10 Things You Didn’t Know about the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

In some cases, the name of a breed can be very literal. This is the case for the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, which is a bigger breed that came into existence in the Swiss Alps. There was a time when people believed that the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog had died out, but fortunately for dog owners, there were enough survivors for the breed to make a comeback with some human help. Here are 10 things that you may or may not have known about the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog:

1. Is a Sennenhund

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is called the Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund. Interested individuals should have no problems figuring out what the first two words mean. However, the Sennerhund refers to people called either Senn or Senner, meaning herders who made a living in the Swiss Alps.

2. Biggest Sennenhund

Speaking of which, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog isn’t the sole breed of Sennenhund out there. In total, there are four breeds. However, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is notable in that it is both the biggest and the oldest of the Sennenhund breeds.

3. More than One Potential Origin

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is one of those breeds that are so old that no one can be sure about how it came into existence. Instead, there are a number of theories, with some being wilder than others. For example, there is one line of thought that speculates that the breed is descended from the Molosser that was brought by the Romans. In contrast, there is another line of thought that speculates that the breed is descended from Phoenician dogs that were brought to Spain, which spread eastwards over time.

4. Bred to Be Big and Strong

It is believed that the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was bred to be both big and strong because the people living in the Swiss Alps needed a multi-purpose breed that could provide a wide range of uses to farmers. One excellent example is how the breed saw extensive use as a draft dog, so much so that it was sometimes called the Poor Man’s Horse in recognition of this particular role.

5. Came Close to Extinction

In the late 19th century, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog came very close to extinction. This wasn’t because of some kind of disaster. Instead, it is believed that the breed was replaced in its roles by either machines or other breeds.

6. Saved by Albert Heim

Fortunately, a man named Franz Schertenlieb showed a pair of dogs to a professor named Albert Heim in 1908, who recognized them as a pair of the big Swiss mountain dogs who were dying out at the time in spite of the fact that their predecessors had once been spread throughout much of Europe. Heim was the man who encouraged breeders to take an interest in them, which in turn, led to the establishment of what has become known as the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.

7. Good-Natured

The personality of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog reads like a list of positive characteristics. For example, it tends to be bold but nonetheless eager to please. Furthermore, it is gentle and intelligent, which combine particularly well with its friendly nature. On top of this, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is even capable of getting along with other household animals.

8. Good Watchdogs

Generally speaking, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs make for good watchdogs. In part, this is because they are very alert animals, meaning that they excel at monitoring their surroundings for signs of potential problems. However, it helps that while they are protective of their charges, they aren’t excessively so, meaning that they won’t go after strangers that aren’t a threat.

9. Needs a Fair Amount of Room

With that said, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs have a problem in that they need a fair amount of room to thrive. Simply put, this is because they are bigger dogs who need a lot of exercise, meaning that they don’t do so well when they are cooped up in small spaces.

10. Has Been Known to Exhibit Rage Syndrome

Like other breeds, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs exhibits some medical problems more than others. One example can be seen in how some members of the breed have been observed with what is called rage syndrome, which is very odd in that the dog shows sudden signs of aggression but will revert to their normal behavior without seeming to remember what has happened. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a simple cure because it is genetic in nature.


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