AKC Gazette Columns

AKC Gazette - January 2000


This is the perfect time to review the progress of the Bernese Mountain Dog in the past century. In the last decade of the 19th century, the breed we know today was in the process of being delivered from near extinction in an effort that began in Switzerland, its country of origin. The black, rust and white Swiss farm dog that had existed for hundreds of years had so diminished in numbers that it required a search to find examples of the breed. Some were located in Durrbach, a small area near Bern, and thus the dogs were called Durrbachlers. Following are some of the succeeding milestones in this wonderful breed's history.

1904 - Seven Durrbachlers were presented in a special class at the International Swiss Kennel Club Dog Show in Bern, with four being selected as worthy of becoming the first to be registered by the Swiss Kennel Club in 1095.

1908 - The breed's name was changed to Berner Sennenhund ("Bernese Alpine herdsman's dog") in recognition of the breed's origin in the canton of Bern, rather than keeping a name that merely referred to where the last-remaining examples of the breed had been found - a breed that had historically existed throughout Bern. The name change was suggested by Dr. Albert Heim, of Zurich, often called the "father of the Bernese Mountain Dog."

1926 - A pair of Berner Sennenhund were imported to Kansas by Isaac Schiess, who was unsuccessful in his attempts to secure AKC registration or recognition of the breed.

1935 - An article appeared in the American Kennel Gazette entitled "The Bernese is a Loyal Dog of the Swiss Alps." It was written by Mrs. L. Egg-Leach, an English dog fancier who lived in Switzerland. The article's wonderful pictures and enthusiastic descriptions of the dogs so captured the attention of Glen Shadow, of Kentucky, that he worked with Egg-Leach to import a splendid pair in 1936.

1937 - The Bernese Mountain Dog was recognized by the AKC. Shadow's imports, Quell v. Tiergarten and Fridy v. Haslenbach, were the first dog and bitch to be registered.

1962 - The first Berner to earn AKC's Companion Dog title was Aya v. Verlap, owned by W.W. and M.A. Horstick.

1966 - The first Berner awarded a group placement was Sanctuary Woods Black Knight, owned by Roberta Subin. He would become the breed's first champion in 1968.

1968 - The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America was formed and garnered a membership of 62 by year's end. Forty-three BMDs were registered that year.

1972 - The first Berner to earn AKC's Companion Dog Excellent title was Ch. Wilhelmina v. Neugebauer, CD, CDX, owned by Hugh O'Hagan.

1974 - A national database with phenotype files for BMDs was established and maintained by Barbara and Martin Packard. This would become the basis for the Berner-Garde Foundation.

1975 - The BMDCA was licensed by the AKC and given space in the American Kennel Gazette breed columns. Dr. Mary Dawson's first column appeared in June 1975, and she looked ahead in her closing words: "Members of the club ... look forward to an active future as promoters and protectors of a marvelous breed."

1976 - The first national specialty was held in Harrisburg, Pa. Ch. Zyta v. Nesselacker, a bitch imported from Switzerland and owned by Dr. Mary Dawson, was Best of Breed. It would be 21 years before another bitch would take that honor. That same year, Ch. Tanja v. Nesselacker, CD, TD, owned by Dora and Max Gruber, became the first Berner to earn AKC's Tracking Dog title.

1977 - The breed's first AKC Best-in-Show award went to Ch. Alphorn's Copyright of Echo, owned by Dr. D.G. and Gretchen Johnson.

1979 - The first Berner to earn the Utility Dog title was Ch. Dina De L'Amary, UD, owned by Mary Alice Horstick. The BMDCA established draft regulations that year for holding draft matches.

1980 - The breed's standard of 1937 was revised.

1981 - The BMDCA became an AKC member club. The national specialty conducted its first tracking test, which was to become a regular feature at nationals.

1990 - The breed's standard was revised for the second time. (It remains to the present.)

1991 - The BMDCA's Draft Test regulations were approved by the AKC for the awarding of draft titles by the national club in its ongoing effort to preserve the breed's natural working qualities.

1992 - The national specialty held its first Draft Test, with yearly inclusion to follow thereafter.

1993 - The Berner-Garde Foundation was established to understand and reduce genetic disease in Bernese Mountain Dogs through an open database that includes records since 1974.

1995 - An agility trial was added to national specialty events.

1998 - The BMDCA celebrated its 30th anniversary. (That year saw 2,022 Bernese Mountain Dogs registered.)

1999 - In recognition of the breed's droving instinct, the BMDCA approved the American Herding Breed Association's Junior Herding Dog title as an option for the third requirement of the Versatility Award.

What the future holds is dependent upon farsighted people who will safely pilot this breed through the coming years.

Have a Bernerly new year!

- Miss Julia Crawford, 26391 May Twilley Rd., Delmar, MD 21875; breed Web site: www.csn.org/~pshaffer/ bmdca.html (Note: website no longer functional.)