Bernese Mountain Dogs - Breed Information & Education for Puppy Buyers, Owners and Breeders

Bernese Mountain Dogs - Historical development

Bernese Historical publications

The Bernese Mountain Dog is a very old breed. The ancestors of today's dogs served as all purpose farm dogs in Switzerland long before the time they were recognized as a purebred dog and before dog clubs or clearly defined pedigrees (family trees) were recorded. The breed has gone by several names in its homeland including Gelbbäckler (Yellow Cheeks), Vieräuger (Four Eyes), Dürrbachhunde and the Berner Sennenhund.

Many people living in Switzerland were involved in developing the Bernese Mountain Dog as a purebred breed during the early days, just as there are those who have continued on through the decades to manage this breed of dog. Dog clubs have had the greatest influence on the development of dog breeds, including the Bernese Mountain Dog.

The information provided here is about those people who have undertaken the responsibility to appreciate, preserve and protect the Bernese Mountain Dog. It is through an understanding of the history of the breed documented by its supporters in books, writings, photos, illustration and in dog club publications that future generations of Bernese fanciers will gain perspective and an appreciation for the importance of their roles in caring for the Bernese, a breed that has served for generations as faithful canine companions and helpmates.


During the mid 1800's showing dogs at public competitive dog show exhibitions became a popular sport among the wealthy who kept dogs of a recognizable style or type for a particular purpose. Kennel Clubs were founded to govern over the breeding and showing of dogs. The purpose of dog clubs was to see to the rearing and caring for a most noble domestic animal, the dog. Kennel clubs began to establish breed standards (written descriptions of physical traits and functions for specific breeds of dogs.) The kennel clubs recorded pedigrees and compiled Stud Books in which dogs of specific breeds whose parents were known were registered. The kennel clubs also kept records of dogs competing in dog shows.

The Bernese Mountain Dog came to be recognized as a breed worthy of merit and came under the direction of the dog club breeders in its homeland, Switzerland during the 1800's. The Swiss Cyological Society (SCS - Swiss "Kennel Club") began in 1883. In 1907, the "Schweizerischer Dürrbachclub" was established in Switzerland.

An outstanding overview of early development of the Bernese Mountain Dog was written by Margret Bärtchi in her article created in 2006 entitled "How It All Began". Margret provided this article to the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of Great Britain just prior to the celebration of the Centenary of the Swiss Club for Bernese Mountain Dogs.

Margret's article mentions a booklet, "Die Schweizer Sennenhunde" was published in 1914 written by Professor Albert Heim in which several pictures of the early Bernese appeared. Today's Bernese have bloodlines and traits in common with these ancestral dogs.

Breed Standards adopted by dog clubs pertaining to Bernese traits have been adapted and honed over time. Some earlier versions of the BMD breed standards can be seen here.

Since the Bernese was first recognized as a purebred dog breed its popularity has risen and the dogs have spread throughout the Eastern and Western hemispheres. Bernese Mountain Dog clubs worldwide to care for and promote the understanding and development of the breed.

The AKC (American Kennel Club) and BMDCA (Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America) have made substantial contributions to maintaining historical documentation of the Bernese Mountain Dog in the United States.

A record of the Bernese Mountain Dogs introduction and development in the United States was created in 1987 by the BMDCA in its newsletter The Alpenhorn, editor Mary Dawson. The special issue published in February 1987 entitled "The 50th Anniversary of Bernese Mountain Dogs in America" references the first articles on the breed found in the AKC's publication, The American Kennel Gazette. The Bernese was introduced to the purebred dog fancy in this country by Mrs. L. Egg-Leach in the AKC Gazette in her 1935 article entitled, "The Bernese is a Loyal Dog of the Swiss Alps". In 1943 R. Caldwell's article entitled, "The Bernese Mountain Dog" provides more information on the history of the breed in the US and covers the breed's recognition by the AKC as well as the first dogs born in this country. These articles on Bernese Mountain Dogs as well as other AKC Gazette breed columns, AKC library and BMDCA record sources serve as an exploration of how the Bernese came to this country and their recognition by the AKC.

Additionally, the BMDCA Publication entitled, "Silver Anniversary 1968 - 1993" published in 1993, editors Mary Dawson and Deb Godfrey, contains articles and information covering the 1st 25 years of the Bernese Mountain Dog in America, including discussions by Barbara Packard, Mary Dawson and Sylvia Howison on the early days of the BMDCA and Berner-Garde's role in breed health.

For a look at some photos of Bernese Mountain Dogs from the past, see our Bernese in History Gallery.

It is important to recognize that Dog Clubs and their dedicated memberships are all about maintaining the inherent qualities of a breed through the understanding and breeding management of traits defined in breed standards. Those involved with dog clubs take their responsibility to care for this breed very seriously. Dog clubs and their members provide breed education and encourage responsible breeding and care of dogs as well as participation in the sport of purebred dogs.

We encourage you to join other Bernese Mountain Dog fanciers by participating in the rich heritage and longstanding commitment dog clubs offer this breed.

► To see quality Bernese attend an AKC dog show! See for an event near you.
► Read about purebred dogs recognized by the AKC! Subscriptions to the AKC Gazette are available at
► For information on Membership in the BMDCA visit
► If you like to read articles about Bernese Mountain Dogs and are interested in information on the BMDCA's Newsletter "The Alpenhorn" see