What Were Bernese Mountain Dogs Bred For?

Bernese Mountain Dogs, often referred to as “Berners,” are large and beautiful dogs that have captured the hearts of many dog lovers around the world. These gentle giants have a rich history and were originally bred for specific purposes that made them indispensable working dogs.

Origins and History

The Bernese Mountain Dog is believed to have originated in Switzerland over 2000 years ago. They are one of four Swiss mountain dog breeds and were primarily found in the canton of Bern, which gave them their name.

These dogs were initially bred by farmers in the Swiss Alps who needed versatile working companions capable of assisting with various tasks on their farms. The breed’s ancestors likely include mastiffs brought by Romans during their conquests, as well as local flock-guarding dogs.

Farm Work

Berners were expert farm workers, helping farmers with an array of important tasks. One notable role they played was pulling carts filled with milk churns from alpine pastures down to dairy processing facilities located lower in the valleys. This allowed farmers to transport their produce efficiently while utilizing the strength and endurance these sturdy canines possessed.

In addition to cart-pulling duties, Bernese Mountain Dogs excelled at herding livestock such as cattle or sheep. Their calm nature paired with remarkable intelligence made them excellent at guiding animals through mountainous terrain without causing any harm or distress.

Draft Work

Besides being reliable farmhands, Berners also worked as draft animals on Alpine farms. Their incredible strength combined with a harness enabled them to pull heavy loads like firewood or other supplies up steep slopes where machinery could not be used effectively due to rugged terrain.


Bernese Mountain Dogs were also utilized as reliable watchdogs. With their imposing size and protective instincts, they served as excellent guard dogs for farms and properties. Their presence alone acted as a deterrent against potential intruders, while their loyalty to their owners ensured a strong bond and commitment to protecting their territory.


While Bernese Mountain Dogs were primarily bred for work, they have naturally evolved to become beloved family pets. Their gentle temperament, intelligence, and love for human companionship make them wonderful additions to households seeking loyal and affectionate furry friends.

In conclusion, Bernese Mountain Dogs were initially bred in Switzerland for various farm-related tasks such as cart pulling, herding livestock, draft work on alpine farms, and guarding properties. Over time, they have transitioned into cherished family pets that still carry the legacy of their working heritage within them.