the Saint Bernard and the Newfoundland. Chances are that some Eastern breeds, as well as the dogs of Western Europe were introduced to the picture. Everything, from the Zlatan-Sarplaninac to the Portugese Estrela has been suggested, but the secret was taken by the breed's accepted creator to his grave. There are other theories as well, some suggesting that he simply stole a breed and presented it as a result of his failing breeding programme. These stories are yet to be proven. This supposed breed is the so-called Leon Berger (pronounced lee-ohn behr-zher), a French dog, which curiously left absolutely no trace in history. Whether this French Leon Berger breed ever existed, or is just a figment of imagination of some so-called "Essig-haters", is still uncertain. On the other hand, some people see the Leonberger's webbed feet as an overwhelming proof that the Newfoundland is its ancestor. In all likelyhood, there is some truth in all of these theories.

Not nearly as tall and heavy as the Leonbergers of the past, the modern version of the Leo is a dog most commonly seen as a family pet, due to its immense popularity. A dog of impressive intelligence, it makes an easily trainable watchdog, if not for its defense skills, than for its sheer size, alertness and intimidating appearance. Not at all aggressive, the Leonberger is a breed that has one of the most agreable temperaments in the dog world. This is a strongly boned mastiff, with a large head and a wide chest. Although leaner Leonbergers exist, most specimens are quite massive and large.

The dense and slightly wavy coat is fairly long and it comes in few shades of solid golden brown colours, preferably with a black mask. Average height is around 30 inches.

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Let there be dogs!
23.02.2003 (4167 days ago)
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