Bernese Mountain Dog Facts

Bernese Mountain Dog Facts cover photo

The Bernese Mountain Dog is named for the glorious Alpine mountains and valleys of the Swiss Canton of Bern, where the breed lived for centuries as an indispensable farm dog and family guardian. Big and strong enough to move herds of cattle up steep mountainsides to their summer pastures, and gentle enough to enjoy a quiet evening at home letting children climb all over him, the “Berner” remains the perfect companion for many families today. 

The more people know these dogs, the more they love them, and the Bernese Mountain Dog is gaining in popularity. You can recognize one by its great size, sturdy frame, shaggy black coat, rust-colored eyebrows and cheeks, and a fluffy white shirt that ideally forms a “Swiss Cross” resembling the one on Switzerland’s national flag.


Big Dog Bliss

Although their build and coloring bear a slight resemblance to the German Rottweiler, Bernese Mountain Dogs are gentle giants whose temperaments more closely resemble their distant cousin, the Saint Bernard. They are kind to their friends and polite to strangers. As born shepherds, however, they make effective guard dogs, and their size and big bark provide powerful deterrents against any intruder.


Bernese Mountain Heroes

Generations of protecting cattle in the Swiss Alps have made these dogs a natural for saving anyone in trouble. When a California couple was caught in a riptide in 2015, a Bernese Mountain Dog named Nico, who’d just recently been rescued from a shelter, jumped right in the dangerous water to bring them back to shore. 

Bernese Mountain Dog Facts-dog on sand



Berners are one of four breeds in a group called Swiss Mountain Dogs, or Sennenhund. All four have a history of Alpine herding, and all have the same handsome black fur and tricolor markings, though the Bernese has the longest coat. The Swiss Mountain Dogs trace their ancestry back to Molossers, a group of dog breeds that, according to legend, are descended from Zeus's great dog Laelaps, who lives in the sky forever as the constellation Canis Major.


Back from the Brink of Extinction

The industrial revolution, new farming techniques, and improved transportation in the mid-19th century opened the hidden Swiss valleys to imports that included other dog breeds, and took away their livelihood. By the end of the century, their numbers were so depleted that it took a determined search to locate the last of the breed, who were found in Durrbach, in the Swiss Canton of Bern. These first generation dogs were called Durrbachlers, until given their current name by Dr. Albert Heim of Zurich.

Bernese Mountain Dog Facts-puppies


Arrival in America

Bernese Mountain Dogs first arrived in the US with a Kansas farmer named Isaac Scheiss, in 1926, but the breed wasn’t recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) until 1937. Since then, the standards, rankings, and other official Bernese Mountain Dog facts have changed slightly with the times, but they are now proudly listed on the AKC website as "aristocratic in appearance and ancient in lineage."


Best in Show

The AKC currently ranks the Bernese Mountain Dog the 27th most popular breed out of its long list of 189 recognized dog breeds. In their list of Bernese Mountain Dog facts, these beautiful dogs are described as calm, good-natured, and strong. 

Bernese Mountain Dog Facts-loving


Make Mine a Draft…

In their native Switzerland, Bernese Mountain Dogs were often used to pull carts of milk cans or farm produce, or even passengers, and this skill is remembered in the many draft competitions and workshops hosted by the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America. Parade teams can be found all over the world in which these dogs pull beautifully decorated carts full of flowers and flags, to celebrate their heritage.


…And Make It Strong

How strong are they? One of the more amazing Bernese Mountain Dog facts is that these 100 pound dogs can pull a whopping 1,000 pounds. That's ten times their own weight. That’s also easily strong enough to pull you out of your burning home: just ask a Canadian two-year-old Berner named Bella. She’s now in Toronto’s Purina Animal Hall of Fame.

large Brenese Mountain dog facts 


Do Bernese Mountain Dogs Bark… too much?

While their intelligence makes them great companions, it can also leave them prone to boredom if they’re not given enough to do with regular playtimes, training and long walks. Barking and chewing can become real problems if they’re left alone too long, or become bored. Their size and strength make those barking and chewing problems a real challenge if left unchecked. 


Good Things Come in Threes

Bernese Mountain Dog puppies are slow to mature, and don’t truly reach adulthood until they’re almost four years old. If you take one home, be prepared for an extra year or two of high-energy exuberance, goofiness, and hardcore chewing. Due to their long puppyhood and short lifespans, the Swiss have a saying about the most heartbreaking of a Bernese Mountain Dog's fact of life: "Three years a young dog, three years a good dog, and three years an old dog...all else is a gift from God.”


The Good (Dogs) Die Young

Many Bernese Mountain Dogs fall victim to a long list of health issues that plague the breed, including dysplasias, gastric bloating, heat stroke and mast cell tumors. Cancer hits them harder than almost any other breed, resulting in an average lifespan of only seven to ten years. 

young Bernese mountain dog facts 


Stars in Their Eyes

Bernese Mountain Dogs are becoming favorites of celebrities, including Hillary Duff, Chelsea Handler, and Sarah Michelle Gellar. A few are even celebrities themselves, including the baby Berner who played a puppy named Harvey Milkbone on TV’s The New Normal. 

If these Bernese Mountain Dog facts have you thinking that one could be the star of your home, it's best to visit local shelters first. Many big dogs end up in shelters as they grow into their full size, and you could save a life. You can also get yourself one of the Bernese Mountain Dog mix which possess a lot of the wonderful traits of the Berner, having a longer life span and are more resistant to some of the diseases faced by the purebreds. 

If it’s a puppy you need, be sure to check breeders thoroughly, to avoid those health issues. Either way, bringing home such a beautiful dog and loyal friend will be worth celebrating.


Up Next: Bernese Mountain Dog Mix


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  • Aaron Seminoff
Comments 1
  • Arosol

    I love my pet very much. I have a lebra of 4 month, his name is scoofo. After reading your blog, about Bernese Mountain Dog….I like it. It is very interesting to know facts about these breed. i want to know about my Lebradore also.
    Thanks for sharing

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