The Entlebucher Mountain Dog, also known as the Entlebucher Cattle Dog and the Entlebucher Sennenhund, is one of four Sennenhund (herding dogs) developed in the Swiss Alps. The Entlebucher, Appenzeller Sennenhund, Bernese Mountain Dog and Greater Swiss Mountain Dog are all tri-colored dogs originally put to work on dairy farms throughout several Swiss communities.

Entlebuch is a municipality in the state, or canton, of Lucerne, Switzerland. The region is sparsely populated and largely agricultural, and it is in this community that the Entle was used to herd cows as well as to perform as an all-purpose farm dog.

According to the National Entlebucher Mountain Dog Association, the two smaller of Switzerland’s tri-colored breeds were utilized to herd cows in Alpine meadows. For much of their history, no distinction was made between the Entlebucher and the Appenzeller.

The two larger Swiss breeds were also used as draft dogs, however, by the turn of the last century, Switzerland’s native breeds were in danger of dying out. “Due to crossings with the German Shepherd and other newly imported purebreds, the Sennenhund were nearly lost by the early 1900s,” according to the NEMDA.

In 1913, Professor Albert Heim entered four of the small herding dogs at a dog show in Langentahal. As noted by the parent club, these dogs possessed a “congenital bobtail” and were entered as Entlebucher Cattle Dogs into the Swiss Canine Stud Book (SHSB) as the fourth of this country’s Mountain and Cattle dog breeds.

“As the small number of entries into the Swiss Stud Book shows, the breed developed only slowly,” notes the NEMDA. “The Entlebuch Cattle Dog received renewed impetus when, apart from his hereditary qualities as a lively, tireless, driving dog, his outstanding suitability as a utility, as well as a companion, dog was proved.”

The Swiss Club of Entlebuch Cattle Dogs was founded by Dr. B. Kobler in 1926, and the first breed standard was written the following year. Heim, Kobler and other fanciers of Swiss dogs – along with present-day breed clubs in Switzerland and Germany – are credited with preserving the breed as it exists today.

The Entlebuch Cattle Dog is a member of the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) Group 2, Section 3, Swiss Mountain- and Cattledogs. In the U.S., the breed was recognized in 1993 by the United Kennel Club as the Entlebucher in its Guardian Dog Group, and by the AKC in 2011 as the Entlebucher Mountain Dog within the Herding Group.

In 2012, AKC registrations placed this companionable all-purpose breed 157th among the 175 AKC-recognized breeds.

The Entlebucher Mountain Dog is the smallest of Switzerland’s tri-colored breeds, with a high level of intelligence and a strong desire to work. Photo by Isselee/Dreamstime

An Elongated Drover

“The Entlebucher is a medium-sized, compact, strongly muscled, elongated drover with ample bone,” according to the General Appearance section of the AKC breed standard. “Swiss farmers have historically used the Entlebucher to move cows from pasture to pasture in the Alps.”

Built for a life of service, the Entlebucher is agile, quick and intelligent too. These qualities have served the breed well in the management of other large animals too, “such as horses and hogs,” the standard notes.

Dogs measure between 17 and 21 inches at the withers, whereas bitches are slightly smaller at between 16 and 20 inches. “Size alone should never take precedence over type, balance, soundness and temperament,” according to the standard. “Note that too small a dog generally lacks the power required and too large a dog may lack the agility and mobility desired in a herding dog.” Although the amount of bone is “ample,” it is never overdone.

Correct proportion is essential in this “strongly muscled, agile” and “balanced” breed. “Ratio of height at withers to length of body: 8:10 – length to height ratio 10 to 8 measured from point of shoulder to point of rump and ground to withers.”

The breed’s construction is free from exaggeration. The topline is defined as “sturdy and level,” with a body that’s “strong, slightly elongated, length of rib cage and not in loin.” The chest is “capacious, broad, deep, and reaching to the elbows,” and the ribs are “well sprung.” The back is “straight, firm, broad,” and the loins are “strong and flexible.” A slight tuck up is in evidence. The croup is “slightly sloping, relatively long,” and the tail is set “in continuation of the gently sloping croup.”

The tail of the Entlebucher may be natural or docked, according to the AKC breed standard. Both are “equally acceptable,” although ring-tails, like those of the Appenzeller, are to be “highly discouraged.” On the move, the tail may be elevated, “but never curled over [the] back.”

Tri-Colored, Symmetrical Markings

The Entlebucher wears the classic tri-colored coat of its Swiss cousins. Few breeds are as smartly dressed for a day of hard labor as are the mountain and cattle dogs of Switzerland.

A double coat of basic black with tan and white markings is the signature uniform worn by the Entlebucher, Appenzeller, Bernese and Swissie. The top coat is “short, close fitting, harsh and shiny” in the Entlebucher, with a dense undercoat “of varying color.” Although wavy or soft coats are “tolerated,” according to the AKC breed standard, they are not “preferred.” Single coats disqualify in this high-altitude breed.

“Hard and shiny,” the coat’s coloration is a breed hallmark. According to the standard’s General Appearance section, its signature colors appear as “bright black with symmetrical markings of pure white on [the] blaze, muzzle, chest, and feet; shades of rich fawn to mahogany are present on the eyebrows and between the black and white markings.”

Markings of the head, legs and body are to be “as symmetrical as possible,” as noted by the standard’s section on color. “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 [the] 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,” the standard notes. The blaze may “wholly or partially cover the muzzle.” White also appears from the chin to the chest “without interruption,” and an “inverted cross on [the] chest” is considered desirable. All four feet are white as is the tip of a naturally long tail.

An undesirable “small white patch on the nape of the neck (not more than 2 inches), high boot, socks and bib” may be tolerated. Although color and markings are an important aspect of breed type, they “should not take precedence over overall soundness, balance and temperament.”

An Agreeable Nature and an Excellent Work Ethic

According to the NEMDA, the Entlebucher is “a wonderful breed with all the intelligence, personality, agility and loyalty you could ask for packed into a sturdy little package.” The breed’s agreeable nature and excellent work ethic make it a determined and devoted family companion.

The General Appearance section of the AKC breed standard notes the breed is able to work “alone or in harmony with its master.” When given a task to perform, the breed “transforms from a lively, high-spirited playmate, to a serious, tireless, self-assured dog of commanding presence.”

Enthusiastic in its duties, the Entlebucher is not only a capable drover, but it also excels in “any athletic canine activity” of its owner’s choosing.

The AKC breed standard notes, “Purpose and heritage have resulted in an unusually intense bonding between the Entlebucher and his master; however the Entlebucher should not be considered a breed for the casual owner.” NEMDA indicates that Entlebuchers are territorial and make dependable watchdogs. “They have an impressive bark and naturally announce the arrival of newcomers.”

“The Entlebucher is a confident cattle dog, neither shy nor vicious,” as noted by the AKC breed standard’s section on temperament. “He is lively, active, persistent, self-assured and determined.” This breed is truly a general all-purpose dog, as suitable for rugged mountain climbing as it is herding children in the back yard.

Versatile and adaptable, with a cheerful disposition and a loyal devotion to person, place and thing, the Entlebucher Mountain Dog is always ready, willing and able to get the job done while having a good time doing it.