8 Dog Breeds That Look Like Lions

October 13, 2022 / Dog Breeds / By: Melanie Evans

A Chow Chow and An African Lion Similar In Look

One of the most wonderful things about dogs is that, among the many breeds, there are so many different looks.

Sometimes a dog breed even resembles another member of the animal kingdom, and occasionally that animal is one of the fiercer and more majestic creatures, like a lion.

You cannot reasonably own a lion, or even house one as a guest, whatever certain movies might have led you to believe.

You could, however, if you love them, choose one of these dogs that look like a lion instead a.k.a lion dogs

Dogs That Look Like Lions (With Pictures)

1. Chow Chow

A white fluffy Chow Chow dog breed sitting perched and similar to a Lion

Of all the pups that look like lions (if you squint a little) the Chinese Chow Chow may come the closest to truly resembling the king of the jungle.

The Chow Chow himself has a long and impressive reputation as a warrior too. The breed is believed to be thousands of years old, having originated in Ancient China.

Writings at the time speak of 'war dogs like black tounged lions' believed to be chow chows, and explorer Marco Polo wrote of them pulling sleds.

Like lions, Chow chows are very powerfully built, and their compact bodies are strong and muscular. Their signature lion like mane is thick and silky, but they are great at keeping themselves clean and groomed.

They also, according to the American Kennel Club, are easy to housebreak and do not give off much of a 'doggy' odor, meaning that they are great to have around the house, especially as, despite their fierce reputation, they are calm and loving pups.

2. Tibetan Mastiff

A beautiful Tibetan Mastiff puppy.

It is more than his mane like ruff that makes a Tibetan Mastiff resembles a lion, he has the same fierce stance and focused stare as them too, and his size - which can be as large as 150 pounds and over two feet tall - is similar to them too.

The breed is another ancient Asian line, and the ancestors of today's pups were tasked with guarding the livestock that belonged to the Tibetan royal family.

In fact, some examples of the breed can look so much like a lion that, in 2013, a Chinese zoo got away with exhibiting one as a lion for several weeks before the ruse was discovered! 

3. Pekingese

Pekingese dog licking her nose

The Pekingese and its connection to lions, is featured heavily in Ancient Chinese fables.

 According to one oft told tale a lion fell in love with a monkey, and, instead of eating it, begged Buddha to help him find a way to be with his love. The gods shrunk the lion, and the couple lived happily ever after, even producing a child, the creature known as a Pekingese!

In reality these dogs, which really do resemble a cross between a lion and a monkey, were lap dog favorites of all kinds of royals in both the East and West for centuries, which may explain their common love of being spoiled by their modern-day pet parents too! It may also explain the ferocity of their bark, especially when annoyed or guarding their human family.

Nevertheless the Pekingese makes for a good family pet, and for those living in apartments or non-active individuals.

4. Leonberger

A purebred Leonberger adult dog relaxing on the grass

The large - up to 150lbs or more - and very majestic looking Leonberger - is a German dog breed that is the result of the experimentation by a German dog breeder at the turn of the 20th century. He crossed two large breed dogs - a Landseer Newfoundland and a St. Bernard - and then later their offspring with a Pyrenean Mountain Dog. There may have been other large breeds involved too. 

The eventual result was a large, but docile and affectionate dog that many felt resembled the lion featured on the coat-of-arms of Leonberg, Germany, thus the name eventually given to the breed. The reason for breeding such a large dog is not clear, but it is thought that they were 'designed' to be guard dogs.

It should be noted that only adult Leonberger males develop a lion like mane, just like only male lions have a mane too! 

5. Löwchen

Another pup with (supposed) German ancestry, Löwchen means little lion dog, a nod to the fact that when its fur is trimmed and groomed as its original breeders intended this smaller pup does indeed closely resemble a smaller version of the jungle king.

Despite its reputation for having German ancestry the Löwchen has been featured in literature, paintings, and historical writings since the 16th century, when it was known to be a favorite with wealthy dog fanciers across Europe and some claim it really originated in Italy or France.

However, the first person to officially register the breed was one first Dr Walthier and he did so in Germany in the early 19th century. 

Keeping a Löwchen's signature look can mean a lot of trips to the groomers but most pet parents find the effort well worth it and love their little lion's clam temperament and very real stance.

6. Pomeranian

A beautiful fluffy brown Pomeranian in the grass

They may be tiny - the average Pomeranian is only about 7-10lbs when fully grown, but when it comes to looking like a lion, they certainly have the majestic mane covered! This little dog is also very feisty and protective. 

The Pomeranian's breed history is far icier than a lion's though.

They are, in fact, deliberately miniaturized version of the much larger, much stronger Spitz dogs native to the Arctic. Pomeranians - who are named for the Pomerania region that sprawls across Poland and Western Germany, were first brought to the world's attention by no other than Queen Victoria.

The dog loving monarch became a serious breeder of the line and exhibited her dogs at the prestigious Crufts Dog show. They often did very well, but, as one journalist noted at the time, what brave dog show judge was going to vote against the Queen's dogs? 

7. Chinese Crested

A black and white male Chinese Crested dog breed outdoors

The Chinese Crested may look like lion, with its long, majestic mane of fur and its very regal stance and gait, but this ancient Chinese dog was not bred to be a warrior like some of its contemporaries.

Instead, they were bred to be offered as gifts in international trade between China and the rest of the world.

They were deliberately bred small so that they could be easily transported via sea and were even known to be excellent at keeping their new master - or mistress' - cabins free of rats and other vermin. 

8. Gaddi Kutta

The giant Gaddi Kutta - known as the Mahidant Mastiff or Indian Panther Hound in the West - are native to the Himalayan ranges.

There they have long enjoyed a reputation for being some of the most hardworking - and prized - sheepdogs in the world and can protect exceptionally large flocks of up to 200 sheep at a time.

Not only does the Gaddi Kutta resemble a lion, but if called upon to do so, usually in its line of work, they can fight like one too.

Gaddis as they are more commonly known in their homelands, have often been seen shooing bears and even snow leopards away from their charges, both by virtue of their size and their fierce bark! 

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Melanie Evans

Melanie Evans is a professional freelance writer based in Scranton, PA, who, enjoys sharing her lifelong knowledge about dogs. When not working, Melanie enjoys playing a wide variety of sports, traveling and hanging out with her energetic boxer dog Bruce.

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