Bernese mountain dog

Bernese mountain dog

Bernese mountain dog, breed of sturdy working dog first brought to Switzerland by the invading Roman armies over two millennia ago. It stands from 23 to 27 in. (58-69 cm) high at the shoulder and weighs from 50 to 70 lb (23-32 kg). Its long, silky, slightly wavy coat is jet black with a white blaze up the face, white on the chest, feet, and tip of tail, and russet-brown or tan markings on all four legs and above the eyes. For hundreds of years in its native canton of Bern, the Bernese mountain dog was used as a draft animal by the local merchants to haul cartloads of goods to market. Today it is raised principally for show competition and as a pet. See dog.
The Bernese Mountain Dog (also called Berner Sennenhund or Bouvier Bernois) is a versatile breed of farm dog originating in the canton of Berne in Switzerland.


Black with white chest and tan (or rust) colored markings above eyes, sides of mouth front of legs and a small amount around white chest.


Bernese Mountain Dog overview

Weight: 85-120 pounds (38-55kg.)
Height: 24-28 inches (61-71cm.)
Coat: Moderately long and either straight or slightly wavy - In rare cases can be slightly curly
Litter size: 8 puppies
Life span: ~7 to 12 years

A tri-colored dog of large size, the “Berner” (as they are often called) stands 23 to 27.5 inches (58-70 cm) at the withers. Breed standards for this breed normally specify no weight, but the usual range is 65 to 120 pounds. The breed is instantly recognized by its distinctive tri-color pattern: body, neck, legs, head and ears are solid black; the cheeks, stockings and thumbprints (or ghost eyes) are tan; the toes, chest, muzzle, tail tip and blaze between the eyes white. The pattern is rigid and varies only slightly in the amount of white. A perfectly-marked individual gives the impression of a white “Swiss cross” on the chest, when viewed from the front in sitting position. The eyes are an expressive dark brown and are almond shaped. Male Bernese mountain dogs are normally larger in size than females but both genders are extremely strong.


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.

The Bernese temperament is a strong point of the breed. They are affectionate, loyal, faithful, stable and intelligent. The majority of Bernese are very friendly to people, and other dogs. They often get along well with other pets such as cats, horses, etc. They are very trainable provided the owner is patient and consistent in training; Bernese need time to think things through. They do not respond well to harsh treatment, however Berners are very willing and eager to please their master. Bernese love to be encouraged with praise and treats. The breed is very sweet and good with children, despite their great size. Overall, they are very stable in temperament, patient, and loving.

Bernese Mountain Dogs are quirky, loving dogs, craving love and affection. They love to lean against people, sit on their feet, or lie down under their legs while people sit.

The Bernese 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. The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America offers drafting trials open to all breeds; dogs can earn an NDD (Novice Draft Dog) or a DD (Draft Dog) title. Regional Bernese clubs often offer carting workshops.

Bernese Mountain Dogs are slow to mature, and can display puppy-like tendencies up to 2 1/2yrs of age.



Health surveys of Bernese Mountain Dogs in Denmark, the UK, and USA/Canada all show that this breed is very short-lived compared to breeds of similar size and purebred dogs in general. Berners have a median longevity of 7 years in USA/Canada and Denmark surveys and 8 years in UK surveys. By comparison, most other breeds of similar size have median longevities of 10 to 11 years. The longest lived of 394 deceased Berners in a 2004 UK survey died at 15.2 years.

Cancer is the leading cause of death for dogs in general, but Berners have a much higher rate of fatal cancer than other breeds. In both USA/Canada and UK surveys, nearly half of Berners died of cancer, compared to about 27% of all dogs. Berners are killed by a multitude of different types of cancer, including malignant histiocytosis, mast cell tumor, lymphosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, and osteosarcoma.

Berners 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 Berners in the UK study; for comparison, mortality due to musculoskeletal ailments was reported to be less than 2% for purebred dogs in general.


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

In short, prospective Berner 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. Comfortable bedding may help alleviate joint pain.



The Bernese coat is slightly rough in outline, but not at all harsh in texture. The undercoat is fairly dense; the coat is quite dirt and weather resistant. A good brushing every week or two is sufficient to keep it in fine shape, except when the undercoat is being shed; then daily combing or brushing is in order for the duration of the moult. Bernese Mountain Dogs shed year-round, and drifts of fur are to be expected, yet the Bernese Mountain Dog tends to be one of the better hypo-allergenic dogs with a longer coat.


  • A New Owner's Guide To Bernese Mountain Dogs, written by Amy Christiansen, published by TFH Publications, July 30th, 2004, ISBN-10: 079382818X, 160 pages
  • Bernese Mountain Dog, written by Louise Harper, published by Kennel Club Books, March, 2004, ISBN-10: 1593782896, 160 pages
  • Bernese and Other Mountain Dogs, written by Gerd Ludwig, published by Barron's Educational Series, July 10th, 1995, ISBN-10: 0812091353, 64 pages
  • The Beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog, written by Diane Russ and Shirle Rogers, published by Alpine Publications; 1st edition (April 1994), ISBN-10: 0931866553, 248 pages
  • The Complete Bernese Mountain Dog, written by Jude Simonds, published by Howell Book House; 1st American edition, February, 1990, ISBN-10: 087605050X, 160 pages
  • The New Bernese Mountain Dog, written by Sharon Chesnutt Smith, published by Howell Books, March, 1995, ISBN-10: 0876050755, 272 pages
  • The Bernese Mountain Dog, written by Bernd Guenter, published by Doral Publishing 2004, ISBN 0-9745407-3-0

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