Bernese Mountain Dog Breed Magazine - Showsight


manage large herds. The Bernese Mountain Dog was not a herding dog for sheep and goats as these animals were not kept usually on Ber- nese farms except in very small num- bers. In other parts of Switzerland, especially in the alpine regions, such tasks were done by smaller, quicker dogs such as the Appenzeller and Entle- bucher. The temperament of the Ber- nese Mountain Dog was never to be sharp or shy. The history of the breed, therefore, is one of a watchful farm dog. Those fanciers who wish to have conformation dogs, obedience, draft, agility, tracking or herding dogs would be wise to heed the heritage of the breed and mind that this is not a breed of any one specific sport but is a Swiss farmer’s companion. ADDITIONAL HISTORICAL BACKGROUND ON BERNESE FARMS by Margret Baertschi The term “farm” or “farm dog” does not mean the same thing when used for Swiss or Bernese farmers as when it is used in the USA. The farm in the two countries/continents is two very different things. In order to get an idea what the duties of a farm dog on a farm around Berne were like a hundred years ago, one must have seen a Bernese farm and understood its functioning. The main business of the dogs on Bernese Farms have always been to be good watchdogs. These farms were built at a distance from each other, each one situated more or less in the center

of the land that was cultivated by the farmer’s family. A dog that announced strangers (man and other animals) which approached the farm or the nearby meadows was essential for the security of all the living creatures there. The land belonging to a farm was from about 5 ha for the poorer farmers up to 15 ha at the maximum for the rich- est farmers (1 ha (hectar) = 2.47 acres). Up until about 1830, the farmers did not have a great number of cattle (cows), because they had no use for the milk. Their main income was from differ- ent kinds of grain: wheat, barley, oats etc. (maize was unknown). The cattle and some sheep, horses and swine moved freely around the houses and in the nearby forests. The crops were fenced to save them from being eaten by the animals. The cattle did not have to go far. Only after about 1840, when the cheeseries were built and farmers could sell their milk at a reasonable price, the farmers started to have more cattle (about 6 to 15 cows at the maxi- mum and some heifers and calves), as many as they could nourish on their land. Poor people (day-laborers) kept a few goats instead. At the same time, the farmers started to keep the cattle in stables, not only in winter but all the year round, through summer. This means, that there was not a lot of driv- ing to be done on the farm itself. The few sheep (maybe 6 to 10) that were also kept on some farms could move freely in the nearby poorer parts of the land that were not cultivated

and in the forests. It was the butchers who also kept dogs to drive the cattle they bought on the farms to distant places where they were either slaugh- tered or sold to other merchants. I have found reference to these facts lately in a newer publication of a his- torian who specialized in the history of farming in the Canton Berne from 1700 till 1914 (First World War). His name is Prof. Dr. Christian Pfister; he lectures at the University of Berne. Mrs. Egg-Leach, an English woman, referred to the dog as a weaver’s cart dog. Mrs. Baertschi questions the use of a dog as such as her experience was that the dogs were used to pull milk. Perhaps Mrs. Egg-Leach knew a few weavers who used their dogs but nev- er met anyone in her travels that used the dogs for milk or cheese. Does this example mean that the dogs were sole- ly used as weavers’ dogs? No. But we can conclude that the dog was used a draft dog. REFERENCES Baertschi, Margret. BMDCA Alpen- horn, February 2001. “Our Swiss Con- nection: Herding? Driving? Drafting? Some Breed History.” Egg-Leach, L. AKC Gazette, April, 1937 (?). “The Bernese is a Loyal Dog of the Swiss Alps.” Paschoud, Dr. J.-M. “ The Swiss Canine Breeds.” Schweizerische Kynol- ogische Gesellschaft SKG, 1994. Raeber, Dr. H.C. Hans. “Die Sch- weizer Hunderassen.” Albert Mueller Verlag, Ruschlikon-Zurich, 1980.


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