Bernese Mountain Dog
Renowned for their friendly natures, Bernese mountain dogs are gentle giants with a striking look which are popular across the world. Bred as farm dogs but adapting well to family life, they are wonderful companions which are fabulous with kids.
Which breed group is the Bernese mountain dog in?
Breed group: Working
Bernese mountain dog breed history
This memorable Swiss breed dates back more than 2000 years. It is impossible to know exactly how it developed as no records were kept. However, it is believed that these dogs evolved when Alpine farm dogs were crossed with Molosser or mastiff-type dogs which arrived with the Romans when they invaded in the first century BC. The dogs worked on remote mountain farms guarding livestock, pulling carts and providing companionship for the farmers.
By the late 19th century, fewer people were working in agriculture and this meant that the need for the mountain dogs had declined. But the Swiss were keen to preserve the native breed and exhibited them at several high-profile events. Breeding continued until World War I and then after the war Bernese mountain dogs were exported to Holland and the United States. In 1936, two breeders began importing the dogs to the UK. Breeding ceased once again during World War II but resumed in the United States after 1945. The dogs had died out in the UK by the end of the war but were reintroduced soon after and breeding continues to this day.
Bernese mountain dog breed characteristics
Large dogs with a relatively stocky build, Bernese mountain dogs boast strong muzzles, almond-shaped eyes and triangular ears set high on their heads. When alert, the ears are raised and point forward. These dogs are muscular and strong with broad chests and powerful legs. Their compact feet are round, and they have bushy tails which are raised when the dogs are either alert or working. It is the gorgeous coats of these striking animals which set them apart. The coats are soft and feature a pleasant sheen. Hair is wavy and black except for reddish markings around the cheeks, over the eyes and on the dogs’ chests and legs. Bernese mountain dogs also have white blazes and some have white paws.
Highly intelligent and extremely friendly, these dogs are wonderful companions. They need a copious amount of exercise and love to play. They are generally calm and affectionate animals who enjoy family life.
- Lifespan: 7-8 years
- Height: up to 70cm
- Weight: up to 55kg
- Large but gentle
- Muscular build
- Triangular eyes
- Ears set high
- Broad chests
- Soft coats with a sheen
- Need intensive grooming
Health issues with the Bernese mountain dog
These appealing pooches sadly have short lifespans and are known to be prone to the following conditions:
- Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)
- Hip dysplasia
- Elbow dysplasia
- Malignant Histiocytosis or Systemic Histiocytosis
- Hypomyelinogenesis (Trembler)
- Bloat/gastric torsion
What is the Bernese mountain dog bred for?
Originally bred as farm dogs, Bernese mountain dogs worked in the mountains, guarding livestock, herding and pulling small carts.
What sort of owners does the Bernese mountain dog?
Fabulous family pets, Bernese mountain dogs are loyal, laid back and great with children. They are rarely demanding but their size means they are inappropriate for life in an apartment. They are a good choice for inexperienced owners as they are easy to train. However, they need plenty of exercise and intensive grooming. They don’t like being left on their own and they are expensive to feed. These dogs are best suited to owners who can devote a significant amount of time to their care, who are at home all day and who can accept that their pet will not enjoy a long life.