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History of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Breed

Summary
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog (Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund) is the largest of the four Swiss Sennenhund breeds, the others being the Berner (Bernese Mountain Dog), the Appenzeller and the Entlebucher. The  Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is characterized by its large, muscular stature and beautiful tri-colored markings. Males stand approximately 25.5 to 28.5 inches
 at the withers and weigh anywhere from 105 to 140 lbs. Females stand 23.5 to 27 inches, with weight ranging from 85 to 110 lbs.

Early History
gsmd_milkwagon.jpgThe Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is considered to be the oldest of the Swiss breeds, and was instrumental in the early development of both the St Bernard and the Rottweiler.  There are several theories regarding the ancient origins of the Swiss Sennenhund breeds, the most popular of which states that Swissies are descended from the Mollosian, a large mastiff-type dog that accompanied the Roman Legions on their invasion of the Alps in the 1st Century BC.  By the 19th Century, the descendants of these dogs, the ancestors of the modern Swissy, were used by farmers, herdsmen and merchants all across central Europe as a draft dog, herder and all-around farm dog.  Unfortunately, due to changes in technology and culture, their numbers had dwindled severely by the turn of the 20th Century.

The Modern Swissy
At the Swiss Kennel Club Silver Jubilee show of 1908, two entries were described as 'short-haired Bernese Mountain Dogs'.  Professor Albert Heim, a canine researcher and renowned expert on the Swiss Sennenhund breeds, was present at the show.  He recognized these dogs to be members of the large Sennenhund type and began a campaign for their recognition as a separate breed.  In 1909, the Swiss Kennel Club listed the Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund (Greater Swiss Mountain Dog) in the Swiss stud book.  Though saved from extinction, the Swissy population of Europe grew very slowly, and Swissies are still a rare breed in both the US and Europe today.  gsmd_army.jpgDuring WWII, Swissies were used by the Swiss Army as a draft dog, hauling supplies, artillery and the wounded through the Alps.  By 1945, it was estimated that there were only 350-400 Swissies in existance.  gsmd_sledge.jpgHappily, in 1968, the first Swissies were imported to the US by J. Frederick and Patricia Hoffman, with the help of Perrin G. Rademacher.  Subsequently, with the help of Howard and Gretel Summons, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America was formed in 1971.  Since that time the Club has promoted careful, selective breeding to gradually increase the strength and popularity of the breed.  In 1983, the Club held the first GSMDCA National Specialty and the club registry contained 257 dogs.  In 1985, the breed joined the AKC Miscellaneous Group, and in 1992 the GSMDCA started to work toward full AKC recognition.  In July 1995, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was officially granted full recognition in the AKC Working Group.

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