History of the Bernese Mountain Dog

In the late Middle Ages, farmers began to cultivate the forested plateaus in the Swiss Alps in order to obtain pasture for their cattle.
The herd was herded by a 'Küher' or 'Senner', who took care of the cattle for a fee and had to deliver the cheese, butter and milk to the Alpine owner. In the winter period the herd stayed in the valley, in the stables of the (often different) owners.
A herd often consisted of about 100 dairy cows, and in addition to that there were several goats and pigs. The roads were bad and often ran through rivers and streams. Without their dogs, which were called 'Mountain Dogs', it was impossible to keep such a large herd together.
Of course, there was no clear separation between the 'dogs of the Senner' and the 'farm dogs'. For seven months the Senner lived in the valley and for five months he stayed on the mountain pastureA mixing of the dogs was inevitable. Since the farm dogs and the cattle dogs were mixed together for many centuries, and probably also came from the same litters, it is not surprising that many Bernese Mountain Dogs, in addition to their guarding and protection properties, also possess strong characteristics as cattle drivers.
It was not until the beginning of the twentieth century that the Bernese Mountain Dog was bred purebred from farm dogs from the canton of Bern. It is suspected that these farm dogs have remained untouched for centuries due to the isolated location of their home and can therefore in a certain sense be labelled as an old 'breed'. However, no one knows how old.
Many farmers in the canton of Bern were well-off enough to have such a large dog. Their courts were large, and the old law of inheritance prevented the land from being divided into smaller plots. Moreover, the taxes in that area were not too high and the area remained free of war violence for a long time.
Such farm dogs used to be real 'utility animals', which had a certain task to fulfil, and in the end they were also slaughtered, because the dog fat was an excellent medicine.

From various stories it has become known that the farmers gave these dogs certain names, such as 'Bärri' which was usually the name for dogs without a blaze, 'Ringgi' for the dogs with a white neck ring, 'Bläss' was often used for the dogs with a blaze stripe on the forehead, 'Gelbbäckler' for dogs with a lot of yellow on the cheeks, 'Vieräugler' for the dogs with yellow-brown spots above the eyes and also 'Dürrbachhund' or 'Dürrbächler' which means dog from Dürrbach, the town in Switzerland where these dogs were originally found. The type that served as a model for the Breed standard of 1910 was the Dürrbächler, named after the region where the last representatives of the breed were found. There they were born around 1880
still kept on the scattered farms, used for the milk cart, with the cattle and at every cheese hut.

Like draught dogs of the wandering Guggisberger
basket weavers, they came to the markets, including those of Bern. 

Tradition has it that the entire canton of Bern was the original area of distribution. 

By 1890 it was virtually extinct in the Emmental and Jura.

There is a description by Professor Studer from about the year 1900: "In a large part of Switzerland, on the plains and in the Alps, a medium-sized, usually long-haired, sometimes stock-haired, vigorous breed of dog is kept with lop-ears, as a guard dog, as a cattle driver or as a draught dog. It is true that this race has been frequently corrupted on the plains and in the vicinity of cities with all possible pure or unclean elements, but in many places typical specimens are still to be found, such as in Appenzell, in the Emmentall, in the "Mittenland" as far as Freiburg. A similar dog, but considerably more slender and more sheepdog-like, can be found in the Alps of Entlebuch, a larger, more slender form than in the Valais as a sheepdog. Elsewhere the same author speaks of a large "Bauernspitz" in the Bernese Mittelland and in Zealand, which occurred in all colours, but chiefly in yellow and red (brown). So there is little question of unity. Dr. Räber points out the strong affinity between the St. Bernard and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, as Bernese Mountain Dog, yes even as Appenzell Mountain Dog. The long hair is certainly not originally a breed characteristic: long and short-haired came from the same litter. Since the establishment of the breed standard in 1910, the number of short-haired dogs has decreased. The long-haired ox, by the way, is originally frizzy. Straight wavy was more aesthetically pleasing, according to Prof. Heim, who designed the breed standard. Straight hair has the practical advantage that the water runs off when it rains. Currently, a slightly wavy coat is preferred.
Centuries of existence as a cattle driver and farm dog shaped the Bernese Mountain Dog into a respect-commanding dog. The purpose of use had ensured a well-proportioned physique without exaggerations, a body shape that did not allow strong deviations from the 'normal' shape of a dog.

Character Bernese Mountain Dog 

By a farmer's standards, a dog is good when it is alert and sharp without biting.
If he goes along, he must follow at the foot, walk between the wheels of the wagon and not go through the fields.
In case of emergency, he must defend the boss, he must guard the boss's objects that he leaves behind. 
He should not be poached, cats and poultry should be left alone, and he should not run away from home.
In the mountain regions, the characteristics of herding and herding cattle are particularly appreciated, in the valleys, on the other hand, a dog that is suitable as a draught dog is more useful.
Most Bernese Mountain Dogs meet all these points, without the need for special training.
Above all, vigilant and following at the foot feel the Bernese are their duty.
And that's exactly how his character was formed. The farmers or the Senner were not willing, nor did they have the time, to deal with a nervous dog, or a dog that otherwise exhibited character defects. How strict the standards were at the time in breeding can be found in the 'Zentralblatt für Jagd- und Hundeliebhaber' from 1913: 'The Senner, farmers and cattle dealers bred exclusively with perfectly healthy material; What could not work, walk, run, drive, bark all day in all weather conditions and also be cheerful and alert at night, was turned into dog fat, neutered or beaten to death.'

Even today, we still find valuable qualities in the character of the Bernese Mountain Dog. In this way, without being reluctant, he forms a close bond with his 'people' and his living environment. With gentle mindfulness, he follows everything that happens around him. In doing so, he makes a striking distinction between the well-known people, and all the daily more or less 'ordinary' incidents in his environment, and everything that is 'foreign'. He knows how to report all unusual things and unknown persons in a reliable way and if necessary, he will also be willing to defend people and their property. Willing and cheerful, but with a certain degree of independence, he will carry out the duties assigned to him. Behind its robust exterior hides a sensitive and gentle character. The Bernese Mountain Dog needs a consistent but gentle upbringing.