Bernese Mountain Dog

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Bernese Mountain Dog
Bernese Mountain Dog
Other namesBerner Sennenhund
Bernese Cattle Dog
Country of originSwitzerland
WeightMale85–125 lb (39–57 kg)
Female80–120 lb (36–54 kg)
HeightMale25–27.5 in (64–70 cm)
Female23–26 in (58–66 cm)
ColorTricolor (black, rust, and white)
Litter size1-14 puppies; 8 usual
Life span6-8 years
Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)
Jump to: navigation, search
Bernese Mountain Dog
Bernese Mountain Dog
Other namesBerner Sennenhund
Bernese Cattle Dog
Country of originSwitzerland
WeightMale85–125 lb (39–57 kg)
Female80–120 lb (36–54 kg)
HeightMale25–27.5 in (64–70 cm)
Female23–26 in (58–66 cm)
ColorTricolor (black, rust, and white)
Litter size1-14 puppies; 8 usual
Life span6-8 years
Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

The Bernese Mountain Dog, called in German the Berner Sennenhund, is a large sized breed of dog, one of the four breeds of Sennenhund-type dogs from the Swiss Alps. The name Sennenhund is derived from the German Senne (“alpine pasture”) and Hund (“dog”), as they accompanied the alpine herders and dairymen called Senn. Berner (or Bernese in English) refers to the area of the breed’s origin, in the canton of Bern in Switzerland. This mountain dog was originally kept as a general farm dog. Large Sennenhunde in the past were also used as draft animals, pulling carts. The breed was officially established in 1907.[1] In 1937, the American Kennel Club recognized it[2] as a member of the Working Group.[3]


Bernese Mountain Dog

Four breeds of Sennenhund[edit]

The four breeds of Sennenhund, with the original breed name, followed by the most popular English version of the breed name:

Bernese portrait
A 60 pound, eight-month-old Bernese Mountain Dog puppy


Like the other Sennenhunde, the Bernese mountain dog is a large, heavy dog with a distinctive tri-colored coat, black with white chest and rust colored markings above eyes, sides of mouth, front of legs, and a small amount around the white chest. An ideal of a perfectly marked individual gives the impression of a white horseshoe shape around the nose and a white “Swiss cross” on the chest, when viewed from the front. A “Swiss kiss” is a white mark located typically behind the neck, but may be a part of the neck. A full ring would not meet type standard. The AKC breed standard lists, as disqualifications, blue eye color, and any ground color other than black.[4][5]

Height and weight ranges[edit]

Height at the withers is 25–27.5 in (64–70 cm) for males, while it is 23–26 in (58–66 cm) for females. Weight is 85–125 lb (39–57 kg) for males, while it is 80–120 lb (36–54 kg) for females.[5]

Build and proportions[edit]

The Bernese mountain dog is slightly longer than it is tall, and it is highly muscular.

Other physical traits[edit]

The head of the Bernese mountain dog is flat on the top with a moderate stop, and the ears are medium sized, triangular, set high, and rounded at the top. The teeth have a scissors bite. The legs of the Bernese are straight and strong, with round, arched toes. The dewclaws of the Bernese are often removed. Its bushy tail is carried low.


The breed standard for the Bernese mountain dog states that dogs should not be “aggressive, anxious or distinctly shy”, but rather should be “good-natured”, “self-assured”, “placid towards strangers”, and “docile”.[5] The temperament of individual dogs may vary, and not all examples of the breed have been bred carefully to follow the standard. All large breed dogs should be well socialized when they are puppies, and given regular training and activities throughout their lives.

Bernese are outdoor dogs at heart, though well-behaved in the house; they need activity and exercise, but do not have a great deal of endurance. They can move with amazing bursts of speed for their size when motivated. If they are sound (no problems with their hips, elbows, or other joints), they enjoy hiking and generally stick close to their people.[6] Not being given the adequate amount of exercise may lead to barking and harassing in the Bernese.[7]

Bernese mountain dogs are a breed that generally does well with children, as they are very affectionate.[6] They are patient dogs that take well to children climbing over them.[6] Though they have great energy, a Bernese will also be happy with a calm evening.[6]

Bernese work well with other pets and around strangers.[6]


Benno Adam, Bernese Mountain Dog and Her Pups, 1862

Historically, in some locales at least, the breed was called a Dürrbachhund.[8]

The breed was used as an all purpose farm dog for guarding property and to drive dairy cattle long distances from the farm to the alpine pastures. The type was originally called the Dürrbächler, for a small town (Dürrbach) where the large dogs were especially frequent.[9] In the early 1900s, fanciers exhibited the few examples of the large dogs at shows in Berne, and in 1907 a few breeders from the Burgdorf region founded the first breed club, the Schweizerische Dürrbach-Klub, and wrote the first Standard which defined the dogs as a separate breed. By 1910, there were already 107 registered members of the breed. There is a photo of a working Bernese Mountain Dog, dated 1905 at the Fumee Fall rest area in Quinnesec, MI.

In the US, the Bernese Mountain Dog is growing in popularity, ranking in 32nd place by the American Kennel Club in 2013. [10]


Bernese Mountain Dog puppy
Bernese Mountain Dog standing

Medical problems[edit]

Bernese Mountain Dog

Cancer is the leading cause of death for dogs in general, but Bernese Mountain Dogs have a much higher rate of fatal cancer than other breeds; in both U.S./Canada and UK surveys, nearly half of Bernese Mountain Dogs die of cancer,[11][12] compared to about 27% of all dogs.[11] Bernese Mountain Dogs are killed by a multitude of different types of cancer, including malignant histiocytosis, mast cell tumor, lymphosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, and osteosarcoma.[12] A four-year-old Bernese with lymphoma named Dylan was one of the first dogs to receive chemotherapy at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, and it was successful.[13]

Bernese Mountain Dogs also have an unusually high mortality due to musculoskeletal causes. Arthritis, hip dysplasia, and cruciate ligament rupture were reported as the cause of death in 6% of Bernese Mountain Dogs in the UK study;[11] for comparison, mortality due to musculoskeletal ailments was reported to be less than 2% for pure-bred dogs in general.

Several inherited medical problems that a Bernese Mountain Dog may face are malignant histiocytosis, hypomyelinogenesis, progressive retinal atrophy, and possibly cataracts and hypoadrenocorticism.[14] The breed is also prone to histiocytic sarcoma, a cancer of the muscle tissue that is very aggressive,[15] and hereditary eye diseases are common among larger dogs.[16]


Owners of Bernese Mountain Dogs are nearly three times as likely as owners of other breeds to report musculoskeletal problems in their dogs.[11] The most commonly reported musculoskeletal issues are cruciate ligament rupture, arthritis (especially in shoulders and elbows), hip dysplasia, and osteochondritis.[11][12] The age at onset for musculoskeletal problems is also unusually low. For example, in the U.S./Canada study, 11% of living dogs had arthritis at an average age of 4.3 years.[12] Most other common, non-musculoskeletal morbidity issues strike Berners at rates similar to other breeds.[11]

In short, prospective Bernese Mountain Dog owners should be prepared to cope with a large dog that may have mobility problems at a young age. Options to help mobility-impaired dogs may include ramps for car or house access, lifting harnesses and slings, and dog wheelchairs (ex: Walkin` Wheels). Comfortable bedding may help alleviate joint pain.

Life expectancy[edit]

Compared to breeds of similar size as well as purebred dogs in general, the Bernese is one of the short-lived dog breeds.[17][18] The average life expectancy of a Bernese Mountain Dog is approximately 7.2 years.[17] Most other breeds of a similar size have median longevities of 10–11 years.[19] In a 2004 UK survey, the longest-lived of 394 deceased Bernese Mountain Dogs died at the age of 15.2 years.[11]



The Bernese's calm temperament makes them a natural for pulling small carts or wagons, a task they originally performed in Switzerland. With proper training they enjoy giving children rides in a cart or participating in a parade, such as the Conway, New Hampshire holiday parade.[20] The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America offers drafting trials open to all breeds; dogs can earn eight different titles — four as individual dogs (Novice Draft Dog, Advanced Novice Draft Dog, Draft Dog, and Master Draft Dog) and four brace titles, in which two dogs work one cart together. Regional Bernese clubs often offer carting workshops.[21]

On July 1, 2010, the Bernese Mountain Dog became eligible to compete in AKC Herding Events. Herding instincts and trainability can be measured at noncompetitive herding tests. Berners exhibiting basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in herding trials.[22]


See also: Dog grooming

Bernese Mountain Dogs shed year-round, and the heaviest shedding is during seasonal changes.[23] Usually the Bernese will only require a brushing once a week, with more in spring and fall, to keep its coat neat and reduce the amount of fur on the floor and furniture.[23] The Bernese will only require a bath about once every couple of months or so, depending on how high its activity level is and how often it spends its time in the dirt.[23]

Special attention should be paid to the ears of the Bernese Mountain Dog, as they can trap bacteria, dirt, and liquid.[23] The risk of an ear infection drops with weekly ear cleanings using a veterinarian-recommended cleanser.[23]

Notable Bernese Mountain Dogs[edit]

Bernese Mountain Dog portrait

Various celebrities have owned Berners.[A]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Famous owners include: Ella was owned by Courteney Cox and David Arquette; Max is owned by Joel Benenson; Ryan Murphy owns two Bernese mountain dogs named Sara and Owen; and Everest is owned by Frank Ocean.


  1. ^ "100th Anniversary". Swiss Club for Bernese Mountain Dogs. 2007. Retrieved January 5, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Bernese Mountain Dog History". American Kennel Club. Retrieved December 5, 2010. 
  3. ^ "AKC Working Group". American Kennel Club. Retrieved December 5, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Bernese Mountain Dog (Berner Sennenhund, Dürrbächler)". May 5, 2003. Retrieved April 3, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c "Bernese Mountain Dog: Breed Standard". American Kennel Club. 28 March 1990. Retrieved 4 July 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Bernese Mountain Dog | Temperament & Personality". Bernese Mountain Dog Breed. PetWave. Retrieved 4 September 2012. 
  7. ^ "Too little exercise leads to agitated canine: Ask Dog Lady". Cleveland Plain Dealer. 5 December 2012. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  8. ^ "Historical photos of the Berner Sennenhund (Bernese Mountain Dog)". Naturhistorisches Museum der Burgermendiz Bern. Retrieved January 5, 2011. . Notice the variety in appearance of the original type
  9. ^ Bernese Mountain Dog, Berner Sennenhund, Dürrbächler, Vertebrate Animals Department, Naturhistorische Museum Bern (in English)
  10. ^ American Kennel Club 2013 Dog Registration Statistics Historical Comparisons & Notable Trends, The American Kennel Club, Retrieved 30 April 2014
  11. ^ a b c d e f g "Individual Breed Results for Purebred Dog Health Survey". The Kennel Club. August 18, 2006. Retrieved April 3, 2011. 
  12. ^ a b c d "2000 BMDCA Health Survey". Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America, Inc. July 7, 2008. Retrieved April 3, 2011. 
  13. ^ McNew, Karen (21 December 2012). "Virginia-Maryland Veterinary College launches oncology program for pets". WSLS10. Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  14. ^ Willis, Dr. Malcolm Beverly (1998). The Bernese Mountain Dog Today. New York: Howell Book House. pp. 16–17. ISBN 1-58245-038-2. 
  15. ^ Marrazzo, Amanda (17 October 2012). "Dog cancer: Dog owner's mission seeks to find help for pet and human cancer victims". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 27 October 2012. 
  16. ^ The Messenger-Gazette (21 March 2013). "All-breed eye clinic for dogs to be held at 4H Center in Bridgewater". New Jersey Online. Retrieved 21 March 2013. 
  17. ^ a b Cassidy, Kelly M. (February 1, 2008). "Breed Longevity Data". Dog Longevity. Retrieved September 18, 2012. 
  18. ^ "Life in dog years: A look at the longest- and shortest-lived breeds". NBC. 2012. Retrieved 27 October 2012. 
  19. ^ Cassidy, Kelly M. (December 26, 2007). "Survey Comparisons". Dog Longevity. Retrieved April 3, 2011. 
  20. ^ Young-Knox, Sara (2 December 2012). "Conway celebrates with jolly holiday parade". The Union Leader. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  21. ^ "Afghan Hound, Alaskan Malamute, Bernese Mountain Dog, Cairn Terrier, Portuguese Water Dog". Dogs 101. Season 2. Episode 4. 24 October 2009. 60 minutes in. Animal Planet.
  22. ^ Hartnagle-Taylor, Jeanne Joy; Taylor, Ty. Stockdog Savvy. Loveland, Colorado: Alpine Publications. p. 300. ISBN 978-1-57779-106-5. 
  23. ^ a b c d e "Bernese Mountain Dog | Appearance & Personality". Bernese Mountain Dog Breed. PetWave. Retrieved 26 September 2012. 
  24. ^ "Big Ben exploring his roots in Switzerland". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 19 June 2014. 
  25. ^ "Ben Roethlisberger". Swiss Center of North America. Retrieved 19 June 2014. 
  26. ^ Oliver, Amy (2011). "'Are you telling me she's alive?': Sasha the Bernese Mountain dog plunges 150-feet off cliff after chasing goat and survives". Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  27. ^ Tucker, Ken (2012). "TV: NBC's Comedy Gamble". Entertainment Weekly (Time Warner) (#1223): 64–65. 
  28. ^ The Canadian Press (8 December 2012). "Ohly Found On Mount Seymour: Dog Reunited With Family". Huffington Post British Columbia. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  29. ^ Ryan, Denise (10 December 2012). "Team rescues Ohly, Bernese Mountain Dog from Suicide Gully after 13 days on Mt. Seymour". Calgary Herald. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  30. ^ McKenna, Cara (9 December 2012). "Ohly Moly! Bernese mountain dog rescued after two weeks on Seymour | Metro". Metro Vancouver. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  31. ^ Jones, Curtis. "A Very Busy Day - "Ohly" the Dog Rescued". Retrieved 24 January 2013. 
  32. ^ "Zwinger von Wiesmadern" [Kennel of Wiesmadern] (in German). Retrieved 27 February 2013. 
  33. ^ Helhoski, Anna (2 January 2013). "Children's Book Author To Bring Dog Stories To Rye". The Rye Daily Voice. Retrieved 3 January 2013. 
  34. ^ a b Hondro, Marcus (21 February 2013). "U.S. family mourns as neighbour kills their Bernese Mountain dogs". Digital Journal. Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
  35. ^ a b Davis, Carolyn (23 February 2013). "Chester County dog shooter will face charges after all". Philadelphia Daily News. Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
  36. ^ Jimenez, Tim. "Guilty verdict for Chester County Man in Shooting of Neighbors' Dogs". Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: CBS. Retrieved September 13, 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]