Bernese mountain dog

Bernese Mountain Dog – a beautiful but ailing breed

A favorite of shepherds and ordinary families. The Bernese Mountain Dog is a companion full of energy and love for children and adults, whose beautiful face and kind eyes shorten the interspecies distance. Bernese Mountain Dogs are confident, good-natured, and friendly. They have a pronounced guarding instinct without being aggressive. Today they are not only good house and farm dogs, but also popular family dogs if they are carefully socialized and exercised.

FCI classification

  • Group 2 Pinscher and Schnauzer type-Molossoid breedsSwiss Mountain and Cattle-Dogs
  • Section 3 Swiss Cattle Dogs
  • Without working trial
  • Other names: Berner Sennenhund, Bernese Cattle Dog
  • Origin: Switzerland
Bernese Mountain Dog, Berner Sennenhund, Bernese Cattle Dog

The history of the breed

These old-pedigree dogs have always served as sheepdogs, cattle dogs and herding dogs. They were called Dürrbächler, after a small town Dürrbäch, where they were very popular. At the beginning of the 20th century, many breeders presented the Bernese at the dog shows in the canton of Bern.

In 1907, the breeders from Burgdorf founded the first breed’s club – Schweizerische Dürrbach-Klub and the breed standards were set. In 1910, there were already 107 representatives of the breed presented at the show. With time, Bernese gained recognition not only in Switzerland but also in Germany. Nowadays, with its appearance and personality, it is a perfect dog for families.

In general, Bernese is the breed, which is particularly useful in the farms, at the foot of the Swiss Alps in the Swiss Plateau and in the canton of Bern. It serves as a cattle dog, a draft animal and a guarding dog.

Bernese Mountain Dog, Berner Sennenhund, Bernese Cattle Dog


Just like other Swiss mountain dogs, it is big and heavy. It has a characteristic tri-colored coat: there is white color on its chest, above the eyes, and on both sides of the muzzle. Its limbs are tanned and have some white spots. In the center of its head, there is a snow-white “arrow”, which widens on the nose and divides a head into two halves. Its paws and toes are white and look like socks. Its neck and chest are white. The tip of its tail may be white and on its anus, there may be a white stain. Its fur is shiny and long and may be straight or wavy.

It moves soundly and in a balanced yet dynamic way. It walks freely and lightly and its hind legs move faster. Its head is heavy but still proportional to the body. It is also slightly pronounced between the ears. Its eyes are almond-shaped, neither too deep-set nor prominent. Its ears are medium-sized, triangular but rounded on the tips, high-set, and hanging freely. Its tail reaches a hock point and there is long hair on it. When the dog moves, the tail is placed on a par with its back or even higher.

Bernese Mountain Dog, Berner Sennenhund, Bernese Cattle Dog


According to the breed standards, Bernese Mountain Dog should not be aggressive, anxious or shy. It is self-confident and mellow. Moreover, it has a calm attitude towards people and it is obedient. However, not all dogs are the same and their personality differs as well. It is important that all the big dog breeds were well socialized as puppies, therefore it is recommended that the dogs were trained on a regular basis for their whole life.

Even though they are naturally adapted to spend time outside, they feel good in the house. They require a lot of activity and exercise. They can start to run with great speed, considering the large size. If they are healthy (do not have problems with hips, elbows and other joints), willingly walking, but almost always keep close to the owner. They may bark excessively if they are not active enough.

It feels well with children because it is affectionate and patient. Although it is very brisk, it is able to rest for a long while. It is not aggressive towards other animals and strangers.

Bernese Mountain Dog, Berner Sennenhund, Bernese Cattle Dog


It sheds its hair all year round, but most often during the season breakthroughs – in early spring and autumn. As a result, the dog requires weekly brushing to keep the fur in good shape, avoiding tarnishing and large clumps of hair on the floor and furniture.

Frequent bathing is not necessary, it is enough to do it every few months or even less depending on the dog’s activity level and how often he is out of the house. However, you should pay great attention to your ears as dirt and moisture can lead to infection. Therefore, it is best to wash your dog’s ears once a week with special drops prescribed by a veterinarian.

Bernese Mountain Dog, Berner Sennenhund, Bernese Cattle Dog


Cancer is the main cause of death within the breed. According to statistics prepared by English, American and Canadian scientists, cancer contributes to almost half of the cases of death of Bernese mountain dogs while in the other breeds it is around 27% of the cases. The Bernese mountain dogs may suffer from many kinds of tumors including: malignant histiocytosis, mast cell tumor, lymphosarcoma, fibrosarcoma and osteosarcoma.

Bernese mountain dogs’ deaths result very often from musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis, hip dysplasia and cruciate ligament rupture. Those diseases cause 6% of deaths within the breed while in the other breeds it is less than 2%.

Bernese is also prone to genetic diseases such as progressive retinal atrophy, Addison’s disease (adrenal insufficiency), cataract, or a very aggressive muscle tumor.

Bernese Mountain Dog, Berner Sennenhund, Bernese Cattle Dog

Detailed information / size

Bernese Mountain Dog

  • Height at the withers:
    • males: 64 – 70 cm (25–27.5 in)
    • female: 58 – 66 cm (23–26 in)
  • Weight:
    • males: 39 – 50 kg (86–110 lb)
    • females: 36 – 48 kg (79–105 lb)
    • Life span: 10 to 12 years, however, they usually live from 6 to 8 years. The oldest representative of the bred died at the age of 15 years.
Bernese Mountain Dog, Berner Sennenhund, Bernese Cattle Dog

Bernese Mountain Dog – curiosities

  • The Bernese Mountain Dog is one of the 4 breeds of Swiss Mountain Dog – Sennenhund:
    • Appenzeller Sennenhund, Appenzeller Mountain Dog
    • Berner Sennenhund, Bernese Mountain Dog
    • Entlebucher Sennenhund, Entlebucher Mountain Dog
    • Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
  • The name Sonnenhund comes from German Senne (“alpine pasture / alpine meadows”) and Hund (“dog”). This is because they usually accompanied Alpine shepherds.
  • The puppies have often a declaw removed.
  • A four-year-old dog called Dylan suffering from lymphoma, underwent – as one of the first dogs – chemotherapy in Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, which ended with success.
  • The potential owners of Bernese dog should bear in mind that they may have to take care of a large, disabled dog as it may have problems with walking from an early age. However, it is quite easy nowadays to get a wheelchair for a dog. Moreover, a comfortable place to sleep may ease joint pain.
Bernese Mountain Dog, Berner Sennenhund, Bernese Cattle Dog


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