Greater Swiss Mountain Dog: Wikis


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Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund
Other names Great Swiss Mountain Dog
Country of origin Switzerland

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog or Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund is a breed of dog, the largest of the traditional Swiss Sennenhunds, a dog type that includes four regional breeds. The name Sennenhund refers to people called Senn or Senner, dairymen and herders in the Swiss Alps.



The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a large, muscular dog with a tricolour coat. Males should weigh around 110 - 140 lbs and females 90 - 120 lbs. Height at the withers is 66.8 - 74.4 cm (26.3 - 29.3 in) for males and 64.6 - 70.6 cm (24.6 - 27.8 in) for females. The length to height ratio is around ten to nine. There is black on top of the dog's back, ears, tail and the majority of the legs. There should be rust on the cheeks, a thumb print above the eyes and also rust should appear on the legs between the white and black. There should be white on the muzzle, the feet, the tip of the tail, on the chest down and some that comes up from the muzzle to pass between the eyes. The fur is a double coat, the top coat being around 5 cm long, the bottom coat being thick and a type of gray which must be on the neck, but can be all over the body; with such an thick coat, most Sennenhund moult twice a year.


The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is believed to be descended from large molossers brought to Switzerland by the Romans in the first century B.C.,[1] although another theory states that they arrived many centuries earlier with Phoenician traders. In any case, they are almost certainly the result of the mating of indigenous dogs with large mastiff-type dogs brought to Switzerland by foreign settlers.

Although the Sennenhunds had existed in the Alps since antiquity, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog had almost become extinct by the turn of the 20th century. As a large dog, it had been used both as a butcher's dog and to pull carts, and had been "popular with butchers, cattle dealers, manual workers and farmers, who used them as guards, droving or draught dogs and bred them as such."[2] It may have been the advent of mechanized vehicles, as well as a declining need for butcher's dogs, that led to the decline in popularity of the largest Sennenhund.

In 1889, an International Dog Show was held in Winterthur, in northern Switzerland, and various Sennenhunds were exhibited, but not differentiated into breeds.

On the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Swiss Kennel Club (Schweizerische Kynologische Gesellschaft or SKG) in 1908, some of the few remaining examples of the large Sennenhund were shown by Franz Schertenlieb to the judge and Swiss native breeds advocate Albert Heim. The dogs were recognised as a separate breed by the SKG in 1909 and entered as "Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund" in volume 12 the Swiss stud book, and the first breed club was formed in 1912 "for the care and promotion of this breed."[2] Due to the meticulous nature of the process of selecting dogs for breeding, the lack of worthy brood bitches, and the requirement that all puppies be reexamined as adults for temperament and conformation to the requirements of the selection process before being certified as suitable for breeding, the Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund breed grew slowly in number. In 1945 over 100 puppies could be registered, indicating the existence of about 350-400 dogs of the breed at that time.[2] The breed was first recognised internationally in 1939, when the Swiss Standard was first published by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale.

Four breeds of Sennenhund

A Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund (left) and an Entlebucher Sennenhund (right)

The four breeds of Sennenhund, with the original breed name followed by the most popular English version of the breed name.

Kennel club recognition

The Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund, or Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, is recognised internationally by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale, using the standard written in the breed's native Switzerland. Other national kennel clubs not affiliated with the Fédération Cynologique Internationale also recognise the breed, writing their own version of the breed standard. Exported to North America, the breed was recognised by the American Kennel Club in 1985, the United Kennel Club in 1992, and the Canadian Kennel Club in 2006. The Canadian Kennel Club and the American Kennel Club place the breed in the Working Group and the United Kennel Club (US) places the breed in the Guardian Dog Group. The breed is also recognised by The Kennel Club (UK) in the Working Group, although it is not yet recognised by the New Zealand Kennel Club or the Australian National Kennel Council. The breed is recognised by numerous small clubs and internet-based registries, where it is promoted as a rare breed for puppy buyers seeking a unique pet.

Similar breeds

The St. Bernard Dog was the first breed of dog to be documented and differentiated from other large farm dogs of the area. Except for colour and historical documentation, the St. Bernard is very similar to the largest Sennenhund, and shares the same ancient history. Official documents from the hospice in St. Bernard Pass concerning the St. Bernard dogs date back to 1707, with paintings and drawings of the dog even earlier. The breed was the very first breed entered into the Swiss Stud Book in 1884, and the breed standard was finally approved in 1887.[3] The Sennenhund did not begin to be formally divided into breeds until 1908.

Another butcher's dog, the Rottweiler from Germany, is similar in shape and history to the Sennenhunds, and may be related.


As with all large, very active working dogs, this breed should be well socialized early in life with other dogs and people, and be provided with regular activity and training if they are to be safely kept as a pet. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog "is basically even tempered" and "a good family dog".[1]


One study in the United States found that about 98 percent of Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs "carry the genes to produce epilepsy".[4] The number of Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs that actually have epilepsy is not known. Other possible health problems are the same as those found in other large, heavy dogs, bloat and hip dysplasia, although the percentage of the breed affected by either ailment is not known. Puppy buyers should make sure the sire and dam of their puppy have been tested for hip dysplasia, as it is an inherited condition and common in large dogs. However, many amateur breeders (so-called backyard breeders) and large commercial breeders (that sell puppies in lots to brokers and pet shops) will not do such health tests, as they are expensive; they also may breed the dogs before they are two years old, the earliest age at which tests are done. The Swiss breed club, the Klub für Grosse Schweizer Sennenhunde, has had breeding suitability tests that include testing for hip dysplasia since the 1960s, and does not allow dogs that test positive for hip dysplasia to be bred. In the 1980s, they began to test for shoulder dysplasia as well.[5] The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America, although it has no Code of Ethics for breeders, strongly encourages members to "obtain passing clearances on their breeding stock" on elbows, hips and eyes,[6] and the club maintains a health database.


No reliable information exists on the average lifespan of healthy Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, although many varying estimates are given by fanciers and kennel websites. Dog lifespans may vary in different countries, even in the same breed.[7] Inbreeding, done to set breed type, or resulting from overuse of a popular sire, may contribute to a shorter lifespan. The Swiss breed club regulates the use of stud dogs in order to decrease this problem.[5] Heavier dogs, such as the Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, tend in general to have have shorter lifespans than medium and small size lighter dogs.[8]

See also


  1. ^ a b Clark, Anne Rogers; Andrew H. Brace (1995). The International Encyclopedia of Dogs. Howell Book House. pp. 247. ISBN 0-87605-624-9. [Booklist Reviews 1996 April #2 Lay summary].  
  2. ^ a b c Great Swiss Mountain Dog, Vertebrate Animals Department, Naturhistoriches Museum der Burgergemeinde Bern (in English)
  3. ^ St. Bernard, Vertebrate Animals Department, Naturhistoriches Museum der Burgergemeinde Bern
  4. ^ AKC Gazette, January 2004, Epilepsy and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, by Karen Conant (quoting genetic researcher George Padgett)
  5. ^ a b The history of breeding and of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club (Klub für Grosse Schweizer Sennenhunde) (in German)
  6. ^ Breeder Guidelines, The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America
  7. ^ Dog Longevity Survey Comparisons by Dr. Kelly M. Cassidy, 2007
  8. ^ Dog Longevity Kelly M. Cassidy, 2007

External links



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