Breed Info

Origins of the Bernese Mountain Dog

The Bernese Mountain Dog originates from Switzerland. Although called “mountain dog” the breed developed from the farm dogs in the pre-alpine area of the Canton Berne where farmers could afford to keep fairly large dogs.

The original name of the dog was Durrbachler after Durrbach-Gasthaus, the local inn of a small hamlet where this tricoloured farm dog was often sold. They were first exhibited in 1902 at a Dog Show near Berne.

From 1910 the breed was renamed Berner Sennenhund. The direct translation of Sennenhund is “Alpine Herdsman’s-dogs”.

The Sennenhund comprise four different types of tricoloured dogs. Of these only the Berner Sennenhund, known in English as the Bernese Mountain Dog, has a medium to long coat.

The Sennenhund are listed below in order of size, from small to large:

  • Entlebucher Sennenhund
  • Appenzeller Sennenhund
  • Bernese (Berner) Sennenhund
  • Great Swiss (Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund)

Bernese Mountain Dogs were kept by farmers principally for protection of the farm against all intruders, alerting the approach of strangers or other animals yet friendly with all people and animals on the farm.

Some farmers may also have used Bernese in herding, although generally smaller dogs like the Appenzeller or the Entlebucher were preferred for this task.

In the city of Berne local craftsmen used the Bernese and other big dogs as draught dogs. In the late 19th Century Bernese were still used by some farmers to pull carts loaded with milk and cream to the dairies twice a day and to take goods to market.