Leonberger vs Newfoundland: 5 Key Differences Explained

Written by Hannah Ward
Published: March 12, 2022
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Leonbergers and Newfoundlands are two of the biggest dog breeds around. They are well known for their thick double coats, strong swimming ability, and excellent temperaments. At first glance, they can look incredibly similar but don’t worry, as when it comes to Leonberger vs Newfoundland, there are still plenty of key differences that we can use to tell the two apart.

In this article, we’ll discover everything you need to know about Leonbergers and Newfoundlands, including where they came from and which one almost became extinct. We’ll also discuss their appearance, color, temperament, and how they swim. So join us as we discover all of the differences between Leonbergers and Newfoundlands.

Comparing Newfoundlands and Leonbergers

The main differences between Leonbergers and Newfoundlands are origin, coat color, head shape, temperament, and swimming motion.

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Newfoundlands and Leonbergers are both dogs that were traditionally working dogs, albeit with very different roles. However, despite their large size, they make excellent pets and are a firm favorite amongst dog lovers. For all of their similarities, there are a number of differences between them, so check out the chart below to learn more.

NewfoundlandLeonberger
OriginCanadaGermany
SizeWeight – 100 to 150 pounds
Height – 25 to 30 inches
Weight – 90 to 165 pounds
Height – 25 to 32 inches
ColorBlack, black & white, grey, brownRed, red-brown, sandy. Nose, lips, and paw pads are typically always black
Body TypeHeavy, muscular body, large bones, webbed paws. Broad, round face with droopy lipsMuscular, medium-boned, broad chest. The head is deeper than it is broad
TemperamentStrong, calm, docile, intelligentAffectionate, loyal, intelligent, playful, wary with strangers
DroolYesNot much
Swimming MotionDown and outDoggy paddle
Lifespan8 – 10 years8 – 9 years

The 5 Key Differences Between Leonbergers and Newfoundlands

Types of Big Dogs
Leonbergers are typically always reddish-brown in color.

Kaca Skokanova/Shutterstock.com

The main differences between Leonbergers and Newfoundlands are origin, coat color, the shape of their head, temperament, and swimming motion.

Leonbergers are typically red or reddish-brown, while Newfoundlands are more often black or black and white. Newfoundlands also have a more rounded head than Leonbergers. They also have their unique swimming action, which makes them extremely strong swimmers. Both have very good temperaments, but Leonbergers are more sensitive to strangers and make good guardians.

Let’s discuss all of these differences in more detail below.

Leonberger vs Newfoundland: Origin

Newfoundlands originated in Newfoundland, Canada, where they were bred as working dogs for fishermen. Most were used to pull fishing nets, but the largest dogs also pulled carts. Their thick coat and strong swimming ability made them particularly suited for their role. Irish water spaniels and Labrador retrievers are some of the breeds that were crossed to form the Newfoundland breed.

Leonbergers originated in Germany by crossing Newfoundlands, early Saint Bernards, and Pyrenean Mountain dogs. They were traditionally used as farm dogs and for guarding livestock against theft. However, the breed was almost wiped out twice – in both World Wars. Only five Leonbergers survived the First World War, and only around eight survived the Second World War. Their near extinction was partly because they were used to pull ammunition carts. However, thankfully the breed was saved and we can enjoy them today.

Leonberger vs Newfoundland: Body Type

Black Newfoundland running in water
Newfoundlands have broad faces and droopy lips.

rzoze19/Shutterstock.com

Both Newfoundlands and Leonbergers have heavy, muscular bodies, but there are still some differences between them. The most noticeable difference is the shape of their heads. Newfoundlands have a broad but rounded face and droopy lips. Leonbergers have a head that is deeper than it is broad and a slightly more distinguished muzzle that is of equal length to the skull. Additionally, their lips and nose are typically always black.

Leonberger vs Newfoundland: Coat

One of the most noticeable differences between Newfoundlands and Leonbergers is their color. Newfoundlands are typically black, black and white, grey, or brown. However, Leonbergers are red, reddish-brown, or sandy in color. Both dogs have a water-resistant double coat which is essential for insulating them in the cold and for protecting them while swimming, which is one of their favorite activities. The outer layer is coarse and usually lays straight, while the inner layer is soft and dense. Their hair is thick and oily to help make it water-resistant. However, as it is so thick, it sheds a lot, and they both require a lot of regular grooming.

Leonberger vs Newfoundland: Swimming Motion

Both Newfoundlands and Leonbergers love to swim and are extremely capable of it. Both dogs even have webbed feet, which shows how well adapted they are to swimming. However, Newfoundlands have a different swimming technique from most other dogs. While most others use the typical “doggy paddle” motion, Newfoundlands use a “down and out” motion with their massive paws, which make each stroke incredibly strong.

Leonberger vs Newfoundland: Temperament

Black Newfoundland dog in flowers
Newfoundlands are calm, docile dogs and make great pets.

Pandas/Shutterstock.com

Leonbergers are very affectionate and are excellent family dogs. They are playful yet respectful and are good with other pets. However, they are typically very wary and aloof with strangers, which likely harks back to their roots as livestock guardians and watchdogs. Leonbergers have medium energy levels but still, need plenty of exercise given their size.

One of the most important breed characteristics of Newfoundlands is their calm and docile temperament which earns them the name “gentle giants.” They are strong and intelligent yet affectionate and loyal. Newfoundlands are usually well-behaved around children and other animals. They also have a medium energy level yet are slightly less active than Leonbergers.

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About the Author

I'm an avid animal lover, and when not writing I can be found on my farm surrounded by dogs, horses, and sheep.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are newfoundlands and leonbergers used as search and rescue dogs?

Yes, newfoundlands and leonbergers are frequently used as search and rescue dogs.  Due to their physical strength and strong swimming ability they are often used as water rescue dogs too.

Are leonbergers and newfoundlands easy to train?

Yes, both are incredibly intelligent dogs and so long as they are taught from a young age both are generally very easy to train.