GENERAL APPEARANCE:  The Bernese is a large and solid looking, active, well boned working dog of striking black background colour enhanced by a uniform pattern of white and rich dark-tan markings on the head, chest, legs and tail. Bernese impress as being strong and sturdy and workmanlike, whilst emitting a calm and kindly attitude. 

Above - Adult male and adult female of good breed type, size, proportions and substance. 

CHARACTERISTICS:  Originally bred in Switzerland as multipurpose farm dogs, Bernese do not have one single, over-riding instinct but are more suited to working with, and under the guidance of their master. Bernese are easily capable of draught work. Bernese are considered to be useful as watch-dogs, but should not be regarded as guard-dogs.  Nowadays Bernese are more often employed as devoted family companions. Bernese are rather slow to mature compared to some other breeds.


should be friendly, self confident, interested in what is going on around them and fearless. Ideally they should have a laid-back nature - accepting normal routine with a carefree attitude. Bernese should not be prone to highly-strung nor hysterical behaviour, nor unpredictable mood changes. Bernese should be sociable with people and get along with other pets and animals.


HEAD AND SKULL:  The head should be strong yet kindly with a benign expression - more comparable to a 'teddy-bear' shape - broad head, well filled cheeks and strong not too long muzzle; a collie-like or `foxy` shaped head that would have a narrower skull, leaner face and longer, thinner muzzle is undesirable. Bernese
should have a well-defined head shape with flat skull and a slight furrow from the front of the skull and along the stop (the slope from the forehead down to the muzzle.) The muzzle should be straight, broad and fairly deep. Lips are slightly developed and not too loose. Bernese should not dribble involuntarily nor slobber like looser-lipped breeds such as the Newfoundland and St Bernard.  Pigment on the nose and eye rims and lips should be solid black but the gums and inner mouth often has a combination of both black and pink colouration.

Above - Adult male with beautiful, correctly proportioned head of good breed type.

Above - Both bitches have untypical heads lacking strength and too long and shallow in muzzle.

EYES: Should have a lovely melting expression and depth to them. Bernese eyes should be almond shaped and dark brown in colour. Eyes of a lighter brown shade tend to give an overall harsher, or even rather `wild` expression, but light brown eyes are purely a cosmetic fault. Blue eyes sometimes occur - caused by a
lack of pigment and so are most commonly (but not always) combined with over-marking (too much white.) Eyelids should be well fitting - neither too tight nor too loose.

           Too Loose fitting eyelids                Eyes too round in shape             Eyes too light in colour

EARS.  Triangular shaped ears of medium size. Bernese ears are high set and mostly carried lying flat against the head although they are usually raised and brought forward when the dog is alert.

MOUTH.  Bernese have strong jaws and a regular scissor bite is desirable (the upper teeth overlap the bottom teeth closely.) Sometimes teeth placement is noticeably incorrect - overshot (whereby the top jaw is longer than the lower jaw) and undershot (the lower jaw and teeth are more forward placed that the top jaw and teeth.

NECK.  The neck should be of medium length and muscular.

FOREQUARTERS.  The front legs are heavier boned (thicker) than the hind legs. Bernese forelegs look almost the same thickness all the way up from just above the feet to the elbow - they do not have prominent knuckles (knees) as seen in breeds such as the Great Dane and German Shepherd Dog. Long sloping shoulders form an angle with the upper arms. The pasterns (wrists) flex slightly but otherwise the legs look straight from all sides. 

   Correct front construction & stance        Narrow, weak front       Weak pasterns & poor stance

BODY.  Bernese have a strong, compact, broad and thick-set body with height to length ratio of 9 to 10. The brisket (chest or sternum) should reach at least to the elbow and be broad. The back should be firm, level and straight finishing in a rounded rump. Bernese should be broad and rounded through the ribcage - not narrow nor `flat-sided`. The loin (the area between the ribcage and the pelvis area) should be strong and fairly deep
and not be `tucked-up` - Bernese do not have a small waistline.

    8 Month old pup with good proportions                         Yearling male with good proportions

           Body too lightly built and rangy                     Body looks too heavy as legs are too short

HINDQUARTERS.  Bernese should have broad back-ends - they should be wide across the pelvic area and appear strong and well muscled. Stifles (knees) should be well bent. The hock (ankle) should be strong, well-let-down (neither too long nor too short) and turning neither in nor out. The bone on the hind limbs is not as
thick as on the front legs. Some Bernese are born with hind dewclaws (the fifth or sixth toe set a little way above the foot on the inside of the leg) and most breeders have those extra toes removed from puppies within a few days of birth.

    Crouching stance & hind feet turned out                     Straight stifles and stilted rear stance           

FEET.  Bernese should have very rounded, compact feet with the appearance of rather short toes. They are often described as having "cat-like" feet, and because the toes are so short the toenails are often extremely short due to the natural wear attributed to their angle.

TAIL.  Bernese should have a bushy, well furnished tail reaching to just below the hock. Usually carried low when in repose, the tail is naturally raised when alert or moving, but should never be curled or carried high or over the back.

                                                            Gay tails - curled and carried too high

GAIT/MOVEMENT.  The natural movement of a Bernese should be purposeful, yet free and effortless. They should not have a `lumbering` nor cumbersome gait, but nor do they move in a light-footed fashion. Bernese should have a flowing stride reaching out well in front, following well through behind, producing a balanced
stride in all gaits.

COAT.  A mature Bernese should have a soft, silky coat which has a natural bright sheen. The hair is long, sometimes slightly wavy but should not curl when mature. The hair around the ears is very fine and often grows into long `streamers`, whilst the hair at the rear of the hind legs (sometimes described as ‘trousers’) is of a coarser texture. The featherings under the tail (commonly called a plume) is also of a harsher texture than the body hair. Routine coat clipping is not necessary for Bernese, although some individuals may require a minimum amount of trimming occasionally.

                       Coat too curly                                 Mature, spayed bitch with overgrown coat

COLOUR.  Bernese have a ground colour of jet black on their head and body. There are rich reddish-brown markings on the cheeks, a spot above each eye, on all our legs and a spot on either side of the chest. Some of the tail featherings near to the base of the tail are tan, as are some of the hairs under the earflaps. There should be a slight to medium-sized symmetrical white marking across the muzzle and a line running from the muzzle up between the eyes to the top of the head (blaze.)
The chest should be white - a white marking in the shape of a cross is most desirable although many Bernese have a wide, white bib - like a shirtfront that also extends along the belly. Preferred but not absolutely essential are white paws but the white should not reach higher than the pastern (wrist.) The tail should have a white tip, but again this is not essential. It is fairly common for Bernese to be born with slight variations in markings which are considered undesirable but tolerated. Usually this is in the form of some extra white hairs which extend the blaze over the top of the head, or white hairs at the nape of neck, or a white anal patch. Likewise a lack of white - often seen on the head as a small white muzzle marking and thin line running up between the eyes (a pencil blaze), or no white on any of the feet nor tail tip, is not generally regarded as a major fault.

Overmarked - too much white        Too much white plus blue eye     Undermarked - too little white

SIZE.  The preferred height range for Bernese - measured at the withers (the highest point of the shoulders) is; Dogs 64 – 70cms (25 – 27 ½ inches.) Bitches 58 – 66 cms (23 – 26 inches. )

Gender size difference - Male and two bitches                       Adult male and adult bitch

WEIGHT.  An adult Bernese male could weigh anything within the range of 36 to 55 kilos (approx. 80 - 120 lbs) and an adult bitch within the range of 34 to 46 kilos (approx. 75 – 100 lbs).

FAULTS.  The Breed Standard states; "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. NOTE. Male dogs should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum."




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