The Breed History
Records show that this European breed has been in existence since the mid 15th century. The Lowchen belongs to the Bichon breed class. The nickname of "Little Lion Dog" can be traced back to the breed specific clip that results in a lion-like short coat over the hindquarters and rear limbs down to the tarsus and the thick natural mane hair which is left on. In the period between the end of the Second World War and the 1960s, it was among the rarest of breeds in the world, but has recently resurged in popularity. The AKC admitted them to the non-sporting group in 1999.
Breeding for Function
This breed was primarily developed for companionship.
Height at Withers: 12-14" (30.5-35.5 cm)
Weight: 8-18 lb (4-8 kg)
Coat: The long dense haircoat is straight to slightly wavy and fairly soft in texture. There are no coat color limitations.
Longevity: 13-14 years
Points of Conformation: The Lowchen has a square conformation, the skull is broad, the stop is moderate and muzzle is short and rounded. High head carriage during activity is characteristic. Deep-set eyes are wide-set, face forward and are darkly colored. The mildly pendulous ears have plenty of feathering, the nose is large and black or brown in pigmentation. The neck is moderate in length and muscling, is slightly arched, and the thorax is moderate in depth, ribs are well sprung, and the abdomen is slightly tucked up. The tail is carried over the back unless at rest and is high set. The limbs are straight boned, metacarpals and metatarsals are short, dewclaws may be removed; especially the rear ones. The feet are small, tight and compact, with the 3rd and 4th toe appearing longer than the 1st and 5th; with well-developed pads; hind feet are smaller than forefeet. The gait is a long, low stride.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed characteristics include: Lively, friendly, intelligent, strong-willed and may challenge other dogs or household members for dominance. Generally, they are considered good with children and other pets. Good alarm barkers. May dig or bark excessively if bored. Possessing good trainability. Fine for apartment or city living. Low to moderate exercise needs. The Lowchen has moderate to high grooming needs but a low shedding tendency.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. OFA reports 5.3% affected.
Hip Dysplasia and Legg-Calve Perthes Disease: Polygenically inherited traits causing degenerative hip joint disease and arthritis. OFA reports 3.3% affected.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. Too few Lowchen have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA in the Lowchen causes progressive blindness, beginning with night blindness from 6 months to 2 years of age. Autosomal recessive mode of inheritance. There is no test for carriers.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 8.14% of Lowchen CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 4.46% of Lowchen CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Cataracts: Anterior or posterior cortex intermediate cataracts predominate in the breed. Unknown mode of inheritance. Identified in 2.71% of Lowchen CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Lowchen with a cataract.
Vitreous Degeneration: A liquefaction of the vitreous gel which may predispose to retinal detachment and/or glaucoma. Reported in 1.74% of Lowchen dogs CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. Too few Lowchen have been tested by Michigan State University for thyroid autoantibodies to determine an accurate frequency. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Deafness, Diabetes Mellitus, and Patent Ductus Arteriosus are reported in the breed.
Isolated Case Studies
Tests of Genotype: Direct tests for presence of black, brown and red colors, and black and brown nose are available from HealthGene.
Tests of Phenotype: Recommend CERF eye examination, hip and elbow radiographs, patella evaluation, thyroid profile including autoantibodies, and cardiac examination.
- Breed name synonyms: Little Lion Dog, Petit Chien Lion.
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club).
- AKC rank (year 2008): 137 (131 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: The Lowchen Club of America: www.thelowchenclubofamerica.org
The Lowchen Club of Canada: www.lowchenclubofcanada.com
The Lowchen Club (UK): www.thelowchenclubuk.com
Lowchen World: http://lowchenworld.com
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