This photo of “Monty,” a Bernese Mountain Dog from St. Clair Shores, Michigan was named among the 50 “Best of the Best” Reader Dog Photos from Garden & Gun magazine, and while it puts the breed in a glamorous light, it wasn’t always so. Working breeds typically got short shrift from artists, poets, scientists and historians throughout history. Like air, working dogs were taken for granted. Always around, they did man’s bidding, and it was the lap dogs and glam hunting breeds that were memorialized on canvas and in verse. As a result, there’s precious little art or literature to help shed light on the origins of the breed, though speculation abounds. Little attention was paid to preserving the breed, let alone breed type, and by the end of the 19th century, the BMD was in trouble.
Around the turn of the century, several Swiss dog fanciers realized in time that ignoring the good qualities of their old native breeds was a mistake. These pioneers found Berners in various isolated valleys of Bern, worked to spark interest in the dogs, and ultimately resurrected the breed.
The first dogs imported into America are thought to have been a pair brought into the country by a Kansas farmer in 1926, but for reasons we don’t know, he failed in his effort to register the dogs with the AKC. Ten years later, Glen Shadow had better luck and through his, and the efforts of other fanciers, the AKC recognized the breed in 1937.
Glamour breed? Maybe not, and that’s what we love about it.