The Leonberger breed was developed in the mid 19th century by a German man by the name of Heinrich Essig. Essig was both a businessman and a politician in the town of Leonberg in the southern part of Germany. Although his original record keeping was rather sloppy, he claimed that the Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Long-haired St. Bernard, and the Newfoundland. Initially, Essig was breeding for an all white dog to cater to public preference, but after his death in 1889 his nephew took over the breeding and developed the tawny coat color and the black mask that most Leonbergers sport today. This gave them a lion-like appearance which linked them to the town crest of Leonberg, a lion rearing up on its hind legs. In 1891 the first Leonberger clubs were formed, and the breed flourished. Then, during World War I, the breed was almost wiped out. It is thanks to Karl Stadelmann and Otto Josenhans that the breed survived. After World War I these men scoured Germany searching for Leonbergers and found only 25 still living, and of those, only five were suitable for breeding. In 1922 a cooperative of seven people began breeding these dogs, and within four years they managed to selectively breed 350 individuals. It was in the 1970’s and 1980’s that the breed gained a foothold in the United States, when several families had Leonbergers imported from Germany, and The Leonberger Club of America was formed in 1985. This large dog began participating in the AKC’s Foundation Stock Services program in 2003 and was officially recognized by the AKC in 2010.
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