The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, or Großer Schweizer
Sennenhund, is the largest of the traditional Swiss herding
breeds, the Sennenhunds, a grouping in which the Bernese Mountain
Dog, Entlebucher Mountain Dog, and Appenzeller Sennenhund are also
included. They are believed descended from large dogs brought to
Switzerland by the Romans in the first century B.C., 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. Greater Swiss Mountain
Dogs are believed to be in the ancestry of both the Saint Bernard
Dog and the Rottweiler.
Anton playing in the snow
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The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a large, muscular, tricolour (black, rust,
and white; typically with a white blaze) dog. Males should weigh around 110 -
140 pounds the height is 25.5 - 28.5 inches at the shoulders. The females weigh
85 - 115 pounds and are 23.5 - 27 inches tall at the shoulders. The length to
height ratio is around ten to nine. This breed must have a double coat to be
considered show quality. 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 two two inches long, the
bottom coat being thick and a type of gray which must be on the neck, but can be
all over the body.
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has a reputation of combining protectiveness
with a gentle nature, particularly with respect to its love of its family,
These dogs are strong, active, and remarkably agile for their size. A Greater
Swiss Mountain Dog can be trained for weight-pulling competitions and/or to pull
carts behind them carrying goods or even a person. Prospective owners need to be
prepared to give them lots of time and attention. Owners will often note that,
despite their large stature, they will often behave as if they are a lap dog.
Due to their large size and sometimes excessive alarm barking, these dogs can
be intimidating to strangers and are therefore good watchdogs.
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, a dog of great strength, was originally a
herding dog, but was later used for draft. It may have been the advent of
mechanized vehicles, combined with the rise in popularity of the Saint Bernard
Dog (the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog helped produce the Saint Bernard Dog), that
led to the decline in popularity of the GSMD. However it happened, the breed was
believed to be extinct, or nearly so, by the turn of the 20th Century.
In 1908, an owner named Franz Schertenlieb entered his mountain dogs in the
Swiss Kennel Club (SKG) jubilee conformation dog show, knowing that they would
be seen by an expert in native Swiss dogs, Dr. Albert Heim. Dr. Heim, an avid
fancier, was apparently delighted to find a living example of the Großer
Schweizer Sennenhund, and exhorted the members of the Kennel Club to do all
that they could to safeguard the breed, including scour farms and villages for
healthy specimens for a breeding program.
His suggestion was acted upon, and a careful breeding program was begun. Due
to the meticulous nature of the selection process, the lack of worthy brood
bitches, and the requirement that all puppies be reexamined as adults for
conformation and temperament before being certified as suitable for breeding,
breed numbers grew slowly.
All-breed club recognition
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, now often known as the GSMD or ‘Swissy’, is
an example of an ancient, well-documented and established pure breed that was
nevertheless not recognized by large all-breed kennel clubs around the world.
The first GSMDs were introduced to the United States in 1968, and were
recognized provisionally by the AKC in 1985 and received full recognition in
1995, an ironically late date for such an old breed of dog. It was recognized by
the UKC in 1992. The Swissy was recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC)
June 1, 2006 and is shown in the working group.