What Were Bernese Mountain Dogs Bred For? (History and Facts)

Bernese mountain dog standing on water

Bernese Mountain Dogs are large, gentle dogs that make loving companions. Today, this dog is a popular choice for a family dog ​​because it is good with children and other pets in the home. This laid-back dog has a gentle demeanor, a playful personality, and an affinity for affection.

It is natural for people to wonder about the origin of this breed and why these dogs were originally bred. They are good family dogs today, but where did they come from?

The Bernese Mountain Dog is one of four types of Swiss Mountain Dog. They take their name from the city of Bern in Switzerland, where they originated.

divider-legHistory of the Bernese Mountain Dog

The Bernese Mountain Dog breed evolved from mixes of Roman Mastiffs and guard dog breeds. The Romans brought the Bernese Mountain Dog to Switzerland 2000 years ago. Other Swiss Mountain Dogs at the time included the Appenzeller Sennenhund, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, and Entlebucher Sennenhund. All of these dogs are very similar in color and body type. The Bernese Mountain Dog is easily distinguished from others because it has a longer and silkier coat.

The dogs were originally bred to be working farm dogs. In the early to mid-1800s, Bernese Mountain Dogs pulled carts, herded livestock, and acted as guard dogs on farms. Swiss farmers did not have enough money to own horses, so the large and strong Bernese Mountain Dogs were used instead. Farmers made them work as delivery dogs, transporting milk, cheese and produce. They were known as “cheese dogs” in the 1850s because of this.

Bernese mountain dog lying on the sand
Image credit: ArtTower, Pixabay

The breed facing possible extinction

By the mid-1800s, other breeds of working dogs were being imported into Switzerland. This, combined with the introduction of machinery to do the farm work instead, led to a decline in Bernese mountain dog breeding.

Since the breed was not actively produced, it almost disappeared. In 1892, a Swiss innkeeper became interested in dog preservation and sought out the best dogs in the country to revive the population. This renewed the dogs’ popularity and in 1907 a breed club for dogs was officially founded in Switzerland.

As their need for work on the farms was no longer needed, the dogs became pets and show dogs.

Popularity in the United States

Bernese mountain dogs began to gain popularity around the world. The breed was known to be a companion, helper, worker, and protector. There is various information about when dogs first came to America. Some say it was 1926, but a photo of a Bernese mountain dog was taken in Michigan in 1905.

In 1936 Bernese Mountain Dogs were imported to England and the country welcomed its first litter of dogs. World War II temporarily halted interest in dog breeding and preservation, but after 1945 interest renewed.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized the breed in 1937. In 1968, the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America was formed. This club became a member of the AKC in 1981. The breed standard for the dog was officially established in 1990.

Bernese mountain dog lying on the ground
Image credit: PublicDomainPictures, Pixabay

The Bernese Mountain Dog today

Bernese Mountain Dogs are valued family companions today. They enjoy plenty of room to run and play. Their working dog roots keep their energy levels high despite being such big dogs. This breed needs at least 30 minutes of exercise per day.

This dog does not tolerate heat well. They prefer the cold and play in the snow. They should not exercise excessively when it is hot outside. Keep them as cool as possible during the day. Their long coat and dark color make them susceptible to heatstroke if they get too hot.

farming today

Since the Bernese Mountain Dog is a popular choice for a pet, some people have started breeding the dogs just to sell puppies. This means unsuspecting buyers are getting puppies with hereditary health issues because the dogs weren’t raised responsibly.

The breed is prone to certain health issues that are made worse by improper breeding practices. If you are interested in a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy, be sure to adopt a dog from a local rescue group or shelter or research breeders to find one who is responsible and has a good reputation for producing healthy dogs.

divider-legFinal Thoughts

The Bernese Mountain Dog was originally bred to be a working farm dog, and it’s easy to see why. Their size, obedient nature, and intelligence make them ideal candidates for the position.

Today, dogs are affectionate and affectionate family companions who fit in well in homes with children and other animals. If you want to welcome this dog into your home, be sure to only buy a puppy from a responsible breeder.


Featured Image Credit: Hebi B., Pixabay

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