On first glance, the untrained eye may think a Bernese Mountain Dog is just a large Australian Shepherd. The Berners (as they are often referred to) stand 23 to 27 1/2 inches at the withers (top of shoulder), males being taller. They are slightly longer than they are tall, with sturdy bone structure and a full muscular body. They have striking tri-colored, moderately long, thick coats which requires no trimming. Distinctive rust colored markings appear over each eye and on the cheeks. Often they will possess a white marking on their chests in the form of an inverted cross.
Due to the nature of thier origins, Berners posses an amazing agility for their size. Their stride, whether walking or trotting, is balanced and almost poetic to behold.
The history of the Berners is very vague. Some believe they originated with a Mastiff type breed and were brought to Switzerland by the Romans approximately 2000 years ago. The Romans utilized these dogs to guard and drive herds. Today the breed remains a general purpose farm dog.
Near the end of the 19th century, the breed nearly became extinct. At that time, several Swiss dog breeders realized the good qualities of this native breed. They brought the dogs out of the isolated valleys and began promoting them. The breed was originally called Dürrbächler. Named so after the hamlet Dürrbach in Switzerland where the breed was being developed.
In 1907, after having been shown previously (1902 and 1904) several breeders in the region of Burgdof began promoting the pure breeding of the Berners. They founded the Schweizerische Dürrbach-Klub. The club was responsible for setting the first standard of traits each dog should possess. Eventually, due to the naming convention utilized for other native Swiss breeds, the name was changed to Berner Sennenhund. It was at this time the breed began finding recogniztion outside of its native Switzerland.
It is believed the first pair of Berners were brought to the U.S. by a Kansas farmer named Isaac Scheiss. Mr. Scheiss tried, and failed, to have the breed recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). In 1937, after having imported his own pair, Glen Shadow of (Louisiana) and other Berners fanciers were finally successful in getting official AKC recognition for their beloved breed. His pair, Fridy v. Haslenbach and Quell v. Tiergarten were the first Berners registered in the U.S.
Though WWII had a significant impact on further import of Berners from Switzerland, the breed continued to grow in numbers and popularity. After the war import and registration continued. In 1968 the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America was founded.
Berners are good-natured, hard working, and hardy dogs. They are great, faithful family companions, though they can be shy around strangers. These dogs are considered excellent around a farm because they enjoy working, but do not have the aggressiveness to chase livestock that other breeds possess. Some of the health problems this breed is prone to are hypothyroidism, hip and elbow displasia, entropia and ectropia, and degenerative joint problems.
Information above was gathered in part at the following websites: