Tale of two stories
The L÷wchen is a very old breed. Where it comes from cannot be determined conclusively, but there is much evidence to suggest its history. Currently there are two schools of thought over the breeds history. While the two schools agree that the breed descends from an ancestor tracing to Tibetan type dogs, this is where the agreement ends until the later history resumes during the latter part of the medieval period. The original belief was that the L÷wchen was developed in the Mediterranean and made its way from there into the northern regions of Europe, to Germany, France and Holland. If this belief is adhered to, then one would also believe that the L÷wchen is also a member of the Bichon family. This was the story of the breed until the late 1980's when extensive research was conducted for a L÷wchen book. The research came up with another alternative story, which is supported by a large amount of evidence. Whichever history one chooses to believe in, we all have to agree that it is unlikely that we will know in our life times the true history of the breed. Someday, a canine genome project will probably be able to sort out which breeds trace to what ancestors, hopefully revealing the true ancestors of our beloved breed.
The L÷wchen in Art and Folklore
Among the best known are the Albrecht Durer Lowchen which abound in several of his important works.The earliest evidence of the Lowchen traces to the 1400's in Germany and Holland. We know that the breed has strong roots in Germany and Holland since most of the breed's early evidence stems from these countries. Besides written references, the breed can be found in many artworks dating from the medieval times. Among the best known are the Albrecht Durer L÷wchen which abound in several of his important works. The L÷wchen he drew in 1500, could be the L÷wchen reclining in today's living room.
There are so many illustrations of L÷wchen in both well-known masterpieces and obscure works that one could spend a lifetime making incredible discoveries.
The L÷wchen enjoyed popularity for many centuries as a companion dog to the ruling classes and average person alike. There are many charming stories of the breed's purposes.
In one, a stone statue of a L÷wchen is placed at the foot of a tomb housing a knight's body, if he died of peaceful causes. If he died a war casualty then a mighty lion was positioned signifying the knights' valor. Another tale attempts to explain the haircut by telling of the ladies of the court who take the dog to bed with them since they believed its shaved body served as a hot water bottle.
In 1555 Conrad Gessner wrote of the breed in "Histories Animalium" making this the first written reference to the breed. The L÷wchen was included in written classifications of dogs from that time on, under varying names but usually as the "Lion Dog". The other names, depending on the time period were Shoshundle, Gutchen Hund, and Petit Chien de Lion. L÷wchen is a German word with a diminutive attached. It means little lion.
The breed was referenced in many dog books or in old encyclopedias. Among the books one can find the L÷wchen in, are; Hutchinson's Dog Encyclopedia, Cassell's New Book of the Dog, Das Edlen Hundes, The Animal Kingdom by Professor Gmelin, and The Dog which was published in 1781.
The L÷wchen Stands Alone
The L÷wchen predates the Poodle and Bichon breeds. It appears in several important dog classifications published in encyclopedias and other works beginning in 1756. The L÷wchen can be found listed as the Lion Dog. Also listed with the L÷wchen, are the Poodle ancestors; the Barbet and in the earlier classifications, it's predecessor the Waterdog. The Bichons classifications begin to appear in the 1700's. These timelines indicate the L÷wchens existence as a separate breed from the beginning, and not as a breed stemming from either the Bichon family or Poodle.
It is a mystery as to why the breed began to disappear. One factor that may have explained it's disappearance is the possibility that the L÷wchen may have played a part in the development of the Toy Poodle. About the time that the L÷wchen became very rare, the Toy Poodle began to emerge, its very description resembling the L÷wchen. By the time the Toy Poodle became established, the L÷wchen had become a curiosity no longer taken seriously and thought to be extinct by many. Were the early ancestors of the Toy Poodle L÷wchen? There is a reason to believe that the L÷wchen was incorporated into the Poodle family, serving as a foundation of the dog that eventually metamorphosed into the Toy Poodle of today.
An interesting tidbit to add here is that the L÷wchen had made its way to the United States prior to the Civil War
The earliest mentioned breeder is of the 19th century. Dr. Walthier, of Germany. He explained that the breed was called Leoninus merely because of the trim, not by possessing a fierce lion-like personality. The next breeder we know of actually played a part in the L÷wchens resurrection. Breeding and exhibiting L÷wchen at the turn of the century, as the breed was making what seemed its final bow, was Maximillian Coninck from Belgium.
The most important client he had came to him in 1897. She was Madame Bennert, then a young married woman, acquiring her first L÷wchen. This was the start of a lifetime love affair between Madame Bennert and her pride of lions.
A little known person also emerges as having a hand in the resurrection of the L÷wchen. Herr Professor Kurt Konig, from the Zootechnisches Rotenburg in Germany began gathering L÷wchen at the turn of the century for genetic research. He called the dogs gathered into his breeding program Kobaldt-Mascotts and Kobaldt-Daumlinge. He and his research associates gathered dogs that were extremely hardy, healthy and outgoing. He did not tolerate shy dogs. After they gathered the dogs best suited for the program, they closed their breeding programs to dogs from outside. It was not until he was elderly and made contact with Madame Bennert, that his dogs contributed to the gene pool of today's dogs. Madam Bennert and Professor Konig determined that their dogs stemmed to common ancestors and so they would be of use to both breeding programs.
On December 6th, 1957, a black and white bitch named Quinte was transferred to Madame Bennert, and registered by her with the ALSH registry as Fgitane, on June 11th, 1958. Fgitane was bred to Blaguer and on September 27th, 1958 she produced the litter that Judith came from. Whether Madame Bennert sent dogs to professor Konig is unknown. Sadly Fgitane was the only dog from his program to be incorporated into Madame Bennerts breeding program. What became of his dogs is unknown.
Madame Bennert Steps Forward
Madam Bennert In Brussels, 1896, Madam Bennert was a young married woman. Looking for the ideal family pet, she discovered the Lowchen. She bought her first L÷wchen from Maximillian de Coninck in 1987. While she had no intention of becoming a breeder, she was keenly interested in the breed. It was not until World War 11, that she realized she would have to step forward to save the breed. By the end of the dark days of World War 11, breed registries had become disorganized and disappeared. Madam Bennert realized that there was no one breeding or registering L÷wchen any longer. Her fear was that the breed would disappear into the mists of time as so many other breeds did during that period, and as had done during World War 1. She resolved to save the L÷wchen and began research to find quality specimens of the breed. In her words: "After a long and disappointing search I finally found two wonderful females; one was blue and came from (the town of) Lille, and the other was biscuit colored and came from the area of Dieghem. After a long search I finally found a blue male and this was the beginning of the breed's second chance."
The first three L÷wchen registered and used for breeding were Ulan, born in 1946, Sirginia who was born in 1944, and Z'Marquise whose birth date is unknown but was registered in 1949. Madame Bennert bred Ulan and Sirgrina. Her first litter was born April 13th, 1948. Madame Bennert kept Xandre, a male out of the litter, and her breeding program was underway.
Through the years Madame Bennert traveled far and wide to publicize the breed. Her travels took her to Germany where, when searching for a hunting dog for her nephew, she met Dr. Rickert.
Madam Bennert with LowchenDr. Rickert was a veterinarian who had a special interest in genetics. Madam Bennert asked him to advise her with her breeding program, which he agreed to do so. He and his wife became close friends with Madam Bennert. They traveled back and forth between Belgium and Germany. Their visits were consumed with discussion of the breeding program to save the breed. As Madame Bennert aged she began asking Dr. Rickert to take over the breeding program, but he did not really have an interest in breeding the small dogs. But, as Madam Bennert became more infirm with age, he was struck with the realization that if he did not begin to take over, Madam Bennert's work would be for nothing!
Dr Rickert Takes Over
From Madame Bennerts kennel, the breed passed into the hands of Dr. Hans Rickert in the early 1960's. He established the Von den Drei Lowen kennel. The translation of his kennel name is "from the three lions". The first Von den Drei Lowen litter was born April 10th, 1963 out of Judith bred to Hardi. The next breeding was of Judith bred to Domino, which produced on February 16th, 1964; Benjamin VD3 Lowen, Butzi VD3 Lowen, and Bienchen VD3 Lowen. This litter was important since all three dogs were foundation dogs for the breed both in Germany and world-wide.
It was from his Von Den Drei Lowen (VD3 Lowen) that the L÷wchen began to spread all over the world. All L÷wchen living today trace their roots to these dogs. The Livland, Bungener-Heide and Goldquelle kennels in Germany, Cherrycourt, Cluneen and Littlecourt kennels in Great Britain, further established the breed. Today the L÷wchen is recognized world wide.
Bridge to Today's Breeders
Fran Ostertag of Bremen, Germany, founded her Livland Kennel after she bought her first L÷wchen. On December 20th, 1964 she acquired Biechen VD3 Lowen. At the time she had no plans to become involved in the breed, beyond simply owning a L÷wchen. Dr. Rickert soon persuaded her otherwise. Eventually Frau Ostertag was able to acquire Benjamin VD3 Lowen.
At Fray Ostertag's first dog show she met the judge who was judging the breed that day. Frau Van den Boom, knew not only Dr. Rickert, but also Madame Bennert. After judging they spent a considerable amount of time going over the breed. Frau Van der Boom took the time to explain the finer points of the breed to Frau Ostertag. She then met Frau Marga Schuh of the Goldquelle Kennel. Frau Schuh encouraged Frau Ostertag to breed her bitch. Once she decided to become a breeder she began to research genetics, eventually acquiring a storehouse of genetic knowledge of the L÷wchen. She was the first L÷wchen breeder to attempt to develop a color inheritance chart.
In 1966 Frau Ostertag met Madam Bennert in Amsterdam. They became good friends. Eventually Madame Bennert gifted Fray Ostertag with a good amount of her records, much of which has been passed on to Felizitas Dylla, of the Burgwald kennel. Frau Ostertag was active in the breed until she became disabled by a stroke. Despite her poor health, she was always interested and willing to teach those that came to her for advice in the breed. She served as a bridge from the pioneer breeders Madame Bennert and Dr. Rickert, to today's breeders continuing in the breed in Germany.
The Next Step
The first L÷wchen to be imported to Great Britain were Cherrycourt Charlotte v. Livland, and Cherrycourt Hit VD3 Lowen, by Mrs. Eilidh Stenning, in 1968. On their heels, were the dogs imported by Mrs. Eilish Banks, of Cluneen Kennel. She imported also in 1968, Cluneen Butzi VD3 Lowen, and Cluneen Itzi VD3 Lowen. In 1970, Mrs. Banks imported more L÷wchen; Cluneen Ocke VD3 Lowen, Cluneen Odette VD3 Lowen, Cluneen Orfy VD3 Lowen and Cluneen Nadine VD3 Lowen as well as Cluneen Nicole VD3 Lowen.
There were further imports later, by other breeders of L÷wchen. The dogs came from the VD3 Lowen, Livland, and Bungener-Heide Kennels.
Mrs. Stenning was not as active as she would liked to have been. Mrs. Banks did run a very successful breeding program in the breed. Dogs from her kennel could be found all over the world as foundation stock.
Mrs. Banks produced Cluneen Adam Adamant, who stands in the record books still, as one of the most valuable Lowchen ever. In 1976 Mrs. Banks turned down an offer of 10,000 pounds for him. Adam was listed in the Guinness World Book of Records, as the worlds most expensive dog.
One of the most successful and respected L÷wchen kennels acquired its foundation dogs from the Cluneen kennel, the Littlecourt kennel.
The first L÷wchen to acquire a championship in Great Britain was Ch. Littlecourt Emma. (I believe that the famous CLUNEEN ADAM ADAMANT became the first UK Champion in the breed, he was also an Irish champion - LDC). (ACh's comment: L. Emma was the first UK bitch Champion!)
Mrs. McGregor's dogs were held up as examples of the breed that many breeders aspire to. Most dogs can trace some part of their ancestor lines to the Littlecourt kennel.
My sincere thanks to Gini Denninger for letting me use this from her book! She is a true Lowchen lover and knows so much about the breed. I so appreciate being able to put this wonderful information on my site.
If you like to come in contact with Gini use this address lowchen20[at]hotmail.com
Lorraine! THANKS a million for letting me copy this from your exquisite site 'China Road Lowchens'
This article is NOT allowed to copy or reproduce without the written permission from the author Gini Denninger and also from Lorraine Chippindale!