2009 history

The distant origins of the Bernese Mountain Dog are not well documented. The breed apparently had its origins in the mastiff type dogs brought by the Romans when they came into Switzerland around two thousand years ago. The Roman dogs were used to guard and drive herds brought with the invaders. Over the centuries, since Roman times, these dogs remained as general-purpose farmers' dogs, but little attention was paid to preserving the type of developing the breed. Indeed, near the end of the 19th century, the breed was nearly extinct.

Fortunately, around the turn of the century, several Swiss dog fanciers realized that ignoring the many good qualities of the old native breeds would be a mistake. These pioneers brought Bernese from various isolated valleys in their home canton of Bern, and promoted the general interest in these dogs. The breed was originally called the Schweizerische Dürrbach-Klub; after the name of the hamlet and of the inn of Dürrbach, Switzerland where the dog was first developed.

In 1902, 1904 and 1907 subjects of this breed were exhibited at dog shows. In 1907 a few breeders of the region of Burgdorf decided to promote the pure breeding of this native dog by founding the "Schweizerische Durrbach-Klub" and fixing the characteristic traits of the breed in a first standard. The Dürrbächler (eventually called "Berner Sennenhund" to follow the naming convention of other native swiss breeds) progressed steadily in Switzerland, and eventually found admirers in other countries as well.

Current records indicate that the first reported American imports were a pair brought to the United States 1926 by Isaac Scheiss, a Kansas farmer. Mr. Scheiss failed in his attempt to register the pair with the American Kennel Club. Ten years later, Glen Shadow of Louisiana, imported another pair, Fridy v. Haslenbach and Quell v. Tiergarten. Through the efforts of Mr. Shadow and other fanciers, the AKC officially recognized the breed in 1937, with Fridy and Quell the first Bernese registered in the U.S.

The breed increased only slightly in numbers in the United States before 1941, when World War II interrupted further importation. After 1945 importation and registration continued. In 1968, a few breeders and owners joined together to form the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America.