It would be a disservice to a terrific breed to suggest that its creator was a marketing genius who only saw opportunity when he sought to breed a dog that looked like a lion, but that’s sort of what Heinrich Essig did. Essig, an alderman and professional animal trader in 19th century southern Germany, experimented for years trying to come up with the right combination of breed crosses to come up with the Leonberger, and it’s said that Saint Bernard and Newfoundland breeders, two of the breeds that may have been involved in those efforts, were none too happy with the man.
Essig did have his supporters, many of whom paid a lot of money for his “Leos,” and defended him with ferocity. Those owners included Empress Elizabeth of Austria, Bismarck, the Russian Czar, King Umberto of Italy, Emperor Napoleon II, the Prince of Wales, Garibaldi, and the King of Belgium.
Essig died in 1889, without, it’s written, ever having written a breed standard. Despite snarky criticism from the dog fanciers, enough enthusiastic Leonberger people formed the first Leonberger club in 1891. It didn’t last, but in 1895, the “Internationaler Klub für Leonbergerhunde” was founded, and this one “stuck.”
“Angie” by Kimberly Santini