Breed Standard

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog


General Appearance

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a Draft and Drover breed and should structurally appear as such. It is a striking, tri-colored, large, powerful, confident dog of sturdy appearance. It is a heavy boned and well muscled dog which, in spite of its size and weight, is agile enough to perform the all-purpose farm duties of the mountainous regions of its origin.

Size, Proportion, and Substance


Height at the highest point on the shoulder is ideally:
Body length to height is approximately a 10 to 9 proportion, thus appearing slightly longer than tall. It is a heavy boned and well muscled dog of sturdy appearance.


Expression is animated and gentle. The eyes are almond shaped and brown, dark brown preferred, medium sized, neither deep set nor protruding. Blue eye or eyes is a disqualification. Eyelids are close fitting and eyerims are black. The ears are medium sized, set high, triangular in shape, gently rounded at the tip, and hang close to the head when in repose. When alert, the ears are brought forward and raised at the base. The top of the ear is level with the top of the skull. The skull is flat and broad with a slight stop. The backskull and muzzle are of approximately equal length. The backskull is approximately twice the width of the muzzle. The muzzle is large, blunt and straight, not pointed and most often with a slight rise before the end. In adult dogs the nose leather is always black. The lips are clean and as a dry-mouthed breed, flews are only slightly developed. The teeth meet in a scissors bite.

Neck, Topline, and Body

The neck is of moderate length, strong, muscular and clean. The topline is level from the withers to the croup. The chest is deep and broad with a slight protruding breastbone. The ribs are well-sprung. Depth of chest is approximately one half the total height of the dog at the withers. Body is full with slight tuck up. The loins are broad and strong. The croup is long, broad and smoothly rounded to the tail insertion. The tail is thick from root to tip, tapering slightly at the tip, reaching to the hocks, and carried down in repose. When alert and in movement, the tail may be carried higher and slightly curved upwards, but should not curl, or tilt over the back. The bones of the tail should feel straight.


The shoulders are long, sloping, strong and moderately laid back. They are flat and well-muscled. Forelegs are straight and strong. The pasterns slope very slightly, but are not weak. Feet are round and compact with well arched toes, and turn neither in nor out. The dewclaws may or may not be present.


The thighs are broad, strong and muscular. The stifles are moderately bent and taper smoothly into the hocks. The hocks are well let down and straight when viewed from the rear. Feet are round and compact with well arched toes, and turn neither in nor out. Dewclaws should be removed.


Topcoat is dense, approximately 1-1/4 to 2 inches in length. Undercoat must be present and may be thick and sometimes showing, almost always present at neck but may be present throughout. Color of undercoat ranges from the preferred dark gray to light gray to tawny. Total absence of undercoat is undesirable and should be penalized.


The topcoat is black. The markings are rich rust and white. Symmetry of markings is desired. On the head, rust typically appears over each eye, on each cheek and on the underside of the ears. On the body, rust appears on both sides of the forechest, on all four legs and underneath the tail. White markings appear typically on the head (blaze) and muzzle. The blaze may vary in length and width. It may be a very thin stripe or wider band. The blaze may extend just barely to the stop or may extend over the top of the skull and may meet with white patch or collar on the neck. Typically, white appears on the chest , running unbroken from the throat to the chest, as well as on all four feet and on the tip of the tail. White patches or collar on the neck is acceptable. Any color other than the "Black, Red and White" tri-colored dog described above, such as "Blue/Charcoal, Red and White" or "Red and White" is considered a disqualification. When evaluating the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, markings and other cosmetic factors should be considered of lesser importance than other aspects of type which directly affect working ability.


Good reach in front, powerful drive in rear. Movement with a level back.


Bold, faithful, willing worker. Alert and vigilant. Shyness or aggressiveness shall be severely penalized.


The foregoing is the description of the ideal Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. Defects of both structure and temperament are to be judged more severely than mere lack of elegance because they reduce the animal's capacity to work. Any fault that detracts from the above described working dog should be penalized to the extent of the deviation.


Any color other than the "Black, Red and White" tri-colored dog described above, such as "Blue/Charcoal, Red and White" or "Red and White". Blue eye or eyes.

The above Breed Standard was adapted from the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club Web Site:

Brief historical summary

The Greater Swiss mountain dog is a sensitive, loyal and extremely devoted family companion. He is calm and easygoing, very gentle with children as well as other pets. He is protective, alert, bold and vigilant .
Hailing from the remote, mountainous regions of Switzerland, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was used primarily as a farm dog. These robust canines, which descended from ancient Roman Mastiffs, pulled carts to market and herded flocks of sheep. When 19th-century technology took over, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs dropped in number. Slowly, dog enthusiasts have been restoring the breed.

The ancestors of the Great Swiss Mountain Dog are of the previously widely spread across Central Europe and frequently described as butcher's or slaughterer's dogs. They were strong, tricolour, sometimes black and tan or yellow dogs, popular with butchers, cattle dealers, manual workers and farmers, who used them as guards, droving or draught dogs and bred them as such.

On the occasion of the jubilee show to mark the 25 years of the founding of the "Schweizerische Kynologische Gesellschaft" (Swiss Kennel Club) SKG, held in 1908, two such dogs, called "short-haired Bernese Mountain Dogs", were for the first time presented to Professor Albert Heim, for his assesment. 

This great promoter of the "Swiss Mountain and Cattle dogs" recognized in them the old, vanishing, large Sennenhund (mountain dog) or butcher's dog. They were recognised as a definite breed by the SKG and entered as "Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund" in volume 12 (1909) of the Swiss stud book.

In the canton of Berne, further exemplars were found which measured up to Heim's description and were introduced systematically into pure breeding stock. In January 1912 the club for "Grosse Schweizer Sennenhunde" was founded, which from then on took over the care and promotion of this breed. For a long period the breed remained small as it was particularely difficult to find suitable bitches. Only since 1933 could more than 50 dogs annually be entered into the SHSB (Swiss Stud Book).
The Standard was first published by the FCI on February 5th, 1939.
Recognition and wider distribution came along with the breed's growing reputation as undemanding, dependable carrier or draught dogs in the Swiss army during the second World War, so that by 1945 for the first time over 100 puppies could be registered, which was evidence of the existence of about 350-400 dogs.
Today the breed is bred also in the adjacent countries and is appreciated universally for its calm, even temperament, especially as a family dog.

HealthMajor concerns: CHD, gastric torsion, elbow dysplasia
Minor concerns: panosteitis, OCD, distichiasis, entropion
Occasionally seen: ectropion

Suggested tests: hip, elbow, (eye)

Life span: 10-12 years

The Look of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs have large, muscular frames slightly longer than tall that are covered in short, dense coats. They usually come in black with rust and white markings. Swissys have large, broad heads with dark eyes and triangular ears that hang close. Their thick, tapered tails are carried low. Overall, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs look sturdy but nimble