The ancestors of the Great Swiss Mountain Dog are of the type previously widely spread across Central Europe and frequently described as butchers' or slaughterer's dogs. They were strong, tricolor, 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 assessment. 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 recognized 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 reservoir remained small as it was particularly 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 demanding, dependable carrier or draught dogs in the service of 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.
(Courtesy J.M. Paschoud, "The Swiss Canine Breeds", Berne 1994)