History of the Bernese Mountain Dog

The Bernese Mountain Dog is the best known of the Swiss Mountain Dogs, of which there are four: the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, the Appenzeller Mountain Dog, the Entlebucher Mountain Dog and Bernese Mountain Dog. These varieties have been used for centuries by Swiss farmers to guide herds to the field. The Bernese Mountain Dog is an attractive three-colored dog with a long coat. He has both his good looks and his agreeable nature, which make him in great demand as a pet. About the origin of this dog, the experts did not entirely agree for a long time. According to one theory, the Bernese Mountain Dog descended from Dog-like species that came from Tibet, and were brought into Europe by invasions of barbarian tribes. The ancestors came to Switzerland with the Romans. The armies of Caesar brought with them dogs of the type of the Tibetan Mastiff. Another group of scholars argued that the Bernese Mountain Dog was one of the large group of sheep dogs who defended herds. These dogs have descended from the Bronze Age, once crossed with the wolf. In 1924, in a town by Lake Zurich, old dog skulls were found which resemble the skull of today's Bernese Mountain Dog (eg length of 180-205 mm). With this discovery, some important pieces to the puzzle were added. As many scientists thought it could actually be assumed that this original Swiss dog was already present in this region before the Barbarian and Roman domination. Without a precise age determination, it would have to concern a very old native breed. Margaret bartschi expert on the Bernese Mountain Dog, wrote: "The only thing we can assume is that these dogs were already present 4000 years BC. in our regions and that in the period between 1000 and 600 BC, dogs who were just as big as the Bernese Mountain Dog." The Swiss were eventually given by various crossings the dog that is now called the Bernese Mountain Dog. The history of this dog is closely linked to Swiss history. In the middle ages, the areas were held by the nobility and clergy. The prosperity attracted many people. even vagabonds, beggars and mercenaries without money. They felt threatened and feared for theft and arson. Therefore, dogs were held which were able to protect homes and property: Bernese Mountain Dogs. The variety name in French, one of the official languages in Switzerland, "Bichon Maltais”. this name shows that these dogs apparently had a different task to fulfill, namely helping the cow herders. Since the Middle Ages livestock took a very important place in the life of the Swiss. First was cattle owned by the nobility, but in the 16th century also non-nobles had cattle in their possession. As autumn came, the shepherds went to the valleys to accommodate their herds there in winter. They were accompanied by their dogs, not only to defend their owner, but the task was to drive the cattle in the barns and to protect it there. In the mid-19th century the herds expanded greatly because of the reputation Swiss dairy products enjoyed throughout Europe. Farmers quickly saw how their dogs could contribute and they learned how to pull a cart of cans to the nearest dairy farm. The Bernese Mountain Dog was a real working dog, who contributed to the Swiss economy at that time. When industrialization made its appearance, people started losing interest. As a working dog, he was almostnot needed anymore, so something had to happen to prevent the elimination of the breed. As in other European countries, among the Swiss grew suddenly a great interest in breeding dogs as pets. unfortunately they did not turn their attention to the Bernese Mountain Dog. That was in the eyes of many simply an "ordinary working dog", and 'ordinary' was not very appealing. All attention focused on another Swiss breed, namely the St. Bernard. Apparently at the time people liked him and all sorts of exotic breeds more. Of course, the St. Bernard is very attractive with its red-white coat, but things went at the expense of the Bernese Mountain Dog. Furthermore, many crossed the Bernese Mountain Dog with the Leonberger and the Newfoundland, two varieties who were regularly imported in Switzerland, which was not good for the breed. Only after 1899, the Bernese Mountain Dog was really important again. The breeders organized themselves so that the first Swiss canine association - the Berna - could be established. In 1902 a dog show was organized under the auspices of the association with 320 entries of various breeds. A local newspaper told a section of the event as follows: "This exhibition even had a category for Dürrbächler (as the Bernese Mountain Dogs were called in those days), a type of dog that plays more or less the same role in the Canton of Bern, as the Appenzeller Mountain Dog in the canton of Appenzell." Two years later, Fritz Probst organized a new exhibition where six Bernese Mountain Dogs appeared. This led to inclusion of these dogs in the Swiss pedigree, and to official recognition of the breed itself. Professor Heim, of the Geological Institute in Zurich, also had interest in these dogs. He was a breeder of Newfoundlands, but became increasingly interested in the Swiss Mountain Dogs. He appreciated their talents and made every effort to provide them with a broader audience. He also wanted to reinforce the qualities that these dogs had. So it was especially Professor Heim who convinced breeders that they should not have a split nose. This happened in certain instances in the early 20th century, and some breeders wanted to capture this characteristic. In 1907 “the Swiss club for breeders of the dog of Dürrbach” was founded, supported by the canine press. It was the intention of improving the breed. A year later appeared at a meeting 22 dogs to be assessed by Professor Heim, who had become a judge. On this occasion he suggested the breed should be called Bernese Mountain Dog, so it could be more easily incorporated into the group of other Swiss Mountain Dogs (Appenzeller, Entlebucher and the Swiss Grand). The breeders of that time, however, were very hung on the existing Dürrbächler species name, and it was not until 1913 The Bernese Mountain Dog breed name was officially admitted by the "Société Suisse Cynologique". Professor Heim made sure the breeders increasingly worked together to make the Bernese Mountain Dogs similar. For example, the shoulder height of the dogs appeared to be quite variable. It had to be 62-68 cm, later (since 1975) that was 64-70 cm. Professor Heim also found that shoulder height should not be a contentious issue. He thought it was important that the dog has a "natural" appearance. The Swiss had used different names for the Bernese Mountain Dog, because the official species name did not yet exist. Depending on the amount of white in the coat he was called Blass, 'Bari' and 'Ring (a wide, white collar). In Emmental he was called Gelbloackler, or even Wieraugler, because of the clear tan markings above the eyes, making it seem like he has four eyes.

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