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Development of the Breed Standard

What are Breed Standards? Breed standards are created by various parent breed clubs and accepted officially by international bodies (AKC & FCI) that govern over purebred dogs matters. Standards describe the ideal specimen of the breed. Breed standards cover topics including a breed's purpose, appearance, temperament, and structure. Standards define qualities that set one breed apart from every other, or the breed's essence, are referred to as breed 'type'.

Breed Standards adopted by dog clubs pertaining to Bernese traits have been adapted and honed over time. Some earlier versions of the BMD breed standards can be seen here.

A link to the BMDCA's Judges Study Guide is available via AKC's website. The link to the Study Guide points to the publication on This presentation is posted as a step-through series of web page images : See BMDCA's Judges Study Guide

The AKC and FCI Breed Standards for the Bernese Mountain Dog are not identical. AKC standards are typically based on the FCI breed standards. The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America developed the breed standard in the format required by the AKC. Access to the Breed Standards for Bernese is available at the links below. Both Breed Standards are shown on this page for comparison and educational purposes.

Current AKC Breed Standard

AKC BMD Breed Standard 1990

General Appearance

The Bernese Mountain Dog is a striking tri-colored, large dog. He is sturdy and balanced. He is intelligent, strong and agile enough to do the draft and droving work for which he was used in the mountainous regions of his origin. Dogs appear masculine, while bitches are distinctly feminine.

Size, Proportion, Substance

Measured at the withers, dogs are 25 to 27.5 inches; bitches are 23 to 26 inches. Though appearing square, Bernese Mountain Dogs are slightly longer in body than they are tall. Sturdy bone is of great importance. The body is full.



Expression is intelligent, animated and gentle. The eyes are dark brown and slightly oval in shape with close-fitting eyelids. Inverted or everted eyelids are serious faults. Blue eye color is a disqualification. The ears are medium sized, set high, triangular in shape. gently rounded at the tip, and hang close to the head when in repose. When the Bernese Mountain Dog is alert, the ears are brought forward and raised at the base; the top of the ear is level with the top of the skull. The skull is flat on top and broad, with a slight furrow and a well-defined, but not exaggerated stop. The muzzle is strong and straight. The nose is always black. The lips are clean and, as the Bernese Mountain Dog is a dry-mouthed breed, the flews are only slightly developed. The teeth meet in a scissors bite. An overshot or undershot bite is a serious fault. Dentition is complete.

Neck, Topline, and Body

The neck is strong, muscular and of medium length. The topline is level from the withers to the croup. The chest is deep and capacious with well-sprung, but not barrel-shaped, ribs and brisket reaching at least to the elbows. The back is broad and firm. The loin is strong. The croup is broad and smoothly rounded to the tail insertion. The tail is bushy. It should he carried low when in repose. An upward swirl is permissible when the dog is alert, but the tail may never curl or be carried over the back. The bones in the tail should feel straight and should reach to the hock joint or below. A kink in the tail is a fault.


The shoulders are moderately laid back, flat-lying, well-muscled and never loose. The legs are straight and strong and the elbows are well under the shoulder when the dog is standing. The pasterns slope very slightly. but are never weak. Dewclaws may be removed. The feet are round and compact with well-arched toes.


The thighs are broad, strong and muscular The stifles are moderately bent and taper smoothly into the hocks. The hocks are well let down and straight as viewed from the rear. Dewclaws should be removed. Feet are compact and turn neither in nor out.


The coat is thick, moderately long and slightly wavy or straight. It has a bright natural sheen. Extremely curly or extremely dull-looking coats are undesirable. The Bernese Mountain Dog is shown in natural coat and undue trimming is to he discouraged.

Color and Markings

The Bernese Mountain Dog is tri-colored. The ground color is jet black. The markings are rich rust and clear white. Symmetry of markings is desired. Rust appears over each eye, on the cheeks reaching to at least the corner of the mouth, on each side of the chest, on all four legs, and under the tail. There is a white blaze and muzzle band. A white marking on the chest typically forms an inverted cross. The tip of the tail is white. White on the feet is desired but must not extend higher than the pasterns. Markings other than described are to he faulted in direct relationship to the extent of the deviation. White legs or a white collar are serious faults. Any ground color other than black is a disqualification.


The natural working gait of the Bernese Mountain Dog is a slow trot. However, in keeping with his use in draft and droving work, he is capable of speed and agility. There is good reach in front. Powerful drive from the rear is transmitted through a level back. There is no wasted action. Front and rear legs on each side follow through in the same plane. At increased speed, legs tend to converge toward the center line.


The temperament is self-confident, alert and good-natured, never sharp or shy. The Bernese Mountain Dog should stand steady, though may remain aloof to the attentions of strangers.


Blue eye color. Any ground color other than black.

Approved February 10, 1990 Effective March 28, 1990

Current FCI Breed Standard

FCI Bernese Mountain Dog Breed Standard


Originally used as a guard-, draught-and cattle dog on farms in the Canton Bern, today also family dog and versatile working dog.

Classification FCI

Group 2 Pinscher and Schnauzer type-Molossoid breeds- Swiss Mountain and Cattle-Dogs and other breeds.
Section 3 Swiss Cattle Dogs.
Without working trial.

Brief History
The Bernese Mountain Dog is a farm dog of ancestral origin which was used as a guard and draught dog and for driving cattle in the prealpine regions and in the midland areas around Bern. Originally he was named D?hler according to the name of the hamlet and of the inn of D?h, near Riggisberg in the Canton Bern where these long-haired tricoloured farm dogs were especially numerous. In 1902, 1904 and 1907 specimen of this breed had already been exhibited at dog shows, and in 1907 some breeders of the region of Burgdorf decided to promote the pure breeding of these dogs by founding the Schweizerischer D?h-Klub, and fixing the characteristic traits of the breed. In 1910, at a show in Burgdorf where many farmers of that region brought their D?hler dogs to, already 107 specimen were shown. From that day onward this dog, renamed Bernese Mountain Dog following the example of the other breeds of Swiss Mountain Dogs, became rapidly appreciated all over Switzerland and in the neighbouring parts of Germany. Today the Bernese Mountain Dog is well known and appreciated all over the world as a family dog thanks to its striking tricoloured coat and its great adaptability.

General Appearance

Longhaired, tricoloured, strong and agile working dog, of above medium size, with sturdily built limbs; harmonious and well balanced.

Important Proportions
Height at withers : length of body (measured from the point of the shoulder to the point of the buttock) = 9 : 10, rather compact than elongated.
Ideal relation of height at withers : depth of chest = 2 : 1.


Self-confident, attentive, vigilant, fearless in every day situations; good-natured and devoted to his own people, self-assured and placid towards strangers ; of medium temperament, docile.


Strong. In size balanced to general appearance, not too massive.

Cranial Region
Skull : Viewed from the front and in profile little rounded. Frontal furrow hardly marked.
Stop : Well defined, but without being too pronounced.

Facial Region
Nose : Black.
Muzzle : Strong, of medium length; nasal bridge straight.
Lips : Close fitting; black.
Jaws/Teeth : Strong, complete scissor bite (molars 3 (M3) are not taken into consideration). Pincer bite accepted.
Eyes : Dark brown, almond-shaped, with close fitting eyelids. Neither too deep-set nor prominent. Loose eyelids are faulty.
Ears : Medium-sized, set high, triangular in shape, slightly rounded at the tips, in repose hanging flat and close to the head. When alert, the rear part of the set-on is raised while the front edge of the ear remains close to the head.


Strong, muscular, of medium length.

Topline : From the neck running slightly downwards to the withers in a harmonious line, then running on straight and level.
Back : Firm, straight and level.
Loins : Broad and strong; seen from above slightly less broad than the chest.
Croup : Smoothly rounded.
Chest : Broad and deep, reaching to the elbows; forechest distinctly developed; ribcage of wide-oval section extending as well back as possible.
Underline/belly : Slightly rising from chest to hindquarters.


Bushy, reaching at least to the hocks; hanging straight down when at rest; carried level with back or slightly above when moving.


Strong bones.


Forelegs seen from the front straight and parallel, standing rather wide apart.
Shoulders : Shoulder blade long, strong and well laid back, forming a not too obtuse angle with the upper arm, well attached to the chest, well muscled.
Upper arm : Long, set oblique.
Elbows : Close fitting; neither turned in nor out.
Forearm : Strong, straight.
Pastern : Seen from the side almost upright, firm; seen from the front in straight line with the forearm.
Forefeet : Short, roundish; with well-knit, well-arched toes. Turned neither in nor out.


Seen from the rear straight and parallel, not too close.
Upper thigh : Long, broad, strong and well muscled.
Stifle : Distinctly well bent.
Lower thigh : Long and oblique.
Hock joint : Strong, well angulated.
Metatarsus : Set almost vertically. Dewclaws to be removed (except in those countries where it is prohibited by law).
Hind feet : Slightly less arched than forefeet, turned neither in nor out.


Sound and balanced movement in all gaits covering a lot of ground; free stride reaching well out in front, with good drive from behind; at the trot, coming and going, legs moving forward in a straight line.

Hair : Long, shining, straight or slightly wavy.
Color : Jet black main colour with rich tan markings on the cheeks, above the eyes, on all four legs and on the chest, and with white markings as follows :
Clean white symmetrical markings on the head : blaze extending towards the nose on both sides to a muzzle band; the blaze should not reach the tan markings above the eyes, and the white muzzle band should not extend beyond the corners of the mouth.
Moderately broad, unbroken white marking on throat and chest.
Desirable : white feet,
white tip of tail.
Tolerated : small white patch on nape of neck,
small white anal patch.

Height at withers : for dogs : 64-70 cm,
ideal size : 66-68 cm.
for bitches : 58-66 cm,
ideal size : 60-63 cm.


Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree.
Unsure behaviour.
Fine bones.
Irregular set of the incisors provided that the bite remains correct.
Absence of any other theeth than 2 PM1 (premolars 1); the M3 (molars 3) are not taken into consideration.
Coat :
- Distinctly curly coat.
- Faults of colour and markings :
- Absence of white on head.
- Blaze too large and/or muzzle band reaching noticeably beyond the corners of the mouth.
- White collar.
- Large white patch on nape of neck (maximum diameter more than 6 cm).
- White anal patch (maximum size 6 cm).
- White markings on forelegs reaching distinctly beyond half-way of pasterns (boots).
- Disturbingly asymmetrical white markings on head and/or chest.
- Black ticks and stripes within the white on the chest.
- Dirty white (strong spots of pigmentation).
- Black coat with a touch of brown or red.

Eliminating Faults
Aggressive, anxious or distinctly shy.
Split nose.
Undershot or overshot mouth, wry mouth.
One or two blue eyes (wall eye).
Entropion, ectropion.
Kinky tail, ring tail.
Short coat, double coat (Stockhaar).
Other than tricoloured coat.
Other main colour than black.

Any dog clearly showing physical or behavioural abnormalities shall be disqualified.

N.B. : Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

FCI - Fédération Cynologique Internationale
FCI-Standard N? 45 / 05. 05. 2003 / GB

Bernese Mountain Dog (Berner Sennenhund, D?hler)
Translation : Mrs. Peggy Davis, revised by Elke Pepper.
Origin : Switzerland.
Date Of Publication of the original valid standard : 25.03.2003.

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