Researched, compiled & written by Gini Denninger,
Ashford Lowchen, USA.

Lowchen by Richard De Lamarre 1667
Lowchen by Richard De Lamarre 1667

Tale of two stories.
The Löwchen 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 Löwchen 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 Löwchen 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 Löwchen 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 Löwchen 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 Löwchen which abound in several of his important works. The Löwchen he drew in 1500, could be the Löwchen reclining in today's living room.
There are so many illustrations of Löwchen in both well-known masterpieces and obscure works that one could spend a lifetime making incredible discoveries. 
The Löwchen 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 Löwchen 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 Löwchen 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. Löwchen 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 Löwchen 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 Löwchen Stands Alone
The Löwchen predates the Poodle and Bichon breeds. It appears in several important dog classifications published in encyclopedias and other works beginning in 1756. The Löwchen can be found listed as the Lion Dog. Also listed with the Löwchen, 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 Löwchens 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 Löwchen may have played a part in the development of the Toy Poodle. About the time that the Löwchen became very rare, the Toy Poodle began to emerge, its very description resembling the Löwchen. By the time the Toy Poodle became established, the Löwchen had become a curiosity no longer taken seriously and thought to be extinct by many. Were the early ancestors of the Toy Poodle Löwchen? There is a reason to believe that the Löwchen 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 Löwchen had made its way to the United States prior to the Civil War.

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