There are great similarities between the Bernese Mountain Dog & the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. So we will give information about the similarities between the two breeds first. Then we will discus the differences.
The Bernese Mountain Dog and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog both originated in Switzerland. It is believed that these breeds came about over two thousand years ago during Roman times when Rome invaded the area which is now Switzerland. The Roman mastiff-like breed mixed with the flock-guarding dog breeds of the Alps to create strong and hardy dog breeds who were very tolerant of the cold weather. These tougher breeds then had uses beyond guarding the flocks which including herding and droving the flocks, pulling carts, and assisting in general farm duties.
Despite the many uses, these breeds nearly became non-existent. Fortunately, in the 1900’s, dogs which had the ideal qualities of the ancient breeds were found and reproduced. Their popularity spread across Europe and eventually reached the US some years later. The Bernese Mountain Dog was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1937 while the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was not recognized by the AKC until 1995.
Both the Bernese Mountain Dog and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog have gentle and easy-going mannerisms. They exhibit a great loyalty to their master which generally makes them easy to train. These great dogs are hardworking and willing to please. Only moderate exercise is required for these large dog breeds. An easy-going daily walk is perfect for them.
The Bernese Mountain Dog and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog are good with other members of the family, including children, and with other pets. They tend to be wary of strangers. While both are good watch dogs, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is more strongly inclined to be a guard dog.
These Swiss dog breeds are easy to identify. Both are rather large in size and are black, tan, and white in color. The Bernese Mountain Dog can be 23 to 27.5” in height and can weigh 70 to 120 pounds. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog can be 23.5 to 28.5” in height and can weigh 85 to 140 pounds. Both the Bernese Mountain Dog and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog are mostly black in color with tan and white markings. The white markings are on the muzzle, chest, and feet. Sometimes there is also white on the tip of the tail and a white blaze on the forehead. Sometimes, the white on the chest also goes around the neck like a collar. There are tan markings above the eyes. There should be tan between the black and the white of the feet. And there should be tan on both sides of their white chest and on their face.
Both the Bernese Mountain Dog and the Greater Swiss Mountain dog have a flat skull, triangular ears with a rounded tip, a long tail carried low, and round feet. Visually, they would look almost identical except the Bernese Mountain Dog has longer hair. The coat of the Bernese Mountain Dog is thick, long, and straight or slightly wavy while the coat of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is thick but short. Needless to say, the Bernese Mountain Dog requires more attention to grooming – especially during shedding season. Even though the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has shorter hair, his thick coat helps him do just as well in cold weather as the Bernese Mountain Dog.
For a long time, it was thought that the Bernese Mountain Dog, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, and two other Swiss breeds were all the same breed of dog with variations. However, scientific study showed that they were dissimilar enough to be considered different breeds. As indicated above, their primary differences are in their level of guarding and in the length of their coat. Another difference is that the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is more prone to having medical issues involving seizures. The Bernese Mountain Dog is more prone to have mast cell tumors. Mast cell tumors are a type of malignant skin cancer which appear as a hard lumps on the flesh.
Health problems which both breeds share include hip and elbow dysplasia and gastric torsion. Hip and elbow dysplasia occurs when the joints of the hip or elbow do not develop properly. This issue can lead to difficulty and pain in walking and can deteriorate to such a point that expensive surgery would be needed in order to fix. Gastric torsion occurs when the stomach gets twisted up. If it doesn’t fix itself or doesn’t get properly treated by a veterinarian, it can cause death.
Both the Bernese Mountain Dog and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog are great family dogs. They get along well with every member of your family, are relatively easy to train, and only need a moderate amount of exercise. If you are considering one of these dog breeds as a pet, check for responsible breeders or a rescue group. If looking at responsible breeders, be sure to check beyond AKC registration and credentials beyond what is read in a flier or on a website. Generally, a responsible breeder will be a member of an exclusive dog breed club such as the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of American or the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America.