Leonbergers are great big huge dogs that got invented in Germany. They are what is called a giant breed of dog, and they are one of the three breeds that were recognized by the AKC this year.
The man who invented the Leonberger breed was named Heinrich Essig, and he lived in the town of Leonberg, which is in southwestern Germany. There is a legend that the reason for Herr Essig to make this new kind of dog is because he wanted a dog that looked like the lion in the town's crest. I don't know if this is a true legend or not, but I hope it is not, because this seems like a really dumb reason to invent a whole new breed of dog.
Anyway, all of this happened in the 1830s, and what Herr Essig did was he crossed a Landseer Newfoundland female with a male St. Bernard type of dog. Then a few years later, he added in some Pyrenean mountain dog, and the result was some big dogs with mostly white coats. But later on, other dogs were mixed in to make the coats darker and give the dogs a black mask.
The first dogs that were officially registered as Leonbergers were born in 1846. And by the end of the 19th century, a lot of them were living on family farms, where people liked how good the dogs were at guarding their livestock and doing work, like for instance pulling carts.
Twice the breed almost died out, and the first time was during World War I, when lots of Leonberger breeders got killed or had to run away and leave their dogs behind. There were only five Leonberger dogs that survived the war, but people started breeding them again until World War II came along. And then the same thing happened with the dogs being abandoned. The Leonbergers that are around today all have the same eight ancestors, which were the dogs that made it through the war.
Anyway, Leonbergers, like I said, are really big dogs, and by "big" I mean that the boys weigh 140-150 pounds, and the girls weigh between 100 and 135 pounds. You have to brush them at least once a week because they have a double coat that sheds a bunch. And during the time of year when the undercoat is shedding, you have to brush your Leonberger every day. The coats are water-resistant, which is a good feature in a dog who likes to go swimming. And the male Leonbergers have a thick sort of mane around their necks because of the fact that they were bred to look like lions.
Leonbergers are very nice dogs, and they can put up with noisy children and other annoying stuff without biting anybody. They are loyal and smart and obedient and playful. Also they make good watch dogs. They love their families, and they like to go on outings. They are calm and don't get freaked out by strange situations, so you can take them all sorts of places, and they will be friendly and happy there. They especially like to go swimming or hiking.
Sadly, the giant breeds of dogs don't have long lives like some of the small breeds. Leonbergers only live to be about 7 years old, which is the exact age that I am! Of course, some of them live longer than that, but others don't even make it to 7. A lot of Leonbergers get cancer or Addison's disease. They can also have bloat or hip dysplasia, which other large dogs get, too.
Anyway, if you like great big dogs, you might like to have a Leonberger. But Mom says she thinks we should just stick with smaller, less hairy dogs here at our house!