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The Leonberger, myths, fiction and look-a-likes

Article found on

Once upon a time the Leonberger was created, as it was said, to compete with the St. Bernard. The St. Bernard was practically extinct and was saved by crossing
with the Leonberger

Now we hear stories about rebuilding the Leonberger. Restoring the "old original type" from his own roots.

Over the last 40 years, regular attempts were made to breed according to the old standard from 1895. This all happened by regular breeders of Leonberger's.
The French Club always favored the height. The Austrian Club had his "Hochzuchtprogram" and was supported by Vienna University. It was all done on a legal base.

During the last years were are regular confronted with the so called "Lion d'Occitanie", the old, restored Leonberger, with a history going back to 1620. Be aware of the fact that record keeping for dogs started only around 1820. As the name suggests, the origin of this "Lion" is in France. Somewhere in the eighties this "breed" was created.

The creator started breeding Leonberger's in 1980. The first litter, without an affix was born from a German male and a half German half French bitch. Normal Leonberger's, no exceptional heights. For the second and following litters there was an affix "Du Rivage de Te Oat". The breeder was Mrs. Therese Pelon. Until 1990 15 litters were produced. Leonberger litters, all with official birth-certificates/pedigrees. (In France, dogs gets a birth-certificate but before one can breed, the dog has to be confirmed on a show. To be confirmed he must look like a Leonberger and must not have disqualifying faults like missing teeth, correct bite (no under- or overshot), 2 testicles (for males only), good color meaning not to black or too much white). This conformation is done by French breed-specialists.

The dogs from kennel "du Rivage de Te Oat" were normal Leonberger's, some did well on shows, some did less well. During those 10 years of breeding there were on a regular base complaints and problems with the Club and de S.C.C. (the French Kennel Club). The fact that some bitches had 2 litters a year, indistinctness on the Center for Research on Canine Psychology (founded by Mrs. Pelon) and the fact that Leonberger puppies were sold as Lion d'Occitanie resulted in the withdrawal of her kennel name by the French Kennel Club.

It even happened that Mrs. Pelon bought Leonberger puppies with official Leonberger birth-certificates, changed the names, gave them official looking papers from the C.I.L.O. ("Club International du Lion d'Occitanie", a club she founded which is not recognized by the French Kennel Club) and sold them a few weeks later as Lion puppies for twice the price. Unfortunately for her, puppies in France are tattooed, so later on the new owners found out they had in fact a normal Leonberger. When you hear about this malpractice, it is hard to believe you are trying to rebuild the old type Leonberger out of love for the breed.

Also the tales of the history of the Lion are sometimes contradicting. One time it is said that 1976 was the year in which the Lion was created. A bit difficult when the breeding starts in 1980. Then we can read that the well known Aurion was rejected on the show because of his height (in 1 article it was in 1981 when he was 2 years and his height
was 96 cm. in another article without date he was 92 cm.). Aurion was born in 1985 and there are at least 3 judge reports from him. All three with the qualification Excellent.

Talking about height. You want your Leo looks higher? Measure him yourself. Take care that his coat and collar are fully brushed up. Measure him just on top of the coat. You will be surprised what you see on the measure stick, especially when you talks to him so he is standing proudly and "on his toes". You smuggle 1 cm towards the neck (which is higher) and you will see you were never aware your dog had this size. You want him big on a photo. Place him in front. Put a very tiny person behind him. Take the picture a bit from below and look how amazing big your dog is. And what about health. Of course one can say H.D. is unknown in Lions, there are no hip scores to prove it.

Breeding dogs and buying dogs is a matter of confidence between breeder and buyer.
These malpractice's gives a bad taste in the mouth.

This extention to the article can be found on

The Lion d'Occitanie is not a new breed as such, and it is neither a re-creation, since no other breeds than pure Leonberger's have been used in the breeding. It can be considered as an attempt to bring the Leonberger back to its former state.
The original Leonberger was originally created as a very large and imposing dog. In 1957 the FCI standard of the Leonberger had a minimum of 80 cm. (32 in) at the withers for the males and 70 cm. (28 in) for the females. But since the Leonberger seldom did reach this height 78 cm. (31 in) was accepted. The old minimum size of 80 cm. (32 in) are now the maximum size accepted for the Leonberger.

Thérèse Pelon, a researcher at the C.R.C. (Research Center in Cynopsychologie), fell in love with the large and imposing Leonberger, which was seldom found. Mrs. Pelon startet a dedicated breeding work for bringing back the type commonly found at the end of the 1800's and the beginning of the 1900's.
Thérèse Pelon's breeding work was successful, and the dogs nowadays that goes back to her dogs has a average height at the withers of 94 cm. (38 in) for males and 84 cm. (34 in) for females. Since the FCI probably never is going to recognize and accept her dogs, the name of Lion d'Occitanie was given these dogs of the original stature. A register was opened for the breed and each dog were given a certificate to attest their exact origin.
In 2001 there was a total of 138 Lion d'Occitanie existing in the world, with an ever increasing popularity.

This description can be found on

Another name Mastiff Lion Standard Old Leonberger

Origin Austrian become French thanks to Mrs Thérèse Pelon

The Lion of Occitanie is not recognized by the F.C.I.

Translation This card descriptive was drawn up thanks to the pleasant authorization of Thérèse Pelon.

In short seen historical
The Lion of Occitanie is not a new race, it is Leonberg of our ancestors.
"Shadow", the first specimen of leonberg officially indexed, lived in the Alps of Austria in 1620 and measured 1m20 with the garrot!
With the wire of the centuries, the standard of Leonberg was modified to impose today a maximum size of 80 cm on the garrot for the males.
In the Eighties, the number of Leonberg exceeding this size was negligible, but it is however of these fantastic giants that Thérèse Pelon fell in love. A passion which carried out it to devote all its energy to recreate the "original Leonberg": a dog of big size (on average of 94 cm to the garrot for the males and 84 cm for the females), healthy, intelligent, and with the balanced character.
Very strict choices of selection were made as well on the morphological level, as psychological or relational. In the same way, of the precise observations were carried out on the study of the behavior to establish a physical and mental structure nearest possible of the origin even to the race. This task was entrusted in 1989 to the C.R.C. (Research center in Cynopsychologie) in order to locate the characters paramount to preserve in the Lion of Occitanie.
The official organizations do not recognize this race, and Thérèse Pelon, for dissociating its dogs of Leonberg well, their gave the name of "Lion of Occitanie" and a Register of the Origins was open. Each dog thus has an attesting certificate of its exact origins.

General aspect
The Lion of Occitanie owes its name with the léonesque image which emerges from sound together. It is powerful molosse with the cat-like paces. The body fits harmoniously in a rectangle.

Behavior and character
Its moral beauty must be obligatorily connected with its physical beauty. It is a friend patient, able to understand, conscious as much of its power that of its gauge, sensitive and attaching. It is of a remarkable intelligence. Suited to work, it makes a perfect team with her Master, whom it will be able to protect vigorously if necessary. It can proportion its force in the play or work, according to whether it is with a strong or weak being. In fact, it is very soft with the children, the people old or handicapped. It is a faithful companion, far from sensitive to vagrancies, which can keep the goods and the people. It should be neither noisy nor aggressive.

Head and cranium
Cranium: Bent but without exaggeration. Seen top, it falls under a square whose side is equal to the distance separating the fastener from the ear.

Facial area

Truffle: Broad and imperatively black.

Chamfer: Appreciably broader at its base than with truffle, it is right.

Jaws and teeth: Teeth are out of scissors and it is allowed that it grignotte but without exaggeration.

Cheeks: Slightly rebounded but remain in the alignment of the chamfer.

Eyes: Means, out of almond, surlignés of black, color hazel nut with gilded, with a preference for clearest. The glance is catch, honest and expressive. The eyelids are not falling.

Ears: Planted high, of average size, and must, when the animal is in expression, come to commissure from the lips. The width of the base must be equal to the length.

In the male, it is long, muscular and powerful. It is decorated of beautiful a mane which is born on cranium, dice the base before fastener with the ear. The longest manes are to be privileged, being connected in that with the lion.
In the female, the neck is long and muscular and does not carry obligatorily long a mane, being connected in that with the lioness. It is not recommended to precede long a mane.

General information: The trunk appears long, although the back and the kidneys are massive and seem short.

Back: Broad and right until the croup, without removing line. Not levrettés sides.

Kidney: Forts and powerful.

Chest: Oval and deep. The sternum is very developed.

Tail: Planted low, with a very broad base, strong, never not exceeding the bulge, and very provided. It hanging but is carried in arc in the moments of excitation only.


Shoulders: Muscular, drawn well, strong in bone and with the oblique of the thorax.

Elbows: They remain close to the body, in its line.

Arm: It remains very close to the rib cage.

Rear limbs

Thighs: Powerful, with the well developed and apparent muscles, form a right angle with the leg.

Legs: Long, strongly muscular on the top.

Bulge: The bulge is never right.

The foot is short and round like that of a cat and the between-fingers are webbed. The plantar bearing is always black.

Color: The color is that of the Lion in all the range. However the too clear colours (sand) or too dark (carbonized) are not required. The chamfer, the edge of the ears, the contour of the eyes and the lips are always black. A black mask exceeding the stop is not required. It is necessary to exclude the white marks except for a star to the breast piece and the fingers.

Hair: The hair is soft and silky. On the face, the beginning of cranium, the top of the members, it is relatively short. On the back, the sides and the breast piece, it is at least 5 centimetres. The forelimbs are fringed. The posterior ones are decorated of long clear and provided breeches. In the male, a mane abundant surrounds the neck until the beginning of the shoulder. Peeling should not mask the musculation with the shoulders and with the thighs and it will be relatively clearer than on the remainder of the body, which emphasizes its lines.

Cut and weight
Height with the garrot: A very big size is one of principal specifications of the Lion of Occitanie. The animal of must never be heavy but strong in bone and muscles. The male should NEVER have less than 90 cm to the garrot and the female NEVER less than 80 cm. There is no maximum of size, but it is necessary to attach importance so that the animal remains in a balanced unit.

Weight: It can reach 95 kg towards the age of àns.

Any variation compared to what precedes must be regarded as a defect which will be penalized according to its gravity and of its effects on the health and the well being of the dog.

Any dog presenting in an obvious way of the anomalies of a physical or behavioral nature will be disqualified.

In particular

  1. An aggressive or timorous animal.
    Lack of size, lack of bone or the levretté or heavy animal.
    Too marked stop.
    No the mane in the male.
    All malformations congenital (lack of teeth, cryptorchidie or monorchidie, higher or lower prognatism, dysplasy.
    Plantar bearings, truffle, chops other than black).
    Bad step.
    Bad wearing of tail.

NB: The males must have two testicles of normal aspect completion descended in the scrotum.

My Thoughts....

An interesting look at this variation to the standard Leonberger we all know and love. If indeed the Lion did exsist then the re-invention of the breed is a right and just aim. Many people in the Leo world doubt this breed ever existed, no proof or records support its existence and will always be a bone of contention. Naturally, the development of this breed contradicts much of what we know about the development of our leos today, if it has existed since the 1600's then the development of our modern day Leo can be bought in to question. It would also suggest that leos started in France rather than Germany. Still, interesting stuff, having read the information available, not only here but elsewhere on the web, take time to formulate your own opinion. A breed from the past? or a modern day breeder stamping their view on the dog world.

I hope you have enjoyed this small feature and i look forward to providing more in the future. This article was only possible because I found information on others site and have borrowed it. All site addresses have been recognised.