The History of the Bernese Mountain Dog: From the Perspective of Dog

The Bernese Mountain Dog is a popular breed of dog known for its friendly and gentle nature. This article takes a closer look at the history of this breed from the perspective of the dog itself.

Origins of the Bernese Mountain Dog

Learn about the origins of the Bernese Mountain Dog and how this breed came to be.

Ancient Swiss Dogs

The Bernese Mountain Dog is a breed with a rich history, originating from the Swiss Alps. These ancient Swiss dogs were bred for a variety of tasks, including herding livestock, guarding farms and pulling carts. They were highly valued for their strength, intelligence, and loyalty to their owners. These dogs were often found in the company of farmers and dairy workers in Switzerland, where they helped to manage the farms and protect the livestock from predators. The Bernese Mountain Dog is a product of careful breeding over many generations and has become a symbol of Swiss heritage. Despite changing times and new technologies, the breed has maintained its popularity and continues to be a beloved companion and loyal working dog.

Cattle Dogs

Cattle dogs have a long and interesting history dating back to the early 19th century when cattle drives were an essential component of the American West. These dogs were bred for their extraordinary intelligence, energy, and unparalleled ability to work tirelessly alongside cowboys. Originally known as herding dogs, these highly-skilled animals displayed a remarkable capacity for understanding the needs and movements of cattle, and were instrumental in moving huge herds across vast expanses of land. Using skills such as barking, nipping, and circling, cattle dogs were able to keep the animals in line and help cowboys manage the herds. Today, these dogs remain invaluable in ranching communities and have become beloved pets and members of families all over the world.

Mountain Dogs

The mountainous regions of Switzerland have always been home to a variety of working dogs, from shepherds to draft animals. The Bernese Mountain Dog, or Berner Sennenhund, as it is known in its native land, is thought to be a descendant of these early breeds. The breed's history is a fascinating one, with roots that stretch back over centuries. Due to its strength and muscular build, the Bernese Mountain Dog was traditionally used as a farm dog, tasked with pulling carts, herding cattle and providing companionship to its owners. In more recent times, the breed has gained popularity as a family dog, thanks to its gentle and loyal nature. Today, the Bernese Mountain Dog is recognized as a beloved pet around the world, and its story is one that speaks to the enduring power of the human-canine bond.

The Bern Canton

The Bern Canton, located in Switzerland, played a significant role in the origins of the Bernese Mountain Dog. It is believed that this breed was developed in the Swiss Alps over 2,000 years ago, where they were primarily used as working dogs for farmers and herders. For many years, these dogs were known as "Durrbachhunde," named after the town of Dürrbach. The Bern Canton recognized the breed's working abilities and began using them in the Swiss army as search and rescue dogs. However, by the early 20th century, the Bernese Mountain Dog almost became extinct due to changes in farming practices. Thankfully, a group of breeders in Switzerland took it upon themselves to save this beloved breed and, through careful breeding, managed to restore the Bernese Mountain Dog population. Today, this breed is popular all over the world, adored for their friendly and dependable nature.

Work as a Farm Dog

Discover the important role that the Bernese Mountain Dog played as a farm dog in the Swiss Alps.

Draft Work

The Bernese Mountain Dog has always been a reliable and hardworking companion, making them an ideal farm dog. These loyal pups helped farmers with their day-to-day tasks, such as pulling carts, herding cattle, and protecting livestock. Their thick fur and sturdy build made them well-suited for the harsh climate of the Swiss Alps, where they originated. As the farm's right-hand dog, they were known for their strength, endurance, and obedience. Bernese Mountain Dogs were trained to work tirelessly, often hauling heavy loads up and down the mountain, through snow, ice, and rocky terrain. But they also possessed a gentle nature, making them a favorite among farmers and their families. Today, while they may not be as common on farms as they once were, they continue to be a beloved breed that embodies a rich history of hard work and dedication.


Herding was yet another task in which the Bernese Mountain Dog excelled. These dogs were trained to herd livestock in the highland meadows of Switzerland, where they demonstrated their impressive agility and intelligence. Cows, sheep, and goats all responded well to the gentle yet firm commands of these dogs, who were expert at corralling the animals without causing them undue stress. The Bernese Mountain Dog's natural inclination to protect made them ideal guardians on the farm, keeping watch over livestock and family alike. Many farmers relied heavily on these dogs, who proved themselves time and time again as invaluable members of the agricultural community.


The Bernese Mountain Dog wasn't just beneficial on the farm, but also provided protection to its owners. Due to their loyal and courageous nature, these dogs were often used as guardians of the homestead. Their barking and intimidating size were enough to scare off any unwanted visitors or predators, making them a valuable asset to farming families. In addition to providing protection, the Bernese Mountain Dog was also used to pull carts of produce to the market. It's incredible to think about how versatile these dogs were and how they were able to serve their community in so many ways. It truly shows how invaluable this breed was, not just in a farming setting, but in society as a whole.


The Bernese Mountain Dog is not just a hard-working farm dog but also a popular companion. Their friendly and caring behavior makes them an ideal family pet and friend to all. This loyal breed is known to be patient with children, showing great affection and protection towards them. Their calm demeanor provides comfort and support to their owners, especially for those coping with anxiety or depression. Their keen sense of smell and natural instincts, used for herding cattle, also makes them skilled in search and rescue operations. Bernese Mountain Dogs thrive in an environment where they can engage in physical activity and enjoy time with their families. It's no wonder they continue to be a beloved breed worldwide.

Becoming a Breed

Explore how the Bernese Mountain Dog became an established breed, and the challenges it faced along the way.

First Dog Show

In the late 1800s, the Bernese Mountain Dog made its debut at the first dog show in Switzerland. Despite being known as a working breed, the Bernese didn't disappoint when it came to impressing judges with their stunning appearance. The show provided an opportunity for dog breeders to showcase their best stock, and it was here that the Bernese Mountain Dog began to make a name for itself as a worthy competitor. While initially seen as a novelty, the breed eventually gained recognition and became a popular choice for families and farmers alike. It wasn't without its challenges, however, and the breed faced extinction at times due to World War I and the increasing popularity of other breeds. Nonetheless, the Bernese Mountain Dog persevered, and today, it's easy to see why they're adored by so many.

World Wars

During World Wars, the Bernese Mountain Dog faced significant challenges. While their popularity among civilians continued to soar, the wars left their imprint on the breed's history. Military forces recognized their intelligence and loyalty and utilized them for various important tasks such as delivering messages, serving as guard dogs or even as rescue dogs. However, wars also posed a significant risk to the breed's survival, and many lost their lives in battles. As a result, their numbers sharply declined during those times. Nevertheless, due to the efforts of dog enthusiasts, the breed was able to survive and eventually thrive after the wars. The Bernese Mountain Dog's journey through war-torn eras tells us about their courage, fortitude, and resilience that helped them overcome difficult times.

Declining Popularity

As the Bernese Mountain Dog became more recognized as a breed, it also experienced periods of declining popularity. This trend can be attributed to various challenges such as health issues that were associated with the breed. These included abnormalities like hip and elbow dysplasia, which warranted additional veterinary care that many owners found expensive. Additionally, Bernese Mountain Dogs are larger dogs that require ample space and regular exercise. These specific needs were not always compatible with the living situations of people living in urban areas. These factors, along with the inherent high cost of purchasing and owning such an established breed, caused a decline in the popularity of the Bernese Mountain Dog during the 19th century. However, despite these challenges, owners who appreciate the breed’s gentle nature and loyal temperament continued to help keep the Bernese Mountain Dog a beloved breed.

Resurgence in Popularity

During the mid-20th century, the popularity of the Bernese Mountain Dog started to dwindle due to the rise of other dog breeds. It seemed as though this gentle giant may have gone extinct, but thankfully, a devoted group of breeders continued to keep this remarkable breed alive. Through their persistent efforts to educate the public about the Bernese Mountain Dog's charming personality and capabilities, the breed saw a resurgence in popularity during the latter half of the 20th century. This rise in popularity continued into the present day, and the Bernese Mountain Dog can be found in households all across the globe. Its reputation as a friendly, reliable companion has made it a beloved breed for families and individuals alike.

Modern Day Bernese Mountain Dogs

Find out what life is like for today's Bernese Mountain Dogs, and the role they play in modern society.

Breeding Practices

Breeding practices have significantly impacted the history and development of the Bernese Mountain Dog breed. Initially bred as a working dog, they were selected for their size, strength, and endurance. Over time, selective breeding has led to a higher incidence of genetic health issues, such as hip dysplasia and cancer. Modern-day breeders focus on using health testing and diverse genetic lines to prevent these issues from continuing. Moreover, responsible breeders aim to maintain the temperament and distinct qualities of the Bernese Mountain Dog while improving the breed's condition. The breeding process can be lengthy and time-consuming, but the results are worth it, as they are helping to ensure the future of these beloved dogs.

Working Dogs

Working dogs have long been a significant part of the human experience, and Bernese Mountain Dogs have been no exception to this. While the breed is known for its kind and affectionate nature, it also excels in numerous tasks as a working dog. These dogs have been used historically as farm dogs, pulling carts and herding livestock. Today, they continue to serve in many different roles, from search and rescue to therapy work, showcasing their adaptability and innate abilities. The modern-day Bernese Mountain Dog holds a place in the hearts and minds of many, not only as beloved pets but also as valuable contributors to our society.

Companion Dogs

Companion dogs have become an integral part of modern-day society. These loyal and affectionate animals provide comfort and companionship to their owners, especially those who live alone. Bernese Mountain Dogs, in particular, are known for their amiable and calm temperament, making them excellent companions for families with children. Their beautiful and distinctive appearance also makes them a popular choice for those seeking a show dog. In addition to their social roles, these dogs also serve as therapy dogs to help alleviate stress and anxiety in hospitals and nursing homes. It's clear that the Bernese Mountain Dog's warm disposition and accommodating nature has made them a beloved companion in today's fast-paced world.

Health Concerns

Despite their popularity, Bernese Mountain Dogs are susceptible to several health concerns. One of the most common issues is hip dysplasia, a condition where the hip joint doesn't develop properly, causing pain and lameness. This can be exacerbated by obesity, which is another concern for this breed. Bernese Mountain Dogs are also prone to bloat, a life-threatening condition where the stomach fills with gas and twists. Additional health concerns include cancer, eye diseases, and heart issues, making it important for owners to be proactive about their dog's healthcare. Regular veterinary check-ups and a balanced diet can help prevent or manage these conditions, ensuring that the Bernese Mountain Dog remains a beloved companion for years to come.


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