Whether tending to herds, keeping watch, rescuing people in difficulty, or for various other missions, man's best friend has always been very useful in the mountains.
That said, it is not just any dog that is able to withstand sometimes very low temperatures, evolves on significant elevations, and perform potentially very strenuous tasks. Thus, mountain dog breeds are distinguished by their robustness, agility, and intelligence at the same time.
Here are 15 of them, which in addition to these sometimes exceptional qualities are generally also excellent companions.
The Bernese Mountain Dog: One of The Most Known Mountain Dog Breeds
Originally, as its name suggests, from the canton of Bern, Switzerland, where it was initially employed as a sled dog and as a guardian, the Bernese Mountain Dog is easily recognizable by its beautiful tricolor coat and its big smile. Its origins are still rather vague, but it could descend from the Tibetan Mastiff. What is certain, however, is that it has existed at least since the Middle Ages: it is, therefore, a fairly old breed.
Big teddy bear with a tender heart, he is as nice as his build is impressive. Able to adapt to all climates, but not to confinement or loneliness, he is an extremely faithful and loyal dog to his family, although reserved in the face of strangers.
The Saint Bernard
Famous on the screen with the dog Beethoven, Saint Bernard is not only a movie star: he is also a star of the mountains. Now associated with Switzerland, it would nevertheless find its origins in the Middle East. Indeed, bas-reliefs discovered in Upper Assyria and dating from several centuries before our era represent dogs that look a lot like him, and which could be his ancestors.
If he has a solid reputation as an avalanche dog, it is in fact a role that he hardly exercises today, having been replaced by more agile and fast breeds. This does not prevent him from being robust, intelligent, and devoted, but it must be recognized that he is more of a homebody than really athletic.
The Tibetan Mastiff
Friend of the Himalayan shepherds for whom he was an outstanding shepherd and guardian, the Tibetan Mastiff (also called Tibetan Mastiff) is undoubtedly one of the oldest dog breeds. It would indeed descend from the first mountain dogs, which appeared in Central Asia around 3000 years ago.
It is a very imposing animal, whose strength and character should not be underestimated. He is not very demonstrative but is nevertheless loyal and protective of his family, especially the children. It is still better to remain on your guard in his presence because he is known to have rather unpredictable reactions and sometimes reacts a little abruptly to situations that are however banal.
The Entlebuch Mountain Dog
A herdsman in the mountainous region of Entlebuch, Switzerland, the Entlebuch Mountain Dog is not the heaviest or most imposing of shepherds. It is indeed a medium-sized dog, and the smallest of the four cattle breeds in the country. It is also quite recent compared to other mountain dogs since its first description dates only from the end of the 19th century.
His small size, his joyful character, and his good humor make him an excellent life companion. However, the fact that it is less bulky than its congeners does not prevent it from having a great need for exercise. Therefore, it is not suitable for living in an apartment or for a lazy master.
The Appenzell Mountain Dog
Very similar physically to the Bouvier de L'Engle Buch, with which he is sometimes confused, the Bouvier de l'Appenzell also comes from the Swiss mountains, where he played the role of shepherd and guide of herds. It would be a little older than its cousin since it was first described in the middle of the 19th century.
Of a cheerful and happy nature, he is known to be very playful, and rarely refuses a game session that is offered to him. He also has a great need for exercise and daily activity: playing with him is a good way to help him let off steam. Its main disadvantage is that it is a bit noisy since it communicates a lot by barking. In doing so, he at least has the merit of sounding the alarm effectively!
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
Another mountain dog originally from Switzerland, as its name suggests, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is quite similar to its cousins from Entlebuch and Appenzell. Its exact origins are not known: it has accompanied Swiss farmers since the middle of the 20th century, but some theories estimate that it is much older than that - perhaps several thousand years.
Anyway, he is a powerful dog, energetic, affectionate, and very attached to his family. However, his strong character should not be underestimated: he is known to be quite stubborn and has a rather dominant temperament. It is therefore better to be both firm and patient to succeed in being obeyed.
Coming from crosses of different breeds of mountain dogs, this German giant that is the Leonberger is as much a bear as a dog. According to the official version, it was created around the middle of the 19th century; however, mentions of dogs looking a lot like it could suggest that it already existed in the 16th or 17th century.
All hairy and gentle, the Leonberg is a very pleasant companion, more impressive than threatening, and capable of great patience with children. An excellent guardian, he is never aggressive but warns with a powerful voice of the approach of an intruder.
The Pyrenean Mountain Dog
The Pyrenean Mountain Dog (or Patou) is a large ball of fur that is reminiscent of a teddy bear or a stuffed animal. Born as his name suggests in the Franco-Spanish Pyrenees mountain range, he is said to be descended from dogs from Asia Minor who arrived in the region around 5000 years ago.
Unsuited to life in an apartment or even in the city, this large, long-haired dog does not however have a great need for exercise: what it needs is above all space and fresh air. It is made to live outdoors and is also quite prone to wandering and running away. This does not prevent him from being close to his family, and from needing his presence to be happy and balanced.
A colossus with a white coat, the Kuvasz is a mountain dog of Hungarian origin, which has probably been present in this country since the 13th century. It was originally used for guarding and protecting flocks, before becoming more of a hunting dog in the 15th century. Today, he remains an effective guardian and a pleasant companion.
As tender as he is impressive, he is ready to do anything to protect his family - even if it is not obvious at first sight, because he is not very demonstrative. He must be trained gently so as not to rush his affectionate nature.
The Abruzzo Shepherd
A dog originating from the Italian mountains of the Apennines, the Abruzzo Shepherd was and still is used to guard flocks of sheep. Its exact origin is not known; nevertheless, writings from 2000 years ago already mentioned large white sheepdogs that looked a lot like him.
Quite independent, he is not really known for his docility, even if he is attached to his family. As he accepts little coercion, it is better to let his guarding skills develop naturally rather than trying to train him by force. In addition, he needs space to flourish: being confined between four walls would have a good chance of stressing him out and making him unhappy.
The Bulgarian Shepherd
With its two-tone or tricolor dress, the Bulgarian Shepherd (or Karakachan) has something to seduce. It is perfectly adapted to herding sheep in mountainous or semi-mountainous regions, a task in which it assisted the nomadic Bulgarian shepherds.
On the other hand, he does not make a good apartment companion, because his need for space is too great that: it is not a suitable living environment for him. It is all the more necessary to take care to leave him enough space and freedom that he is quite independent. This character trait also implies that he is not made for a teacher who is very demanding of interactions, even intrusive.
The Anatolian Shepherd
Sometimes confused with the Kangal, to which it is very close, the Anatolian Shepherd originates from the Turkish region of which it bears the name, and is capable of living both in the plains and in the mountains. It is said to be descended from mastiffs brought to Anatolia by nomadic Asian tribes more than 6,000 years ago.
A companion of unwavering loyalty, he is ready to do anything to keep his home safe and defend his family. He must be trained seriously by a master capable of asserting himself so that his imposing musculature does not become a problem for those around him and he does not show himself to be abnormally aggressive.
The Siberian Husky
Officially from the United States, the Siberian Husky has its roots in the Russian Far East, where its ancestors accompanied the Chukchi, a nomadic people. This is a very old breed, probably one of the oldest on the planet.
Known for being an incredible sled dog, but also an outstanding companion, he impresses with his elegance as much as his kindness. Appreciated in the mountains for its endurance and its great resistance to the cold, it is as good for hitching as it is for accompanying hikers. He is not aggressive for two pennies: he can therefore live without problem with children, with whom he loves to play.
The Icelandic Sheepdog
The Icelandic Sheepdog is a spitz that appeared in Iceland in the 9th century, where it was used to lead herds in the mountains. It is therefore a very old breed, obtained following crosses between local dogs and those brought by the Norwegians led by Erik the Red.
Its small size stands out among other breeds of mountain dogs. In fact, he is proof that not all shepherds are giants! Active, lively, and always happy to learn, he is surprisingly easy to train, because he has boundless love for his master and is always happy to please him.
The Serra da Estrela Dog
Originally from the Portuguese mountain range whose name it bears, the Serra da Estrela dog is a very old breed (probably the oldest in the Iberian Peninsula), resulting from crosses between local shepherds and mountain dogs originating from Asia. . It is a close relative of the Spanish Mastiff, which it does not, however, resemble that much.
He can impress or even worry by his stature. Yet, despite looking effectively menacing, he doesn't attack without good reason. This does not mean that we can afford to rush him, because he reacts badly to pressure and can then be aggressive. He is, however, a loyal and willing companion to his family.