by Doris Donnerman
(last updated April 3, 2009)
Some 2,000 years ago, Roman armies swept into Helvetia through the pass at Mons Jovis, which we today call St. Bernhard. The Romans eventually went home, but they left their dogs behind, ever since, these dogs have been called Swiss Mountain Dogs. There are four types of these surviving. One of these, the Bernese Senenhund, Durbachler, or Bernese Mountain Dog, has been brought to the United States in sufficient numbers to receive recognition by the American Kennel Club.
The four breeds, as they are officially known in Switzerland today, are the Appenzell, a short-haired, curled-tailed dog; the Entlebuch, a short-haired, naturally short-tailed dog of smaller size than the former; the Bernese, a long-haired dog of horizontal tail carriage and larger size than the others; and the Large Mountain Dog, a short-haired dog which is the tallest of all.
These Mountain Dogs share one thing in common. They have shining black coats, with white and brown or rust colored markings. They are all excellent guard dogs, but some of them have been used as cattle and sheep dogs, while the Bernese has been used only as a draft dog and companion.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is said to be the most popular of all Swiss dogs. It is of some interest that he is far more popular than the St. Bernard in Switzerland, while being comparatively unknown in other countries.
The breed was popular on both the plains and in the mountains until about 1840, when it began to lose its appeal. In the next forty years, it was almost entirely supplanted by other breeds, chiefly of foreign importation.
By 1936, the breed had spread into England, via Scotland, and the following year it was admitted to the American Kennel Club. Specimens had been brought to America some years earlier, however. Mrs. Egg-Leach, the British sportswoman, is credited with a major part in getting it started in both Great Britain and America
The general appearance of the Bernese Mountain Dog is a well balanced dog that is active and alert with fidelity and utility. The height of the male is between twenty-three inches to 27-1/2 inches at the shoulder. The female height is twenty-one inches to twenty-six inches at the shoulder. The coat is soft and silky with bright natural sheen that is long and slightly wavy.
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