Built “Berner Tough”*

A versatile Swiss working dog, the Bernese Mountain Dog had a number of chores on the family farm, and chief among them was to pull wagons containing goods like milk and cheese to market, fire wood to the log shed, or hay and straw for the horses or cattle.  Carting demands a lot from a dog physically, and the friendly, goofy nature of this beautiful giant aside, only a big, muscular dog like the Berner could handle it.  Size and muscle, however, are only part of the story of the Berner’s success as a carting dog.

Berners may look square in outline, but they are actually slightly longer in body than they are tall, and the breed standard calls for it.  A Berner’s height is measured from his withers to the ground;  the measurements from his withers to the elbow, and from the elbow to the ground should be equal. If a dog is too long in the loin, it weakens his back and this impacts the dog’s efficiency in movement when pulling a cart. If a Berner appears to be too short in that outline, chances are that he is too short in loin, too straight in his front assembly,  or maybe both. Neither is desirable.

A Berner with the right length of loin and a good front, however, must still have strong bones, another aspect mentioned in the breed standard: “Sturdy bone is of great importance. The body is full.” Carting/drafting dogs need substance in both their body and bones, and thus a Berner should be solid and muscular.

Pulling is such an integral part of the breed’s nature and history, that the parent club offers not only drafting events, but a Grand Master Draft Dog title awarded to a dog completing the requirements for all eight BMDCA Draft Titles. A nice gallery of dogs having earned this may be seen here.

We conclude with a treat: A short video of Berners pulling carts at the Royal county of Berkshire Show in 2013

**We paraphrased the Ford slogan from 1979, “Built Ford Tough.”

Image of Bernese Mountain Dog by Nadi Spencer, winner of National Purebred Dog Day’s inaugural Fine Art/Poster competition in 2016

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