The Löwchen

The Löwchen is a member of the non-sporting group and is distinctly identifiable by its traditional Lion clip in which it must be shown. They are bright, alert, affectionate and outgoing, and love to participate in all activities as a good companion should!

First, pronouncing the name!

The name of this breed is a German word 'Löwchen', meaning 'little lion'. The English pronounce it 'Löwchen' – rhyming it with 'how' and saying the 'ch' sound. The Germans have a double dot over the 'o' signifying a different sound, more of a long 'u' sound and the German 'w' is a 'v' sound. Depending on the dialect, the 'ch' sound can be either a soft 'h' and hard 'k' or 'ch' sound. When you put that all together you are saying 'Luv(h)ken'. In Canada, we show the double dots over the 'o', but most of us pronounce the word 'Löwchen' as do the English. Never 'Low-chin' or 'Lo-tion'

BREED HISTORY

The Löwchen is believed to have Mediterranean beginnings and had strong roots in Central Europe. Löwchen are featured in tapestries from France, woodcuts from Germany and paintings from Belgium that place the breed throughout Europe from the 14th century. A relatively rare breed throughout its history, by the mid-twentieth century Löwchen were nearly extinct. We owe the survival of the breed primarily to Madame Bennert of Brussels who, in 1945, located 3 Löwchen – two females and a male that met her standards. In 1957 she located a third female. Over the next 20 years she devoted herself to the task of rebuilding the breed. In 1969 the Guinness Book of Records listed the Löwchen as the rarest breed of dog in the world with only 40 in existence. Dr. Hans Rickert of Germany shared her passion for the breed and carried on her work after her death in 1972. All of today's Löwchen can trace their roots back to the dogs bred by Dr. Rickert under his 'Von den Drei' prefix. Dr. Rickert's Löwchen were exported throughout Europe where new kennels were founded. Mrs. Stenning imported the first lowchen in to the UK in 1968. Others followed and the breed became well established in both the UK and Ireland. Canada imported their foundation stock from English kennels. The first, imported by Mr. J.R. Russell, was a male, Rossglen Beaux Yeux, in 1975. However, the credit for introducing the breed in Canada belongs to Mrs. Gwen Appell of Sunnyslope Kennels. Mrs. Appell imported three English Löwchen between 1977 and 1983 – female Littlecourt Victoria, male Huntglen Gunter and finally another male, Firefly of Littlecourt (whose littermate, Feather of Littlecourt, was exported to Australia and helped found the breed there). These three Löwchen are the foundation of the Löwchen in Canada. In the early 1980s Mrs. Kim Schmidt (Kiji Kennels) acquired two Löwchen females from Mrs. Appell (Sunnyslope's Gunvic Annabelle and Sunnslopes Firvic's Sophie) and imported four more English imports - two males (Duncara Victorian Trouble and Duncara Nutty But Heavenly) & two females in whelp (Eng Ch Duncara Nuit de Chanson and Cleeview Victorian Germ) and thus firmly established the Löwchen in Canada. The Canadian Kennel Club recognized the Löwchen in 1994 and January 1, 1995 the Löwchen officially entered Canadian show rings.

THE DISTINCTIVE LION-CLIP

Does it grow like that??? The most often asked question of the Löwchen and no, it does not grow like that! We shave the lowchen so that it looks like a lion! Löwchen in German means "little lion dog". There actually was a purpose for the trim, in the earlier days they were used as hot water bottles for the princesses living in drafty castles – Löwchen bums were clipped so they let off heat to warm the princesses under the blankets. Today we show them in the traditional trim shaved like a lion. The bum is shaved to the first rib, and the rest is left "natural" there is to be NO trimming of the coat, they are not a poodle!! The coat texture is a combination of two distinct hair textures – imagine raw silk, with a SLIGHT wave. Puffy, cottony coats are to be discouraged. For the people that just want a pet, they don't have to keep them in the lion trim. Löwchen look cute in all sorts of pet trims! They are a non shedding dog so they do require regular brushing and grooming.

FORM AND FUNCTION

The Löwchen is a well-balanced dog, standing between 10-13 inches at the withers with a slightly off-square appearance; overall body length from sternum to back of pelvis being slightly longer than the height from withers to ground. Viewed from the side the Löwchen has a level top line which flows seamlessly into a good length of neck. The loin shows a moderate tuck up and transitions into well muscled upper and lower thighs and a rounded butt. The tail rises smoothly off the top line; carried up on the move with its plume falling over the back it creates the characteristic "tea cup" handle and completes the picture of a lively and alert little lion. Correct type is immediately recognized when you see a broad head with round, large, dark eyes carried well up over a level top line, finished with a gaily carried tail above a rounded butt showing off well developed muscles; this says Löwchen! A 'typey' Löwchen must have the correct head. The skull is short. It should be flat between the ears with a well defined stop which leads into a well-balanced top skull that is roughly square with equal length (from stop to occiput) to its width (from ear to ear). The muzzle is short and strong, with equal width and depth in balance to its length creating something like a box like shape. Jaws are strong with perfect, regular and complete scissors. The eyes of a Löwchen must be round; round, large and dark surrounded by an unbroken pigment around the eye rim which enhances the correct appearance and creates the soft expression typical of a Löwchen. Pigment should be in accordance to coat colour; darker is always more desirable than lighter. The ears are set at or slightly above eye level, close to the head thus adding to the overall appearance of the "wide and flat" skull while the ear fringes flow into the mane. The coat of a Löwchen is fairly long with a slight wave and silky to the touch. All colours are acceptable. Shown in the traditional lion clip, there is an uneven natural appearance to the mature unscissored coat which seems to float when on the move. The Löwchen has a free parallel movement with good forward stride and rear drive. Although never excessively angulated, they must have well balanced angulations to move with an effortless stride. A Löwchen is fast moving (never to be raced but moving out freely), gay and lively in nature. Underneath the coat you will find a compact, sturdy dog that is well suited to being a family dog and companion. Equally at home filling any and all empty laps, running in a field playing fetch or doing agility at which they excel, the Löwchen is fun loving, a bit of a class clown and proudly owned by all who have them.

HEALTH AND TEMPERAMENT

The Löwchen we know today is remarkably quite healthy considering its modern day origins come from four Löwchen rescued from war-torn Belgium.  Löwchen breeders agree that there is really no one health problem that stands out and while not free from all diseases or problems, problems are rarely seen. Löwchen numbers are still small worldwide and because of this, there are no DNA markers as yet for PRA and other diseases.  The best breeders can do at this point is to check patella's, CERF all breeding stock and check pedigrees closely to see where possible carriers may be.  It is probably the Löwchen itself, with such a happy, joyful outlook on life that keeps it so healthy. Often called the Tomboy of the Bichon Family, this little dog has a huge heart and often a smile to go with it.  It is a very intelligent, athletic little dog which makes it a perfect choice for performance sports and conformation.  The Löwchen loves to work but only if you keep it fun and upbeat.  They love to tease and honestly they do get jokes.  The Löwchen loves people and does not do well as a kennel dog.   Joie de vie is the Löwchen nature.

JUDGING THE LÖWCHEN

Sadly the Löwchen is still viewed as a new comer in the Group ring and is generally overlooked by Judges in favour of breeds with larger numbers and thus greater knowledge of. The Löwchen have the added challenge of being a breed that in no way should have any part exaggerated something which would naturally draw the eye. The breed is one of moderation in all aspects making it difficult if the Judge is not familiar and comfortable with the nuances of the breed itself. While the whole dog must be sound the body of this breed is pretty generic. However there are three areas which are specifically addressed in the standard and the consensus of breeders agree they define type. They are the clip, the head and the tail. Without the Löwchen being shown in the correct lion clip they are not representative of the breed. The head is described in the standard as short, however they are NOT a Shih Tzu nor are they a Havenese. The head proportions are best described as 3/5 back skull to 2/5 foreface. In other words slightly shorter, not equal, to the back skull. Muzzle and back skull should be blocky. Eyes are to be dark and round in shape. Eye colour matches coat (in the case of a brown dog) however is preferably dark. There should be full pigmentation. The head is flat and ears should be placed as close to level with the eye as possible and well fringed. The tail is described as "teacup" which means it should be set on the back with sufficient space between the top of the tail and the back that air can flow. It is not meant to be flat on the back. The tip should curl over with sufficient finishing overlying the back and draping to the side. The dog should not be penalized if the tail is not over the back 100% of the time as they do drop them when in a relaxed state. The Löwchen Club of Canada is happy to conduct seminars or mentoring at shows and is currently putting together a new CD which is available upon request to all Judges interested in learning more about this delightful breed.  

Written by the board members of the Löwchen Club of Canada and originally appeared in the Canine Review May 2010.