With similar coloring to the Saint Bernard, the Bernese Mountain Dog is the only variety of Swiss Mountain Dog that has a long, silky coat. Smart, strong, agile, calm and confident, the Bernese Mountain Dog is a versatile worker.
The large, hardy, and sturdy Bernese Mountain Dog can easily manage work involving droving and draft as it has the right combination of agility, pace, and strength. It has a slightly long and square body, but is not tall. Its slow trot is characteristic of its natural working gait, but its driving power is good. The moderately long and thick coat is straight or slightly wavy, offering insulation from extremely cold weather. The dog’s striking tri-color blend (a jet black ground color with rich rust and clear white markings) and gentle expression make it affable.
This loyal, sensitive, and extremely devoted breed is reserved with strangers and very gentle with kids. It also plays well with other pets and dogs, and is unhappy if isolated from family activities. The Bernese Mountain Dog is best described as an easygoing and placid family companion. These qualities are noticeable once it becomes an adult.
A weekly brushing is enough coat care for this mountain dog. The Bernese Mountain Dog breed loves the outdoors, particularly in cold weather. Though it can live outdoors in cold and temperate climates, the Bernese Mountain Dog is so attached to its family that it cannot live alone outside.
Moderate daily exercise, such as a leash-led walk or a short hike, is all the breed requires to remain fit. While indoors, it should be given plenty of space to stretch. The Bernese Mountain Dog also loves to pull things.
The Bernese Mountain Dog breed is occasionally prone to health problems like von Willebrand's Disease (vWD), hypomyelination, allergies, hypothyroidism, hepatocerebellar degeneration and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). The minor diseases that the dog is likely to suffer from are cataract, sub-aortic stenosis (SAS), entropion, and ectropion. The more serious ailments affecting this breed include canine hip dysplasia (CHD), elbow dysplsia, gastric torsion, and mast cell tumor. A lot of care should be taken to prevent heat stroke.
DNA, cardiac, hip, eye, and elbow tests are advised for the Bernese Mountain Dog, which has an average lifespan of 6 to 9 years. (The dog's lifespan is, according to a Swiss maxim, "Three years a young dog, three years a good dog, and three years an old dog. Anything more is a gift from God.")
The Bernese is famous for being the only Swiss mountain dog, or Sennenhunde, with a silky, long coat. Its true origin is often disputed, but some experts believe the dog’s history dates back to the time when the Romans invaded Switzerland, when native flock-guarding dogs and Roman mastiffs were interbred. This resulted in a strong dog, which could tolerate the harsh Alpine weather and be used as a drover, herder, draft dog, common farm dog, and flock guard.
There was little effort, however, to preserve the Bernese Mountain Dog as a breed, despite its versatility. The number of Bernese dogs were quickly diminishing by the late 19th century, when Professor Albert Heim, a geologist and dog fancier, began studying the Swiss dogs and identified the Bernese Mountain Dog as an individual type. Many of the remaining dogs were located in the valley region of the lower Swiss Alps.
Dr. Heim's efforts ensured that the dogs were promoted across Switzerland and even Europe. The finest breeds were first seen in the Durrbach area, thus their original name was the Durrbachler. But as the breed began to spread to other regions, it was renamed the Bernese Mountain Dog.
The first Bernese Mountain Dog was introduced in the United States in 1926, later gaining recognition by the American Kennel Club in 1937.