The Bernese Mountain Dog is an extremely versatile working dog from the farmlands of Switzerland. He was developed to herd cattle, pull carts, and be a watchdog and loyal companion. He is one of four types of Swiss Mountain Dogs, and the only one with long hair. The Bernese Mountain Dog comes from the canton of Bern, hence his name. He’s a large and sturdy dog breed, with a friendly and calm disposition, and he’s well suited to conformation, obedience, tracking, herding, and carting competitions.
The breed was used as an all purpose farm dog for guarding property and to drive dairy cattle long distances from the farm to the alpine pastures. The type was originally called the Dürrbächler, for a small town (Dürrbach) where the large dogs were especially frequent. In the early 1900s, fanciers exhibited the few examples of the large dogs at shows in Berne, and in 1907 a few breeders from the Burgdorf region founded the first breed club, theSchweizerische Dürrbach-Klub, and wrote the first Standard which defined the dogs as a separate breed. By 1910, there were already 107 registered members of the breed. There is a photo of a working Bernese Mountain Dog, dated 1905 at the Fumee Fall rest area in Quinnesec, MI. In the US, the Bernese Mountain Dog is growing in popularity, ranking in 32nd place by the American Kennel Club in 2013.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is a large, strong, sturdy, agile dog. The body is slightly longer than it is tall. The broad head is flat on the top with a moderate stop. The muzzle is strong and straight. The teeth meet in a scissors bite. The medium-sized, triangular ears are set high and rounded at the tip. The straight legs are strong. The bushy tail is carried low. Dewclaws are often removed. The feet are round with arched toes. The weather-resistant coat is moderately long, thick and slightly wavy or straight. The dog is tricolor with symmetrical markings of black, rust and white. The base of the dog is black. The dog has a white blaze on the chest and white on the head, toes and tip of the tail. Rust is on the cheeks reaching to the corners of the mouth, over each eye, on each side of the chest, on all four legs and underneath the tail.
In addition to being strikingly good-looking, the Berner has a wonderful temperament. He is known for being loyal, affectionate, eager to please, and intelligent. He’s easy to train, if you allow him time to analyze what you want him to do. Most of all, he has a happy-go-lucky attitude about life.
The Berner is calm but gregarious, and sometimes even a little goofy when he plays with his family. He does well with children of all ages and with adults, but he isn’t a good choice for people who live in apartments or don’t have a large, fenced yard for him to play in. The Berner needs to live with his family, rather than be relegated to an outdoor kennel. He’s happiest when he can participate in all family activities.
Cancer is the leading cause of death for dogs in general, but Bernese Mountain Dogs have a much higher rate of fatal cancer than other breeds; in both U.S./Canada and UK surveys, nearly half of Bernese Mountain Dogs die of cancer, compared to about 27% of all dogs. Bernese Mountain Dogs are killed by a multitude of different types of cancer, including malignant histiocytosis, mast cell tumor, lymphosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, andosteosarcoma. A four-year-old Bernese with lymphoma named Dylan was one of the first dogs to receive chemotherapy at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, and it was successful.