The Entlebucher Mountain Dog is a breed of multi-purpose working dog native to Switzerland. The Entlebucher Mountain Dog is the smallest of a group of four Swiss Cattle Dog breeds, also known as Sennenhunds. Over the centuries, the Entlebucher Mountain Dog has served many roles including herder, drover, guardian, and beast of burden, but today the breed is kept primarily for companionship. The Entlebucher Mountain Dog is also known as the Entlebucher Sennenhund, Entlebucher, Entlebucher Cattle Dog, Entlebucherhund, Swiss Mountain Dog –Entlebucher, Swiss Cattle Dog –Entlebucher, Entle, EMD, and ECD, and Entlebuch is frequently replaced in all of those variants instead of Entlebucher.
As is the case with many old breeds, most of the history of the Entlebucher Mountain Dog has been lost to time. This is especially true of this breed, as the Entlebucher Mountain Dog was primarily kept in remote mountain valleys by poor farmers. All that is clear is that the Entlebucher Mountain Dog was first recognized as a distinct breed in the late 1800’s and that it was first standardized in the 1920’s. Prior to that time, the breed shared the same history as the other Swiss Mountain Dog breeds.
For at least 2,000 years, the area that is now Switzerland has been home to a group of large cattle dog breeds. These dogs are collectively known as Sennenhunds, which translates to “Dairy Farmers’ Dogs.” At one point, there were probably dozens of different distinct varieties of Sennenhund, but only between four and six have survived until the present day. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Bernese Mountain Dog, Appenzeller Mountain Dog, and Entlebucher Mountain Dog are always placed into this category, and sometimes the Saint Bernard and Rottweiler are as well. There is substantial dispute among dog experts as to how the Sennenhunds should be classified. Many researchers place them into the Molosser/Mastiff family, but an equal number instead claim that they should be grouped with the Pinscher/Schnauzer family. The origins of the Sennenhunds are unclear, but a number of theories have been developed.
Although no one is sure exactly how and when the Sennenhunds first developed, they are certainly very old breeds. For as long as written records have been kept in what is now Switzerland, there have been records of Sennenhund-type dogs. A small minority of researchers believe that these dogs actually predate the Roman Empire and that they are in fact descended from dogs kept by the disparate Alpine tribes who inhabited the region prior to the Roman occupation. Archaeological evidence suggests that Spitz-type dogs have been present in the Alps for many thousands of years, likely since human beings first inhabited the region at the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago. Canine historians have recently concluded that the region’s first farmers also almost certainly possessed massive, white-coated livestock protection dogs. These dogs would have been of the Lupomolossoid type and were probably very similar to the Great Pyrenees and Maremma Sheepdog. Some researchers think that the Sennenhunds are the result of crossing Spitz-type dogs with Lupomolossoid dogs. However, essentially no evidence exists to support this theory, and the vast majority of researchers have concluded that these breeds were developed much later.
Beginning in the 8th Century B.C., the small Latin settlement of Rome grew into a major Mediterranean power. Although Rome’s territorial ambitions were initially limited to the Italian Peninsula, they quickly spread. One of the first areas to fall under Roman control was the Alps, whose many Celtic tribes had long raided the rich lands of Northern Italy. Beginning in the 2nd Century B.C., the Alps slowly fell under Roman domination, a process which required the subjugation of at least 40 different peoples. The Romans were possibly the greatest dog breeders of the ancient world, and brought a number of different breeds with them wherever they ruled. Two of these dogs were the Molossus and the Roman Cattle Droving Dog. History is unclear whether the Molossus and the Roman Cattle Droving Dog were two different breeds, two varieties of the same breed, or individuals of the same breed used for two different purposes. There is also substantial debate as to the nature and appearance of these breeds, especially the Molossus which was not actually developed by the Romans but rather the Molossian tribe of Epirus. Historically, it has been assumed that these dogs were of the Mastiff-type, but some recent researchers have suggested that they were actually either sighthounds or cur-type dogs. In any case, the Molossus was the primary war dog of the Greek and Roman armies and was both greatly feared across the Ancient world for its ferocity and courage in battle and revered for its skill as a hunter, herder, and property guardian. The Roman Cattle Droving Dog was used to herd and transport cattle and other livestock across vast distances and was responsible for providing the Roman legions with the vast amounts of meat necessary to feed their soldiers. The vast majority of experts believe that the Sennenhunds are descended from the Molossus and Roman Cattle Droving Dog, and almost all sources make this claim. Although there does not appear to be much definitive evidence to prove this theory, nearly all available evidence does seem to support it, and it appears to be the most likely of all existing theories. Although the Sennenhunds are not typical looking Molossers/Mastiffs, they do appear to be more similar to these dogs than any other, especially when the Rottweiler and Saint Bernard are included in the group.
Nothing is permanent, even the power of Rome. Eventually, a number of Steppe tribes consolidated into major confederations, confederations which wanted to invade and conquer new lands. One such confederation was the Huns, who around 370 A.D. began to invade the lands of the Germanic tribes who had previously lived along the Northern borders of the Roman Empire. Driven from their homelands, the German were forced to settle in the Roman Empire, sometimes peacefully and sometimes through war. So many Germans settled in what is now Switzerland that the area became primarily inhabited by German speakers. The German tribes possessed their own varieties of dogs, many of which they may have brought with them to Switzerland. Since they first appeared in written history, German farmers have possessed multi-purpose working dogs known as Pinschers, a group which also includes the Schnauzers. The primary job of Pinchers was always to exterminate vermin such as rats, mice, moles, voles, and rabbits, but they were also used to drive cattle, guard property, and sound the alarm when strange humans or animals approached. German farmers almost certainly brought Pinscher-type dogs with them to Switzerland, just as they did wherever they settled. Wealthy Germans have also kept Spitz-type dogs as companions for many centuries, and these breeds are likely to have entered the Alps as well. A significant minority of researchers have come to the conclusion that the Sennenhunds are in fact primarily descended from Pinschers and Spitzen, a conclusion shared by the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) as evidenced by its classification of these dogs alongside the Pinschers.
In truth, all three of these theories probably over-simplifies the history of the Sennenhunds. In all likelihood, these dogs are the result of crosses between many different dogs. In the opinion of this writer, the Sennenhunds are probably primarily descended from the Molossus and Roman Cattle Droving Dog, but with a substantial amount of influence from Pre-Roman Lupomolossoid livestock guarding dogs and Germanic Pinschers, and possibly some Spitz, Scenthound, and British Mastiff blood as well.
However the Sennenhunds were first developed, they were very common throughout Switzerland by the Middle Ages. These dogs were a regular sight throughout the mountains and valleys of the Alps, where they were much treasured by the region’s many dairy farmers. Almost all who have studied these breeds believe that the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was the original Sennenhund breed, and that all others descend from it. A few researchers have suggested that the Appenzeller Mountain Dog is actually the original Sennenhund, but the evidence to support this claim is slim at best.
The primary role of the Sennenhunds was to drive herds of cattle from the farm to the market for sale, a task which was impossible to perform without dogs until the development of modern technology. Sennenhunds developed very strong herding instincts, as well as stamina and energy necessary to drive cattle for miles over mountain trails. However, a dog as large as a Sennenhund is very expensive to keep, and most of the dairy farmers of Switzerland were very poor. They simply could not afford to maintain an animal which would only be used occasionally, so they deliberately bred dogs which could serve a variety of purposes.
Until the development of modern police forces and weaponry, the mountains of Switzerland served as refuges for human bandits and marauding wild beasts such as wolves and bears. Swiss farmers used their Sennenhunds to defend their herds and their families against these threats. The Sennenhunds were mainly responsible for alerting their owners to the appearance of a threat, but they were willing to defend their charges to the death if necessary. The Sennenhunds became highly skilled and dedicated guard dogs, although not especially aggressive ones.
Across most of Europe, the horse was the primary beast of burden, but such was not the case in Switzerland. The mountainous terrain and frigid climate of the Alps is extremely challenging for the horse, which was probably domesticated on the relatively flat grasslands of the Steppes. The nimble-footed and immensely powerful Sennenhunds proved to be much better suited to pulling carts in Switzerland. These mighty dogs became the primary beasts of burden across much of the region, not only for dairy farmers but for most of the Swiss population. As the centuries wore on, cart pulling became the most important function of the Sennenhunds, and by the end of the Renaissance the majority of these dogs were primarily employed as beasts of burden.
The high peaks and steep slopes of the Alps have long made travel through the region extremely challenging, and the deep snows of winter made it essentially impossible for several months of the year until the last two centuries. This meant that the dogs of each valley almost exclusively bred with other dogs in that same valley keeping them pure. Over time, a unique type of Sennenhund appeared in many valleys as a result of this isolation. At one point, Switzerland was probably home to dozens of distinct Sennenhunds. One such type was found in and around the town of Entlebuch, located in canton of Lucerne in central Switzerland. This type was significantly smaller than most other Sennenhunds, and also was frequently found with a naturally bobbed tail. However, it was not seen as being especially unique or unique. In fact, no mention of the Entlebucher Mountain Dog as a unique variety has been found prior to 1889, when a few descriptions of the dog, then known as the Entlebucherhund, were written.
The Sennenhunds faithfully served their Swiss masters for millennia. These breeds greatly benefitted from the fact that modern technology such as the railroad and automobile arrived in Switzerland much later than other regions of Western Europe and that the region’s environment made their introduction significantly more difficult and slower. Despite the many challenges, the modern age eventually came to even the remotest Swiss valleys. Transporting cattle by train was significantly easier and faster than using droving dogs, and the Sennenhunds lost their original function. Modern firearms drove the wolf and bear to the brink of extinction and modern law enforcement rounded up the last mountain bandits. No longer was a large guard dog so necessary. Mechanical vehicles such as the truck and tractor made dog carts increasingly obsolete. Those Swiss farmers who were too poor to afford modern innovations began to prefer foreign dog breeds such as the German Shepherd Dog and the now-extinct Belgishe Rekel. By the end of the 1800’s, the Sennenhunds were becoming increasingly rare. Once found throughout Switzerland, these ancient mountain dogs were on the verge of extinction. Dozens of varieties went extinct entirely.
Luckily for the Sennenhunds, their many centuries of faithful service had earned them a number of very dedicated fanciers, Chief among them Professor Albert Heim. The world famous geologist had a passion for the Swiss Mountain Dogs and dedicated much of his adult life to ensuring their preservation. He was largely responsible for getting these dogs recognized by the Swiss Kennel Club, and also for extensively promoting them. Albert Heim initially began his work by trying to save the Sennenhunds in general, but quickly attempted to save as many unique varieties as possible. Both the Bernese Mountain Dog and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog probably owe their survival entirely to Heim and his associates, and the Appenzeller Mountain Dog owes its survival both to their work and that of breed fancier Max Siber.
In 1913, a dog show was held in the Swiss city of Langentahal which attended by Dr. Heim. Four small Sennenhunds with naturally bobbed tails were exhibited. Dr. Heim and the other judges were intrigued by these dogs and they were formally recognized as the Entlebucher Sennenhund by the Swiss kennel Club later that year, becoming the fourth and final Sennenhund to avoid extinction. The Entlebucher Sennenhund’s development was halted by World War I. Although Switzerland managed to maintain its neutrality throughout the conflict, the country was still greatly impacted economically and politically. Largely as a result of the conflict, there was not a breed club dedicated to the Entlebucher Mountain Dog until the Swiss Club of the Entlebuch Cattle Dog was founded in 1926 by Dr. B. Kobler. The breed’s first formal written standard was published the following year. At that point, only 16 breed members could be located, and all of today’s breed members are descended from that small number of dogs. It took many years for Entlebucher Mountain Dog numbers to recover. The breed greatly benefitted from the fact that Switzerland remained neutral in World War II, and therefore did not suffer the catastrophic impacts that most large European dogs did during that conflict. The past sixty years have seen Entlebucher Mountain Dog numbers grow slowly but steadily throughout Switzerland. The breed’s recent resurgence is largely due to its growing popularity as a companion dog. Many Swiss families have discovered that this breed makes an excellent companion animal for families searching for an active medium-sized dog.
For many years, the Entlebucher Mountain Dog was almost entirely limited to Switzerland and Germany, both of which are home to breed clubs. This situation has begun to change in recent years. The Entlebucher Mountain Dog now has established populations in a number of European countries as well as the United States and Canada. In the late 1980’s, the veterinarian Andrew Luescher became the first known person to import Entlebucher Sennenhunds to North America when he brought a number of these dogs from his home country of Switzerland to his new home of Canada. In 1989, the breed earned official recognition with the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) after several failed attempts. In 1993, the United Kennel Club (UKC) also granted formal recognition to the Entlebucher Mountain Dog, although that organization uses the name Entlebucher. In 1996, the National Entlebucher Mountain Dog Association (NEMDA) was founded by Rebecca Hahn and other fanciers to protect and promote the breed in North America, eventually becoming the breed’s parent club with the CKC. In 2000, the Entlebucher Mountain Dog Club of America (EMDCA) was founded. The primary goal of both the NEMDA and the EMDCA was to have the Entlebucher Mountain Dog granted full recognition with American Kennel Club (AKC). In 2007, the Entlebucher Mountain Dog was entered into the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service (AKC-FSS), the first step towards full recognition. Two years later, the breed was entered into the AKC’s Miscellaneous Class, the final step before full recognition. On January 1st, 2011, the Entlebucher Mountain Dog achieved full recognition with the AKC as a member of the Herding Group, although by that point the EMDCA had become the breed’s official AKC parent club.
Although Entlebucher Mountain Dog numbers continue to grow around the world, the breed remains very rare. In Switzerland, the breed has attained a fair degree of popularity, and the dog is most popular in its homeland. In the United States, the Entlebucher is still very rare and in 2011 ranked 146th out of 173 total AKC breeds. Like most modern breeds, the Entlebucher Mountain Dog is no longer used for its original purpose. Very few, if any, breed members are still working farm dogs, and the vast majority of Entlebucher Mountain Dogs are now either companion animals or show dogs.
The Entlebucher Mountain Dog is the smallest of the Sennenhunds and is only a fraction the size of the Bernese and Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs. This is also arguably the least Molossoid (Mastiff-like) of the Sennenhunds and looks much more like a Pinscher than a typical Molosser. The Entlebucher Mountain Dog is a medium-sized breed. Most males stand between 17 and 21 inches tall at the shoulder, and most females stand between 16 and 20 inches. The Entlebucher Mountain Dog is longer from chest to rump than it is tall from floor to shoulder, and most breed members are at least 10 inches long for every 8 inches tall. Although weight is heavily influenced by height, gender, and condition, most breed members weigh between 45 and 65 pounds. The Entlebucher Mountain Dog is a very powerfully and sturdily constructed breed, but they should not appear stocky. The tail of the Entlebucher Mountain Dog is found in several variants. Many breed members have naturally bobbed tails which are genetically short. Other breed members have naturally long tails which are usually held low and with a curve. For show purposes, it is perfectly acceptable to artificially dock the tails of Entlebucher Mountain Dogs, although this practice is falling out of favor and is actually banned in some countries.
The head of the Entlebucher Mountain Dog is proportionate to the size of the dogs body, although it leans more towards being large than small, and forms a slight wedge shape when viewed from above. The head and muzzle run roughly parallel to each other. The two are noticeably distinct but blend in relatively smoothly with each other. The muzzle itself is slightly shorter than the rest of the skull, ideally about 90% as long. Although not especially short, the muzzle is quite wide and looks very powerful. The nose of the Entlebucher Mountain Dog should always be solid black, as should its lips which are also well-developed and tight fitting. The ears of the Entlebucher Mountain Dog are of average length, high set, and wide. The ears should be triangular-in-shape, rounded at the tips, and hang dog closely to the sides of the head. The eyes of this breed must be brown-in-color, small, and almondAmong experts, the use of Almonds, or Almond derived products in pet food appears to have been met with mixed reviews. While some feel that there is no issue and that the .... shaped. Most breed members have an intense and serious expression.
The Entlebucher Mountain Dog has a double coat. The undercoat is short and very dense. The topcoat is short, close-fitting, quite harsh, and shiny. Straight coats are greatly preferred in the show ring but wavy and soft coats are tolerated. Although the Entlebucher Mountain Dog’s coat may vary in color, breed standards are very specific with regards to the color of the topcoat. According to the official AKC standard, “Tricolor. Basic color must be black with tan (fawn to mahogany) and white markings, which should be as symmetric as possible. The tan markings are placed above the eyes, on cheeks, muzzle, either side of the chest, under the tail, and on all four legs. On legs, the tan is situated between the black and the white. Small tan oval islands on cheeks are desired. White markings include a distinct small blaze, which runs without interruption from top of head over bridge of nose, and can wholly or partially cover the muzzle. White from chin to chest without interruption. An inverted cross on chest desirable. In full-length tail, tip of tail is normally white. White on all four feet. Undesirable but tolerated - small white patch on the nape of the neck (not more than 2 inches), high boot, socks and bib.” Occasionally, an Entlebucher Mountain Dog will be born with an alternate coat such as having improper markings, lacking white markings altogether, or having a base coat of brown or tan. Such dogs are penalized in the show ring and should not be bred but otherwise make just as acceptable companions as other breed members.
For several decades, the Entlebucher Mountain Dog has been kept almost exclusively as a companion dog and is quite similar to a number of other companion breeds, but this dog still retains a significant amount of its hard working heritage.
The Entlebucher Mountain Dog is famous for its intense devotion and loyalty to its family. This is a breed that wants to be in the constant company of its owner, and may suffer from severe separation anxiety when left alone for long periods of time. However, this breed also tends to be independent, and most breed members want to be in the same room as their owner but not necessarily right on top of them. When properly trained and socialized, most breed members do very well with older children (those eight and above) and become exceptionally playful with them. This breed is probably not an ideal choice for families with very young children, however, as most of these dogs do not change their play based on the size of their playmate and may bowl over toddlers in their exuberance. Additionally, this breed has very strong herding instincts and may nip at children’s heels in an attempt to herd them if untrained.
Used as a guard dog for many centuries, the Entlebucher Mountain Dog is very protective of its family. Most breed members are not aggressive, however, and do very well with training and socialization. Once trained and socialized, some of these dogs actually become very friendly and engaging, although others remain suspicious and aloof. Although rare, human aggression issues can develop in this breed if raised improperly. The Entlebucher Mountain Dog is not only protective but highly territorial and constantly on alert, making it a peerless watch dog. The shockingly loud and deep bark of this breed is enough to scare off most would-be intruders. Some breed members lack the aggression to make an effective guard dog and would not attack an intruder once in the home, but others will defend their property with force if they deem it necessary. This breed makes would also make a very dependable personal protection dog, and an Entlebucher Mountain Dog would not allow physical harm to come to any member of its family (This breed is incredibly strong and powerful for its size).
When properly trained and socialized, most Entlebucher Mountain Dogs are fine with other dogs, and most breed members would prefer to share their lives with at least one canine companion. Some breed members due develop dog aggression issues, especially ones that relate to territoriality and same sex aggression, but these issues are generally not severe. This breed often does develop animal-aggression issues, however. Most breed members will be fine with other animals with which they have been raised and even become highly protective over them. Strange animals, on the other hand, are usually not welcome in an Entlebucher Mountain Dog’s territory and will be driven out. Additionally, this breed will probably attempt to herd other creatures, a tendency which cats in particular do not appreciate.
Very capable herding dogs, Entlebucher Mountain Dogs are regarded as extremely intelligent. This breed is probably capable of learning anything that any breed can, and this breed competes with success at the highest levels of agility, obedience, and other canine sports. However, this breed can pose significant training difficulties. Entlebucher Mountain Dogs are usually willing to please, but they certainly do not live to. Many of these dogs can be stubborn, and some are willful. As this breed will absolutely not respond to anyone they consider lower than themselves on the social totem pole, owners must maintain a position of dominance at all times. The Entlebucher Mountain Dog is incredibly pain tolerant and physical correction methods will prove useless when working with them. Rewards-based methods, especially those that involve food are much more effective. Overall, owners used to working with breeds such as the Labrador Retriever or Standard Poodle will probably find the Entlebucher Mountain Dog frustrating to train, but those accustomed to working with either Mastiff-type or Pinscher-type dogs will probably find them comparatively easy to work with.
Entlebucher Mountain Dogs were bred to drive cattle for mile after mile over some of the most challenging and dangerous terrain in the world. As one would expect, this breed is very energetic. At an absolute minimum, Entlebucher Mountain Dogs should receive an hour of vigorous physical activity every day, although significantly more would be ideal. This breed makes an excellent jogging or bicycling companion but truly craves the opportunity to run freely in a safely enclosed area. Breed members that are not provided with proper outlets for their energy will almost certainly develop behavioral problems such as destructiveness, hyperactivity, excessive barking, and over excitability. This intelligent breed truly requires activity which exercises its active mind as well as its body. Entlebucher Mountain Dogs do best when provided some sort of jog such as agility, competitive obedience, or herding livestock. Many active families actually find the high activity level of the Entlebucher Mountain Dog desirable, and this breed is very eager to accompany its family on any adventure, especially if that adventure involves the snow. Because of the Entlebucher Mountain Dog’s high exercise requirements, this breed adapts poorly to apartment life and this breed truly requires a yard.
Potential Entlebucher Mountain Dog owners need to be aware of the breed’s great strength. This dog is immensely powerful, and most breed members are significantly stronger than breeds twice their size. When not trained to heel, these dogs will easily drag owners off of their feet, and when bored they can easily break through almost any barrier.
Entlebucher Mountain Dogs have moderate grooming requirements. This breed should never need professional grooming, but it will need a thorough biweekly brushing. Entlebucher Mountain Dogs do shed a significant amount, but they are not regarded as excessively heavy shedders. This breed almost certainly sheds the least of the four Sennenhund breeds, but it will still give allergy sufferers and neat freaks greater problems than light shedding breeds. It is highly advisable for owners to introduce their Entlebucher Mountain Dogs to routine maintenance procedures such as baths from as young an age and as carefully as possible because the surprisingly strong adults can offer serious resistance.
The Entlebucher Mountain Dog is regarded as being in average to good health. Both the NEMDA and the EMDCA conduct regular health studies on the breed, and use the information collected for future breeding. It is one of the primary goals of both organizations to eliminate health defects from the Entlebucher Mountain Dog, and significant gains are being made, especially as new genetic tests are developed. However, the Entlebucher Mountain Dog has a very small gene pool and a number of congenital health defects are currently present in the breed at significant percentages, although most are not found at very high rates. Cataracts, glaucoma, ACL injuries, ectopic ureters, hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, and hemolytic anemia are the problems of greatest concern to Entlebucher Mountain Dog breeders.
The Entlebucher Mountain Dog was bred to survive in the frigid climates of the Alps. This breed does very well in the cold, and most breed members love to play in the snow. These dogs are very cold tolerant, much more so than the average dog. On the flip side, most Entlebucher Mountain Dogs are quite intolerant of the heat. This breed both develops and dies of heat stroke at lower temperatures and much quicker than the average dog breed. Owners of Entlebucher Mountain Dogs must take special precautions when the temperature rises, including carefully regulating their dogs’ exercise, keeping them indoors, and providing extra water.
Because skeletal and visual problems have been known to occur in this breed, it is highly advisable for owners to have their pets tested by both the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). The OFA and CERF perform genetic and other tests to identify potential health defects before they show up. This is especially valuable in the detection of conditions that do not show up until the dog has reached an advanced age, making it especially important for anyone considering breeding their dog to have them tested to prevent the spread of potential genetic conditions to its offspring.
A full list of health problems which have been identified in the Entlebucher Mountain Dog would have to include: