Dürrbächler (nick Berner) (The Berne Herdsman's Dog)
The Bernese Mountain Dog (also called Berner Sennenhund or Bouvier Bernois) is a versatile cattle-herding or farm dog originating in the canton of Berne in Switzerland. A tri-colored dog of large size, the “Berner” (as they are often called) stands 23 to 27.5 inches (58-70 cm) at the withers; breed standards for this breed normally specify no weight, but the usual range is 70 to 130 pounds (32-60 kg). The breed is instantly recognised by its distinctive tricolor pattern: body, neck, legs, cranium and ears black; cheeks, stockings and eyespots rich tan, toes, chest, muzzle, tail tip and blaze between the eyes white. The pattern is rigid and varies only slightly in the amount of white. A perfectly-marked individual gives the impression of a white “Swiss cross” on the chest, when viewed from the front in sitting position. The eyes are an expressive dark brown.
The breed’s genetic base is somewhat narrow, so hereditary diseases and inbreeding depression are major issues. Several kinds of cancer (malignant histiocytosis, mastocytoma, lymphosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, osteosarcoma) commonly affect Berners; hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, osteoarthritis, aortic stenosis plus autoimmune and kidney problems are other major health issues for the breed. Many litters contain stillborn young, a major indicator of inbreeding depression.
Although slow to mature, the Berner is not particularly long-lived. The Swiss say, “three years a young dog, three years a good dog, and three years an old dog.” Today even nine years may be slightly optimistic; certainly a ten-year-old Berner is a very old one. In fact, surveys around the world show that the average lifespan is seven years, primarily as a result of the prevalent occurrence of cancers.
Berners are outdoor dogs at heart, though well-behaved in the house; they need activity and exercise, but do not have a great deal of endurance. They can move with amazing bursts of speed for their size when motivated.
The Berner temperament is a strong point of the breed. Affectionate, loyal, faithful, stable and intelligent, Bernese Mountain Dogs make wonderful family pets. They are very trainable provided the owner is patient and consistent in training; Berners need time to think things through. The breed is stable in temperament, and is patient and loving.
The breed originated in Swiss farm villages where it was used in herding livestock, as a drover to haul carts containing milk cans and farm goods, and as a flock guardian. It nearly disappeared in the late 1800s but was rescued around the turn of the century by a determined Swiss cynologist, Herr Franz Schertenleib.
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