Origins of the Breed
The name Bernese Mountain Dog is a translation of the German Berner Sennenhund, which means Bernese Alpine Herdsman's Dog. The breed's original name was Durrbachler, after an inn where these farm dogs were bought and sold. The modern breed was developed from dogs found in the countryside around Bern, Switzerland. The original Berner Sennenhund was an all-around farm dog, used to guard the farm, drive the cows to and from their mountain pastures, and pull carts loaded with milk cans to the dairy. Today's Berners retain some of these instincts. The breed was rescued from near extinction by Professor Albert Heim around the turn of the century, and has developed slowly since then. In 1948 there was a significant out crossing to a Newfoundland, which resulted in improving the temperament and increased the size.
Berners are known to have first come to America in 1926, and possibly even earlier, but the breed was not recognized by the AKC even after intervention by the Swiss Kennel Club. A decade later, two more were imported from Switzerland and these dogs became the first of the breed to be registered with the AKC.
The Bernese is a breed which needs human companionship, and should be made a part of the family. They are a gentle breed and very affectionate and extremely faithful to their humans. They make excellent children's companions and can get along very well with other pets. They make good watchdogs, but are not much of a guard dog. A Bernese can be quite reserved around people they don't know, but once they have accepted someone as a friend, they will remember them all their lives.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is a striking tri-colored dog. Berners are large, sturdy and balanced. They are very intelligent, agile and powerful enough to do the draft work they were bred to do in the mountainous regions of their origin. Dogs (male) should appear masculine, while bitches (female) are distinctly feminine.
The temperament is self-confident, alert and good natured, never sharp or shy. They are extremely loyal. The Bernese Mountain Dog should stand steady, though may remain aloof to the attentions of strangers.
Coat & Markings
The coat is thick, moderately long and slightly wavy or straight. It has a bright natural sheen. The Bernese Mountain Dog is tri-colored. The ground color is jet black. The markings are rich rust and clear white. Symmetry of markings is desired but quality of the overall conformation of the dog is of greater importance. Rust appears over each eye, on the cheeks reaching to at least the corner of the mouth, on each side of the chest, on all four legs, and under the tail. There is a white blaze and muzzle. A white marking on the chest may form an inverted cross. The tip of the tail is usually white. White on the feet is desired but should not extend higher than the pasterns. Some puppies are born with a Swiss Kiss which is a white marking on the nap of the neck. This marking usually disappears when the adult coat comes in but will sometimes remain. Markings other than described are considered faults. White legs or excessive white color is undesirable. Any ground color other than black is a disqualification.