Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Breed

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog loves to be active.
By: PawCulture Editors
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog standing

About This Breed

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is thought to have originated when the Romans crossed the Mastiff breed with the Swiss dogs of the region. This breed was used primarily for herding and guarding since the Middle Ages.

Physical Characteristics

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has a large, heavily muscled frame. The head is big and square with short drop ears.


The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is most commonly seen in black with white with rust colored markings.


The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog’s coat is short and soft to the touch with a very thick undercoat.

Personality and Temperament




The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog loves to be active. They tend to be best with families that have an active lifestyle and can keep them busy. They are known for being gentle with kids and make great watchdogs. They will be at their best when they are socialized at a young age to children and other dogs. They also need very little grooming; a good brushing once a week will do.


The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog can be overprotective of family when new people are around. They also tend to be aggressive toward other dogs in general, unless they have been properly socialized at a young age with other dogs.



Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs get along best in the country.


Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs need to be exercised on a daily basis.


The following conditions are commonly seen in Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs:

Distichiasis (eyelash problems) and entropion


Hip dysplasia

Bloat/Gastric dilatation-volvulous (GDV)


Unidentifiable epileptic seizures

History and Background

Described as the largest and oldest of the four strains of Swiss Mountain Dogs, or Sennenhunde, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog shares a common ancestry with the Roman Molossian dogs, or the Mastiff. The other Swiss Mountain Dogs are the Bernese, Appenzeller, and Entlebucher.

One of the theories is that their ancestors might have been introduced by the Romans when they invaded the area. Another theory has the dogs being brought by the Phoenicians to Spain around 1100 B.C.

Whatever the case, the breed was an excellent working dog and spread throughout Europe, being cross-bred with native dogs along the way and finally developing in isolated communities along individual lines. Sharing the same working principles and functioning as herders, draft dogs, and guardians of home and livestock, many of the dogs were known as butchers dogs, or Metzgerhunde.

All of these dogs that share the same coloring were thought to be of the same breed until the late 19th Century. Many believe that Professor A. Heim and his study of the native mountain breed in Switzerland in 1908 led to the “birth” of the Greater Swiss Mountain dog. Professor Heim had found a wonderful, short-haired dog in a Bernese Mountain Dog contest and, thinking it was a different breed, named it the Greater Swiss, as it closely resembled the strong Swiss butchers dogs.

The breed’s popularity grew very slowly and was also hampered by the World Wars, as many breeds were. It was not until 1968 that the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog entered into the United States. The American Kennel Club later admitted the breed into the Miscellaneous class in 1985, giving it complete recognition ten years later.