Your pampered pooch may truly have the heart of a lion, but perhaps you're not aware of the fact that he may start looking like one too. Courtesy of the creative and artistic skills of a groomer, many dog breeds can now feature lion-like manes and tails. You may think this cute style of grooming is fairly new, but lion cuts actually date back to the 17th century -- when the coats of Portuguese working dogs were trimmed for functional reasons.
Portuguese Water Dogs
With a history of herding fish into the fishermen's nets and retrieving nets and lost tackle, the Portuguese water dog needed to be as agile as he could be. Trimming these working dogs' coats into a lion cut made them less weighted down with fur and better able to work. Not only that, the lion cut served two extra purposes: it kept the Portie's body warm in water, and his fur and tail allowed a grip for those poor fishermen who couldn't swim. Nowadays, the dog is still clipped into a lion cut in the show ring.
These little pooches weren't used much as working dogs, unless you count their role as pampered companions for the ladies of the court during Pre-Renaissance Europe. Lowchen is the German name for "little lion." With a name such as this, it's not surprising that the ladies enjoyed trimming the coat of these lively pooches into a lion trim. Other than being a trademark for these lively pooches, the lion cut was also helpful since the exposed skin of these dogs allowed the ladies to warm up their precious footsies.
Among the many different dog breeds, Poms are some of the few who can pull off a lion cut. As cute as your puffball on feet may look with a cute trim, consider the fact that there are chances the fur may never grow back the way it was before. In the case of the lion cut, where the skin is shaved down to the skin, the fur may grow back in odd-looking patches, and the elbows may develop sores from lying on the floor since no more "cushioning" is there, Pet Pom.com notes.
Given their sophisticated looks, not everyone is aware of the fact that poodles were used as water retrievers in Germany in the early 17th century. Indeed, "pudelhund" is the German word for "water dog." As with the Portie, trimming these pooches helped them efficiently move through the water without getting heavy. The hair over their chest helped keep their vital organs warm in the cold waters, while the ankle hair protected their joints from rheumatism. Today, poodles are mostly shown in the Continental Clip or the English Saddle Clip also known as Traditional Lion clip.
While a lion cut does not a lion make, some breeds are purposely given a lion cut so to accentuate their leonine looks. With a ruff and a color that bestows a lion-like appearance, the chow can truly be mistaken for the king of the jungle. Meet the labra-lion, a labradoodle in a lion trim that can cause quite an "uproar" as those unfamiliar with this grooming style may think he's truly a beast. Finally, any long-haired dogs who are severely matted may get a lion cut in a groomer's desperate effort of salvaging what he could while reserving the dog a bit of a decent look.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.