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Bernese Mountain Dog

The Bernese Mountain Dog is a good-natured and loyal companion who needs close family ties to be happy. Its shiny, silky fur is particularly appealing, with its symmetrical three-tone color giving it a very harmonious overall appearance.

The origin of the Bernese Mountain Dogs

As with most ancient breeds, there are different theories as to the origin of the Bernese Mountain Dogs.

One version is based on writings from the time of the Roman Empire. When leaving, the legionaries are said to have left their guard dogs in Switzerland, where the forerunners of the Bernese Senn are said to have crossed with shepherds living there. However, there is no clear evidence of this. Another assumption points to a descent from the Tibetan mastiff. On 4000 BC. Dated bone finds prove domestication of dogs in Swiss territory.

Between 1000 to 600 BC. they already reached the size of today’s Bernese Mountain Dogs, as shown by skull finds in a prehistoric pile dwelling settlement from the Bronze Age on Lake Zurich.

The Dürrbächler

The home of the Bernese Mountain Dog is the foothills of the Alps, especially the Swiss canton of Bern. Over the centuries, farmers bred this vigorous breed for use as working dogs. With his stature and good physical condition, the Bernese Mountain Dog is ideally suited to be a guard dog, as a driving and herding dog and as a team dog. The strong four-legged friends pulled the carts of basket weavers and farmers loaded with goods to the market square. Very pretty specimens with the typical three-colored fur were seen particularly often near the Gasthof Dürrbach in Riggisbach in the canton of Bern, hence the original name “Dürrbächler” is derived. Because of the red-brown markings over the eyes, the breed was also known as “four-eyed”, because of the white mark in the middle of the face, “Blässi” was also known. At the beginning of the 19th century, Bernese Mountain Dogs were presented for the first time at exhibitions and in 1907 the first breed club was founded, the Swiss Dürrbach Club.

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From farm dog to pedigree dog

Just three years after the founding of the first breeders’ club, 107 pure-bred dogs were shown at an exhibition in 1910, which corresponded to the newly created breed standard. The owners of the dogs continued to be predominantly the farmers from the area. The uniform name has now also been officially determined: Bernese Mountain Dog. This was done in alignment with the three related Swiss dog breeds Entlebucher Sennenhund, Appenzeller Sennenhund and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. From then on, the spread in Europe began and 30 years later, the Bernese dairyman also conquered the USA as a family dog, who likes to guard the house but is neither aggressive, aggressive nor a barker. Around 1949 the breed was further refined by crossing a Newfoundland dog. The latest line was created in 1990. It is called “Bulab” and arose from the mating with a Labrador. In Germany, numerous breeders are organized through the German Club for Bernese Mountain Dogs eV, a member of the VDH umbrella organization.

Body type and coat

The head shape is slightly arched and the strong overall format is emphasized even more by the well-defined stop and the powerful muzzle with scissor bite. The high set, pointed lop ears are of medium size. If you pay attention, the back of the ear is raised, with the front edge of the ears still resting against it. Almond-shaped, dark brown eyes look faithful and gentle, they neither stand in front nor lie deep. The eyelids should fit snugly, otherwise it counts as an error in the standard. The build is sturdy, with stocky legs, a straight back and a spacious chest. The stomach is not raised and the croup is moderately rounded. When resting, the bushy tail is carried lowered, it reaches to the hock. The lush fur consists of straight or slightly wavy longer hair. The three basic colors should be distributed symmetrically as much as possible in order to convey a perfect overall picture. Shiny black is the largest area of ​​color like a coat over the head, neck, back and tail. The upper part of the legs is also black, followed by a deep brown-red, the paws are white. Brown-red markings on the cheeks, above the eyes and on the side of the chest, as well as the white pectoral cross and a white tip of the tail complete the beautiful drawing.

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The character of the Bernese Mountain Dog

The Bernese Mountain Dog is the most popular of the four mountain dog breeds because of its good natured nature. Early socialization, especially in the 10th to 12th week of life, is crucial for later behavior. A loving, patient and consistent upbringing promotes the dog’s self-confidence; if this is not successful, it becomes stubborn. It must be taken into account that this breed reaches maturity quite late, around one and a half to two years old. The “Berner” needs a lot of freedom of movement, but at the same time very close and constant contact with his people. Left alone in the dog house outside, he is mentally stunted. He is calm in nature, but if there is reason to, he can turn it up and become a real bundle of temperament. The Bernese Mountain Dog is fast, but the strong body only allows for short stamina. His strengths lie in pulling, as a tracking or rescue dog. He is rather suspicious of strangers. The approach should therefore take place slowly, that is, not to touch the dog at the first contact.


Keeping them in a spacious apartment is only advocated with an elevator, as this large breed of dog is prone to hip and elbow joint problems. Climbing stairs could become arduous and painful as you get older. With this in mind, puppies should be fed special food for large breeds, at least until the end of growth, whose balanced composition ensures a moderate increase in muscles and thus relieves the slower growing bones and reduces late damage. A breed-specific predisposition to various cancerous tumors is passed on through heredity, as is kidney disease. A disease of the spinal cord that causes paralysis of the hindquarters can largely be ruled out by a DNA test of the dogs to be mated. The Swiss Mountain Dog Association for Germany (SSV) documents the occurrence of various breed-specific diseases over generations, so the breeding focus is on extending the lifespan. A new breeding value for typical appearance (phenotypic) was introduced for the Bernese Mountain Dog in 2009, and in 2012 a breeding value relating to the genetic makeup (genotypic) was added.

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The Bernese Mountain Dog at a glance

Origin: Switzerland FCI breed standard no. 149, Group 2, Section 2: Molossoids, Great Dane-like dogsSize: mediumWithers height: 58 – 70 cmWeight: males 39 – 50 kg, females 36 – 48 kgFur color: red, brown, fawn, white, piebald, brindleEye colors: dark brownUsed: companion and family dogCharacter : Reliable, cozy, headstrong, in need of love Health risks: Sensitivity to heat, breathing problems, eye diseases, hip dysplasia (HD) Life expectancy: approx. 8-10 years

Image: © / Photocreo