The countryside and the Swiss Alps are the home of the Swiss Mountain dog family ( Entlebucher, Appenzeller, Greater Swiss, and Bernese Mountain dogs) which bore the name “Peasant dogs” until the end of the nineteenth century.
The puppies grew up with different animals belonging to the “pack”, and they learned that those animals needed their protection. Chickens, ducks and cats would walk around freely, and the pups were taught by their mother that these animals were a part of their everyday life; there was therefore no question of chasing them.
In that time, many different people lived on the farm; many generations, but also everyone took care of the “Peasant’s dog”. Each day started early, with most of the activities taking place outside. Every day was interesting and entertaining for the dog.
The labourer would take the “Peasant’s dog” with him to the barn, and together they would lead the cattle to the pastures, and bring them back in the evening.
This “ Peasant’s dog ” accompanied the servants to the garden or in the fields, and his presence was also tolerated in the kitchen while the meals were being prepared.
Also, the dog liked playing with the children and dozing on the grandfather’s feet, who was resting in his chair. Accompanying the farmer to the fields and pastures was one more thing the dog liked doing.
At some point, the dog was even used to pull a cart to take the milk to the dairy.
As a self-sufficient farm, we rarely left the property or had strangers come over.
The dog therefore knew well the limits of the property, and a dog with a tendency to roam or to be aggressive didn’t live long.
When a new person came to the farm; one that didn’t belong to the “pack”, that person was welcomed with loud barking, whether out of caution or fear.
Often times, the dog came to the visitor and accompanied him to the house, but it was only once a family member greeted him that the dog would let him in.
The “ Peasant’s dog ” was very, very close to HIS family, but always cautious with strangers.
It is believed that in the 19th century, the “Peasant’s dog” was selected and bred according to his utility.
…small, agile dogs were selected to work with the cattle, and the big, robust dogs were chosen to pull carriages to take milk to the dairy.
Thus, it was in the 20th century that the four different breeds of the Swiss Mountain Dog family were officially constituted.
Entlebucher Mountain dog or Entlebucher or Entlebucher Cattle dog
The smallest of the four breeds among the Swiss Mountain Dog family…
For a long time, the Entlebucher Mountain dog and the Appenzeller Mountain dog were the same breed, as they did the same job on the farm.
It was in 1913 that two males and two females were inscribed in the Swiss breeding records, as the first Entlebuchers. These dogs had a short tail; a characteristic that comes from a recessive gene.
Nonetheless, because of the first and second World Wars, the Entlebucher’s evolution was slowed down, but from the 50s and on, the breeding of the four members of the Swiss Mountain Dog family started progressing.
Appenzeller Mountain dog or Appenzeller or Appenzeller Cattle dog
Similar to the Entlebucher, but a little bit taller…
At the beginning of the 20th century, when the “Entlebuchers” and the “Appenzellers” where still the same breed, eleven dogs were selected and inscribed in the Swiss breeding records as “Apenzeller Mountain dogs”.
Greater Swiss Mountain dog
…One of the tall breeds…
Along with the Saint Bernard, the Great Swiss Mountain dog evolved until the end of the 19th century. Due to much inbreeding, only eleven puppies were born every year.
During the Second World War, the Great Swiss Mountain dog carried food, ammunition and other supplies, where horses could not go.
After the war, these dogs became less used, and it was only after 1960 that they became popular in other countries.
Bernese Mountain dog
…the second of the tall breeds…
This breed started in 1904, with four dogs inscribed in the Swiss breeding records. Nonetheless, until 1940, many new dogs were found and added to the breeding records. Thus, inbreeding remained minimal. One crossing even occurred with a Newfoundland dog.