The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a strong draft breed. Large and powerful, this breed is slightly longer than tall. The dog’s movement displays good reach and drive. A double coat consists of a thick undercoat and dense outer coat, about 1 to 1¾ inches long. The dog’s expression is gentle and animated.
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is the oldest and largest of four varieties of Sennenhunde, or Swiss Mountain Dogs, the other three being the Appenzeller, Entlebucher, and Bernese. The breeds share a common heritage, probably derived from the Mastiff or Molossian dogs of the Romans. These dogs were probably introduced when the Romans crossed through Switzerland. Another theory is that the Phoenicians brought them to Spain around 1100 b.c. Whatever their origin, they spread over Europe and interbred with native dogs, eventually developing along independent lines in isolated communities. They shared the same working ethic, dividing their duties between acting as guardian of livestock and home, herder, and draft dog. Many came to be known as Metzgerhunde, or butcher’s dogs. Until the late 1800s, all these dogs, which share a common coat color pattern, were generally assumed to be of one breed or type. Only when Professor A. Heim endeavored to study the native Swiss mountain breeds seriously did he discern consistent differences that allowed them to be categorized as four distinct breeds. The year 1908 can be regarded as the birth date of the Greater Swiss; in this year Professor Heim spotted a magnificent short-haired dog entered in a Bernese Mountain Dog contest. He considered the dog a separate breed, and dubbed it the Greater Swiss because of its resemblance to the sturdy Swiss butcher’s dogs he had also seen. The breed grew very slowly in popularity, additionally thwarted by two world wars. Only in 1968 did the Greater Swiss come to America, with the first litter born in 1970. In 1985 the breed was admitted into the AKC Miscellaneous class, achieving full recognition in 1995.
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a sensitive, loyal, and extremely devoted family companion. Calm and easygoing, this breed is very gentle with children as well as other pets. However the dog is also is territorial, alert, bold, and vigilant.
As befitting of a dog with working roots, this breed likes the outdoors, especially in cold weather. The dog requires daily exercise, either a good long walk or vigorous romp, and especially enjoys pulling. The coat needs brushing once weekly. More frequent attention is needed when the coat is shedding.