The History and Origins of the Bernese Mountain Dog Breed

The History and Origins of the Bernese Mountain Dog Breed have fascinated dog lovers for centuries. This majestic breed, also known as the Berner Sennenhund, traces its roots back to the Swiss Alps, where it was originally bred as a working dog. With a rich history dating back over 2,000 years, the Bernese Mountain Dog has served various purposes, including herding cattle, pulling carts, and even serving as loyal companions to Swiss farmers. In this article, we delve into the fascinating journey of this beloved breed, exploring its origins, characteristics, and the enduring qualities that have made it a cherished family pet today.

History of the Bernese Mountain Dog Breed

The history of the Bernese Mountain Dog breed is rich and fascinating, dating back several centuries. This magnificent breed originated in the Swiss Alps and has a long-standing reputation as a versatile working dog. From its humble beginnings as a farm and draft dog, the Bernese Mountain Dog has evolved into a beloved family companion and show dog.

Origins of the Bernese Mountain Dog

The exact origins of the Bernese Mountain Dog are somewhat unclear, but it is believed to be descended from mastiff-type dogs brought to Switzerland by the Romans around 2,000 years ago. These dogs were likely crossed with local Swiss herding dogs, resulting in the distinctive characteristics we see in the breed today.

The Bernese Mountain Dog was primarily developed in the canton of Bern in Switzerland, where it was used as a general-purpose farm dog. Its main duties included herding livestock, pulling carts, and guarding the farm and its inhabitants. The breed’s exceptional strength, intelligence, and loyalty made it highly valued by farmers and shepherds in the region.

Early Uses of the Bernese Mountain Dog

During the early years, the Bernese Mountain Dog played a crucial role in the daily lives of Swiss farmers. It excelled at herding cattle, a task requiring both physical stamina and the ability to navigate the rugged terrain of the Alps. Additionally, the breed’s strong build and powerful muscles made it an ideal draft dog, capable of pulling heavy loads across long distances.

The Bernese Mountain Dog’s protective nature also made it an excellent guard dog. It would diligently watch over the farm, alerting its owners to any potential threats or intruders. This instinct to protect, combined with its gentle disposition, made the breed a trusted companion for families and children.

Development of the Breed

In the late 19th century, the Bernese Mountain Dog breed caught the attention of Swiss dog enthusiasts, who recognized its potential as a show dog. Efforts were made to refine the breed’s appearance and standardize its characteristics. The first breed club, the Schweizerische Dreibunden-Klub, was established in 1907, and the breed’s standard was officially recognized in 1912.

The Bernese Mountain Dog’s popularity gradually spread beyond Switzerland, reaching other parts of Europe and eventually North America. Today, it is cherished as a beloved family pet around the world and is recognized by major kennel clubs and breed organizations.

In conclusion, the history and origins of the Bernese Mountain Dog breed are deeply rooted in the Swiss Alps. From its humble beginnings as a working farm dog to its current status as a cherished family companion, the Bernese Mountain Dog has maintained its exceptional qualities of strength, loyalty, and gentleness. This breed’s fascinating journey serves as a testament to the enduring bond between humans and their canine companions.

Characteristics and Appearance

Physical Appearance

The Bernese Mountain Dog is a large and sturdy breed with a distinctive appearance. They have a strong and muscular body, well-balanced and symmetrical. Their head is broad and flat, with a slight furrow on the forehead. Their eyes are dark and expressive, giving them a gentle and intelligent look. The ears are medium-sized and triangular in shape, set high and hanging close to the head.

One of the most striking features of the Bernese Mountain Dog is its beautiful coat. They have a thick and long double coat that is weather-resistant, making them well-suited for cold climates. The outer coat is slightly wavy or straight, while the undercoat is dense and soft. The coat is predominantly black, with rust-colored markings on the face, chest, legs, and tail.


The Bernese Mountain Dog is known for its friendly and affectionate nature. They are gentle and patient, making them excellent companions for families, including children. These dogs are very loyal and devoted to their owners, often forming strong bonds with them. They are also generally good-natured and get along well with other pets and animals.

Despite their large size, Bernese Mountain Dogs are not aggressive or dominant. They are generally calm and easygoing, although they can be a bit reserved with strangers. They are not known to be excessive barkers, but they will alert their owners to any potential danger or unfamiliar presence. Early socialization and training are important to ensure they grow up to be well-behaved and confident dogs.

Size and Weight

The Bernese Mountain Dog is a large breed, known for its impressive size. Adult males typically stand between 25 to 27.5 inches (64 to 70 cm) at the shoulder, while females are slightly smaller, measuring between 23 to 26 inches (58 to 66 cm) in height. They have a sturdy build and a well-proportioned body.

In terms of weight, adult males typically weigh between 80 to 115 pounds (36 to 52 kg), while females weigh slightly less, ranging from 70 to 95 pounds (32 to 43 kg). It’s important to note that proper nutrition and exercise are crucial to maintain a healthy weight for these dogs, as they are prone to weight gain if not properly managed.

Overall, the Bernese Mountain Dog’s size and weight contribute to their impressive presence and strength, making them ideal working dogs for tasks such as pulling carts or working in the mountains.

Care and Training

Grooming Needs

Proper grooming is essential to maintain the health and appearance of your Bernese Mountain Dog. Due to their thick double coat, they require regular brushing to prevent matting and to remove loose hair. Brushing should be done at least once a week, but during shedding season, which occurs twice a year, more frequent brushing may be necessary. This will help reduce the amount of hair shed around your home.

In addition to brushing, regular bathing is also important to keep your Bernese Mountain Dog clean and free from any dirt or debris that may accumulate in their coat. It is recommended to use a dog-specific shampoo and conditioner to maintain the natural oils in their skin. However, be cautious not to over-bathe them as it can strip away these oils, leading to dry skin.

Moreover, don’t forget to pay attention to their ears, eyes, and nails. Clean their ears regularly to prevent infections, and check their eyes for any signs of redness or discharge. Trim their nails regularly to keep them at a comfortable length, ensuring they don’t become too long and cause discomfort or difficulties while walking.

Exercise Requirements

While Bernese Mountain Dogs have a calm and laid-back demeanor, they still require regular exercise to keep them healthy and prevent weight gain. Aim for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour of exercise daily, which can be divided into multiple sessions.

These dogs thrive in moderate exercise activities such as daily walks, hikes, or playtime in a securely fenced yard. They also enjoy participating in dog sports like obedience, agility, and tracking. Mental stimulation is equally important, so consider engaging them in puzzle toys or training games to keep their minds active.

Keep in mind that Bernese Mountain Dogs are sensitive to hot weather due to their thick coat, so it’s best to exercise them during cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening. Always provide them with fresh water and avoid prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures.

Training Tips

Training your Bernese Mountain Dog is a crucial aspect of their care and ensuring they become well-behaved members of your family. Here are some training tips to help you:

  1. Start early: Begin training your Bernese Mountain Dog as soon as you bring them home. Puppies are more receptive to learning and socialization at a young age.

  2. Use positive reinforcement: Bernese Mountain Dogs respond well to positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, treats, and rewards. Use these to encourage good behavior and reinforce desired actions.

  3. Be consistent: Establish a consistent training routine and use the same commands and cues. This helps your dog understand what is expected of them and promotes faster learning.

  4. Socialize them: Expose your Bernese Mountain Dog to various people, animals, and environments from an early age. This helps them become well-socialized and comfortable in different situations.

  5. Patience is key: Bernese Mountain Dogs are known for their gentle and sensitive nature. Be patient and understanding during the training process, as some individuals may take longer to learn certain commands or behaviors.

Remember, training should be a positive and enjoyable experience for both you and your Bernese Mountain Dog. Seek professional help from a certified dog trainer if needed, especially for more advanced training or behavioral issues.

The Bernese Mountain Dog breed has a rich and fascinating history that spans centuries. Originally bred in the Swiss Alps, these dogs were invaluable to farmers and herders for their strength, agility, and loyalty. Over time, they gained popularity as beloved family pets due to their gentle nature and affectionate personality. Today, the Bernese Mountain Dog continues to capture the hearts of dog lovers around the world, standing as a testament to the enduring bond between humans and animals. Whether as working dogs or cherished companions, the history and origins of the Bernese Mountain Dog breed showcase their remarkable qualities and enduring legacy.