Bernese Mountain Dog

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Bernese Mountain Dog
Bernese Mountain Dog
Other namesBerner Sennenhund
Bernese Cattle Dog
Bouvier Bernois
Height Dogs 25–27.5 in (64–70 cm)
Bitches 23–26 in (58–66 cm)
Weight Dogs 80–150 lb (35–70 kg)
Bitches 70–100 lb (30–45 kg)
Coat Double
Color Tricolor (black, rust, and white)
Litter size average 5–7, up to 15[1][2]
Life span 6-8 years
Kennel club standards
FCI standard
Dog (domestic dog)

The Bernese Mountain Dog (German: Berner Sennenhund) is a large dog breed, one of the four breeds of Sennenhund-type dogs from the Swiss Alps. These dogs have roots in the Roman mastiffs. The name Sennenhund is derived from the German Senne ("alpine pasture") and Hund (hound/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. This breed 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 1912.[3]

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 are:


Side view of a Bernese Mountain Dog
Close-up of a Bernese Mountain Dog head
An eight-month-old Bernese Mountain Dog puppy


Like the other Sennenhund, 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 the mouth, front of legs, and out around the white chest. However, it is the only breed of Sennenhund dogs with a long coat.[4] The ideal of a perfectly marked individual gives the impression of a white horseshoe shape around the nose, which is always black.[5] There is 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 the type standard. The AKC breed standard lists, as disqualifications, blue eye color, and any ground color other than black.[6][7]

Height and weight ranges[edit]

Males are 25–27.5 in (64–70 cm), while females are 23–26 in (58–66 cm). Weight is 80–120 lb (35–55 kg) for males, while it is 75–100 lb (35–45 kg) for females.[8]

Physical traits[edit]

Considered a dry-mouthed breed,[5] the Bernese mountain dog is slightly longer than it is tall, highly muscular, with a strong, wide back.[4] The head of a 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". It only attacks if really needed (its owner is getting attacked).[7] 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.[9] Not being given the adequate amount of exercise may lead to barking and harassing in the Bernese.[10]

Bernese mountain dogs are a breed that generally does well with children, as they are very affectionate. They are patient dogs that take well to children climbing over them. Though they have great energy, a Bernese will also be happy with a calm evening.[9]

Bernese work well with other pets and around strangers.[9] They are excellent guardians. They tend to bond with one owner or family, and are somewhat aloof and standoffish towards strangers.[11][12][4]


Benno Adam, Bernese Mountain Dog and Her Pups, 1862

Historically, in some locales at least, the breed was called a Dürrbachhund[13] or Dürrbächler, for a small town (Dürrbach) where the large dogs were especially frequent.[14]

The dogs have roots in the Roman mastiffs.[15][16]

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 farmers used the dogs to transport their carts of milk and cheese and were known by the locals as "Cheese Dogs."[17] 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 1937, the American Kennel Club recognized it;[18] today, the club classifies it as a member of the Working Group.[4] In the US the Bernese Mountain Dog is growing in popularity, ranking in 32nd place by the American Kennel Club in 2013.[19]

These dogs are very popular as family dogs in German-speaking countries, where they are among the most popular dog breeds (for example, the German Association of Dog Breeders listed the Bernese at the 11th rank per live births in 2014[20]).


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,[21] compared to about 27% of all dogs.[22] Bernese Mountain Dogs are killed by many types of cancer, including malignant histiocytosis, mast cell tumor, lymphosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, and osteosarcoma.[21] Inherited medical problems that a Bernese Mountain Dog may face include malignant histiocytosis, hypomyelinogenesis, progressive retinal atrophy, and possibly cataracts and hypoadrenocorticism.[23] The breed is also prone to histiocytic sarcoma, a cancer of the muscle tissue that is very aggressive,[24] and hereditary eye diseases that are common among larger dogs.[25] 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.[26]

Bernese Mountain Dogs 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;[22] for comparison, mortality due to musculoskeletal ailments was reported to be less than 2% for pure-bred dogs in general. Owners of Bernese Mountain Dogs are nearly three times as likely as owners of other breeds to report musculoskeletal problems in their dogs;[22] the most commonly reported being cruciate ligament rupture, arthritis (especially in shoulders and elbows), hip dysplasia, and osteochondritis.[22][21] The age at onset for musculoskeletal problems is also unusually low. In the U.S./Canada study, 11% of living dogs had arthritis at an average age of 4.3 years.[21] Most other common, non-musculoskeletal morbidity issues strike Berners at rates similar to other breeds.[22] 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. Due to these common medical issues, owners of Bernese Mountain Dogs should make sure that their dogs receive OFA and CERF certificates.[27]

Life expectancy[edit]

The Bernese is one of the shortest-lived dog breeds, compared both to other breeds of a similar size and to purebred dogs in general.[28][29] The average life expectancy of a Bernese Mountain Dog is approximately 8 to 9 years.[2][28] Most other breeds of a similar size have median longevities of 10–11 years.[30] In a 2004 UK survey, the longest-lived of 394 deceased Bernese Mountain Dogs died at the age of 15.2 years.[22]



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.[31] Regional Bernese clubs often offer carting workshops.[32] Carting competitions are held for the breed.[A]

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.[33]


Bernese Mountain Dogs shed year-round, and the heaviest shedding is during seasonal changes. 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. 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.[34]

Special attention should be paid to the ears of the Bernese Mountain Dog, as they can trap bacteria, dirt, and liquid. The risk of an ear infection drops with weekly ear cleanings using a veterinarian-recommended cleanser.[34]

Notable Bernese Mountain Dogs[edit]

Bernese Mountain Dog portrait
  • Hercules is Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's dog that he brought home from the Emmental region of Switzerland during a 2006 weeklong trip to discover his family's roots in the country.[35][36]
  • Smelly and Harvey Milkbone are two Bernese Mountain Dogs owned by the characters Bryan (Andrew Rannells) and David (Justin Bartha) in the 2012 TV series The New Normal.[37]
  • Ohly was a Bernese Mountain Dog in Canada who became known after disappearing and then being found on Mount Seymour in a dangerous area known as "Suicide Gulley." Members of North Shore Rescue, a local mountain rescue team, tracked, located and rescued Ohly.[38][39][40][41]
  • Quincey von Wiesmadern, has appeared in various videos with Hansi Hinterseer, an Austrian singer, entertainer and former member of the Austrian Ski Team.[42]
  • Hannah is the real-life inspiration for the protagonist of children's books such as A Beach Day for Hannah and A Snow Day for Hannah by Linda Petrie Bunch.[43]
  • Argus and Fiona were two Bernese mountain dogs that were shot and killed when they entered a neighbor's yard.[44] The neighbor who shot the dogs admits that he was overreacting.[44] A Pennsylvania state law states that humans are free to kill animals attacking domestic animals.[45] The man feared a possible attack on his sheep, who were in their fenced off grazing area. Attacks on a neighbor's farm had taken place and resulted in the death of several animals sometime the previous year, although the type of dog who attacked those animals was not a Bernese. However, since no attack was in progress at the time of the shooting, the shooter was charged with two counts of cruelty to animals and one count of recklessly endangering another person, the latter a result of there being a house within the possible line of fire. There were no residents at home at the time of the shooting.[45] The prosecuting attorney dithered about bringing charges.[46] On September 11, 2013, the shooter was convicted on two counts of animal cruelty. He faces up to five years in jail for each count.[47]
  • Izzy survived the destruction of her family's Northern California home in the October 2017 Northern California wildfires and emerged from the woods with her tail wagging as her family investigated the ruins. Family members captured the reunion on video.[48]
  • Bród and Síoda, two pet dogs of the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins.[49] Síoda died on September 19, 2020.[50] In March 2021, a new puppy named Misneach was first photographed with President Higgins.[51]
  • Stella is a Bernese mountain dog in Plymouth, Michigan, who has two restaurants named after her, "Stella's Black Dog Tavern," and "Stella's Trackside."[52][53] She also has a book written about her called "Introducing Stella."[54]


  • Nico (2015), an adopted Bernese mountain dog, became a hero when he saved two people who were being swept out into the ocean by a California rip current.[55][56]
  • Bella saved owner Chris Larocque from a burning house by pulling him out. The owner had reduced mobility from the injuries inflicted, and said that he would have died without Bella's help.[57]
  • Oakley (2014) saved her family, by sitting on her owner's head until he woke up, when their Vermont ski condo caught fire overnight.[58][59]
  • Ben, a Bernese Mountain Dog/Border Collie mix, saved his family from a fire that started after they were asleep. He alerted the babysitter who was able to get the two kids and Ben out to safety.[60]

See also[edit]


Explanatory footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ For example, 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.[32]


  1. ^ Borge, K. S.; Tønnessen, R.; Nødtvedt, A.; Indrebø, A. (2011). "Litter size at birth in purebred dogs—A retrospective study of 224 breeds". Theriogenology. 75 (5): 911–919. doi:10.1016/j.theriogenology.2010.10.034. PMID 21196028. "n=137 litter size=6.4 range 1-15"
  2. ^ a b Leroy, G. G.; Phocas, F.; Hedan, B.; Verrier, E.; Rognon, X. (2015). "Inbreeding impact on litter size and survival in selected canine breeds" (PDF). The Veterinary Journal. 203 (1): 74–8. doi:10.1016/j.tvjl.2014.11.008. PMID 25475165. litter size=5.51 ± 2.7, longevity mean=7.74 ± 3.03 median=8.15
  3. ^ "100th Anniversary". Swiss Club for Bernese Mountain Dogs. 2007. Archived from the original on July 6, 2011. Retrieved January 5, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d "AKC Working Group". American Kennel Club. Retrieved December 5, 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Bernese Mountain Dog". AKC. Retrieved 2019-04-26.
  6. ^ "Bernese Mountain Dog (Berner Sennenhund, Dürrbächler)". May 5, 2003. Archived from the original on May 1, 2011. Retrieved April 3, 2011.
  7. ^ a b "Bernese Mountain Dog: Breed Standard". American Kennel Club. 28 March 1990. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
  8. ^ "Bernese Mountain Dog Profile". Bernese Breeders Association of Great Britain. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  9. ^ a b c "Bernese Mountain Dog | Temperament & Personality". Bernese Mountain Dog Breed. PetWave. Archived from the original on 2 September 2012. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
  10. ^ "Too little exercise leads to agitated canine: Ask Dog Lady". Cleveland Plain Dealer. 5 December 2012. Retrieved 11 December 2012.
  11. ^ Schuler, Elizabeth Meriwether (1980). Simon & Schuster's Guide to Dogs. Milano: Arnoldo Mondadori Editore S.p.A., Simon & Schuster. p. 45.
  12. ^ "BMDCA Info Series" (PDF). BMDCA. 2013. Retrieved 2019-04-29.
  13. ^ "Historical photos of the Berner Sennenhund (Bernese Mountain Dog)". Naturhistorisches Museum der Burgermendiz Bern. Archived from the original on January 11, 2011. Retrieved January 5, 2011.. Notice the variety in appearance of the original type
  14. ^ Bernese Mountain Dog, Berner Sennenhund, Dürrbächler, Vertebrate Animals Department, Naturhistorische Museum Bern Archived October 25, 2012, at the Wayback Machine (in English)
  15. ^ "Bernese Mountain Dog". Dog Owner's Guide. Retrieved June 8, 2016.
  16. ^ Wilcox, Bonnie, DVM; Walkowicz, Chris (1993) [1989]. Bernese Mountain Dog. The Atlas of Dog Breeds of the World. Vol. 1 (4th ed.). Neptune City, NJ Lanham, MD: TFH Publications Distributed in the U.S. to the Bookstore and library trade by National Book Network. p. 188. ISBN 978-0-86622-855-8.
  17. ^ The dog encyclopedia. Bryan, Kim., Baggaley, Ann., John, Katie., DK Publishing, Inc. (First American ed.). New York. 2013. ISBN 978-1-4654-0844-0. OCLC 812257274.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  18. ^ "Bernese Mountain Dog History". American Kennel Club. Retrieved December 5, 2019.
  19. ^ American Kennel Club 2013 Dog Registration Statistics Historical Comparisons & Notable Trends, The American Kennel Club, Retrieved 30 April 2014
  20. ^ (VDH), Verband für das Deutsche Hundewesen. "Welpenstatistik der VDH-Mitgliedsvereine- Verband für das Deutsche Hundewesen (VDH)". Retrieved 2016-06-09.
  21. ^ a b c d "2000 BMDCA Health Survey". Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America, Inc. July 7, 2008. Retrieved April 3, 2011.
  22. ^ a b c d e f "Individual Breed Results for Purebred Dog Health Survey". The Kennel Club. August 18, 2006. Archived from the original on August 13, 2013. Retrieved April 3, 2011.
  23. ^ Willis, Dr. Malcolm Beverly (1998). The Bernese Mountain Dog Today. New York: Howell Book House. pp. 16–17. ISBN 978-1-58245-038-4.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ 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.
  26. ^ McNew, Karen (21 December 2012). "Virginia-Maryland Veterinary College launches oncology program for pets". WSLS10. Retrieved 28 December 2012.[permanent dead link]
  27. ^ "Bernese Mountain Dogs". 2Puppies. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  28. ^ a b Cassidy, Kelly M. (February 1, 2008). "Breed Longevity Data". Dog Longevity. Retrieved September 18, 2012.
  29. ^ "Life in dog years: A look at the longest- and shortest-lived breeds". NBC. 2012. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
  30. ^ Greer, Kimberly A. (April 1, 2007). "Statistical analysis regarding the effects of height and weight on life span of the domestic dog". Research in Veterinary Science. 82 (2): 208–214. doi:10.1016/j.rvsc.2006.06.005. PMID 16919689. Retrieved July 20, 2020.
  31. ^ Young-Knox, Sara (2 December 2012). "Conway celebrates with jolly holiday parade". The Union Leader. Archived from the original on 2013-12-26. Retrieved 10 December 2012.
  32. ^ a b "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.
  33. ^ Hartnagle-Taylor, Jeanne Joy; Taylor, Ty (2010). Stockdog Savvy. Loveland, Colorado: Alpine Publications. p. 300. ISBN 978-1-57779-106-5.
  34. ^ a b "Bernese Mountain Dog Appearance & Personality". Bernese Mountain Dog Breed. PetWave. Archived from the original on 11 September 2012. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  35. ^ "Big Ben exploring his roots in Switzerland". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
  36. ^ "Ben Roethlisberger". Swiss Center of North America. Archived from the original on 24 September 2014. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
  37. ^ Tucker, Ken (2012). "TV: NBC's Comedy Gamble". Entertainment Weekly. Time Warner (1223): 64–65.
  38. ^ The Canadian Press (8 December 2012). "Ohly Found On Mount Seymour: Dog Reunited With Family". Huffington Post British Columbia. Retrieved 10 December 2012.
  39. ^ Ryan, Denise (10 December 2012). "Team rescues Ohly, Bernese Mountain Dog from Suicide Gully after 13 days on Mt. Seymour". Calgary Herald. Archived from the original on 22 November 2014. Retrieved 10 December 2012.
  40. ^ McKenna, Cara (9 December 2012). "Ohly Moly! Bernese mountain dog rescued after two weeks on Seymour | Metro". Metro Vancouver. Archived from the original on 1 January 2013. Retrieved 10 December 2012.
  41. ^ Jones, Curtis. "A Very Busy Day – "Ohly" the Dog Rescued". Archived from the original on 11 January 2013. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  42. ^ "Zwinger von Wiesmadern" [Kennel of Wiesmadern] (in German). Archived from the original on 30 December 2012. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  43. ^ Helhoski, Anna (2 January 2013). "Children's Book Author To Bring Dog Stories To Rye". The Rye Daily Voice. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  44. ^ a b Hondro, Marcus (21 February 2013). "U.S. family mourns as neighbour kills their Bernese Mountain dogs". Digital Journal. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  45. ^ a b Davis, Carolyn (23 February 2013). "Chester County dog shooter will face charges after all". Philadelphia Daily News. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  46. ^ "Man Shoots, Kills Neighbor's Dogs But Won't be Charged: Cops Investigators say the man shot the dogs because he believed they were endangering his sheep". WCAU. February 21, 2013. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
  47. ^ Jimenez, Tim. "Guilty verdict for Chester County Man in Shooting of Neighbors' Dogs". Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: KYW-TV, CBS. Retrieved September 13, 2013.
  48. ^ "Family dog emerges alive and healthy from wildfire aftermath". The Associated Press. October 14, 2017. Retrieved October 15, 2017.
  49. ^ _"The Queen's Corgis Aren't the Only Dogs Who've Fallen in Love with Meghan Markle". July 11, 2018. Retrieved November 11, 2018.
  50. ^ _"President Michael D Higgins' dog Síoda dies". September 19, 2020. Retrieved September 19, 2020.
  51. ^ Colbert, Niall (2 March 2021). "President Higgins Names His New Puppy 'Misneach'". Today FM. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  52. ^ _"Stella's Black Dog Tavern Moving To Station 885". November 15, 2018. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
  53. ^ _"Plymouth's Stella's Expands". February 13, 2019. Retrieved February 13, 2019.
  54. ^ Ostenndorf (12 November 2017). "Introducing Stella". ISBN 978-0-692-96315-9.
  55. ^ Moran, Lee (March 23, 2015). "Bernese mountain dog rescues couple from riptide off California coast". Daily News. New York. Retrieved March 28, 2015.
  56. ^ Mecham, Dave (March 20, 2015). "Dog Credited With Saving Swimmers From Dangerous Rip Currents in Ventura" (Video). KTLA. Retrieved March 28, 2015.
  57. ^ "'I would have died' without hero dog who dragged me from burning building, owner says as canine honoured". The Canadian Press. May 6, 2013. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
  58. ^ "Chelmsford hound hailed a hero in Vermont fire". 19 February 2014. Retrieved 2019-05-03.
  59. ^ "Oakley, the Bernese mountain dog, saves lives of couple in Vermont fire (VIDEO)". 18 February 2014. Retrieved 2019-05-03.
  60. ^ "A Hero Dog Saves Children from a Fire". Hill's Pet Nutrition. Retrieved 2019-05-03.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

nl:Berner sennenhond