Bavarian Mountain Dog

Stuart Fitzgerald
Dr Stuart Fitzgerald (MVB MANZCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Bavarian Mountain Dog

A calm, composed, and reserved member of the hound group, the Bavarian Mountain Hound hails from southern Germany, where local hunters have employed its keen sense of smell, tenacity, and courage to pursue large game through the Bavarian mountains for around the last 150 years. Those that know the breed well speak of its devotion and loyalty to its owner, and so it is perhaps no surprise that this previously little-known breed is beginning to gain traction in the pet market. Though it is usually reserved and aloof around strangers, it is rarely shy or aggressive, and it has a steady, soft temperament that makes it a good choice for families with children.

Somewhat unusually for a hound, the Bavarian Mountain Hound is not always keen on other dogs, especially unfamiliar ones, and so socialisation with both people and dogs is a very important training requirement for the breed. It is an athletic dog with an abundance of stamina, and needs plenty of exercise on a daily basis. Like all scenthounds, it should also have access to a garden in which to exercise its incredible nose while stretching its legs. Health problems are uncommon in the breed, though this may change with its increasing popularity – an unfortunate fact that has been borne out in many other pedigrees. The Bavarian Mountain Hound has a life expectancy of 11 to 13 years.

About & History

Like several other large European nations, Germany went through a period of massive social upheaval in the nineteenth century, with the middle and lower classes revolting against their autocratic rulers. One result of this revolution was the deregulation of hunting, a sport previously enjoyed only by the ruling class, and this in turn lead to a greater demand for hunting dogs. In southern Germany, there existed two scenthounds: the Bavarian Hound and the Hanoverian Hound; however, the hunters of the Bavarian mountains found these to be less than ideal for their needs. At the time, the relatively primitive nature of the firearms being used meant that a hunter’s shot rarely resulted in a clean kill, particularly with large game such as deer. They therefore required a dog that could follow a blood trail over a long distance, pursuing the progressively weakening animal until it could run no longer.

The Bavarian Mountain Hound was developed out of crossings between these two existing breeds specifically for its agility, stamina, and strength. It is renowned for its toughness and high pain threshold, often continuing to work without complaint after suffering cuts or punctures from thorns and splinters. Its working style is to lead its owner from the end of a long leash, and it therefore needs to be focused and independent – traits that can be seen in the breed’s personality. The first official Bavarian Mountain Hound club was formed in Germany in 1912, but the rest of the world has been slower to catch up, and it is still a relatively rare breed outside of Germany, Austria, and Hungary. Although the Kennel Club has noted gradually increasing numbers of registrations in the United Kingdom over the past five to ten years, the American Kennel club is yet to grant it full pedigree status.

Appearance

Bavarian Mountain Dog Large Photo

The Bavarian Mountain Hound is slender but muscular, a lean, athletic hound of medium size. It has a slightly unusual outline, with an elongated back and elevated rear, features that stand it in good stead when negotiating uneven terrain while keeping its nose to the ground. It has a broad, slightly domed skull with a well-defined stop, and a wide muzzle with a square profile and a well-opened nose. Its strong jaws have thick, pendulous lips. The breed’s gentle temperament is seen in the soft, brown eyes, and its long ears are set on high.

The slight rise in the back is obvious between the withers and rump, and the trunk is slim but sturdy, with a broad ribcage and especially well-developed forechest. The dog’s svelte profile is enhanced by the smooth upward sweep of the abdomen from the long sternum. Its tail is set high on the croup, and is usually carried pointing diagonally to the ground, and its limbs are long, straight, and strong. The wide, arched paws give the strength and cushioning required for work over rocky ground, and their nails are black to brown in colour.

The dense coat has a slight gloss, but is quite coarse to the touch. It is short, and lies close to the skin, coming in several different colours:

  • Red
  • Reddish brown
  • Reddish grey
  • Tan
  • Brindle

A light-coloured patch on the chest is also commonly seen in all these colour variations. Male Bavarian Mountain Hounds are between 47 and 52 cm in height, while females measure 44 to 48 cm. Despite these fairly tight height ranges, their respective weights can vary dramatically, at 20–30 kg and 17–25 kg.

Character & Temperament

While it may have earned its stripes by hunting larger animals, the Bavarian Mountain Hound is a softie at heart. It is a calm and balanced dog that rarely gets too excited about anything. It makes a devoted and loyal pet, bonding most strongly to whomever it identifies as its pack leader. With its placid disposition and high pain threshold, it is a perfect child’s dog, although it should ideally be raised with young children so as to learn appropriate behaviour towards them.

It has the self-confidence to handle short spells alone if required, but should never be forced to live outside, as it depends on human company for stimulation – spending time with other dogs just doesn’t cut it for this people-centric breed, and some Bavarian Mountain Dogs can, in fact, be quite unsociable with their own kind. Cats and other small pets are likely to be seen as prey, and should not be kept in the home. The breed is also known for its quietly reserved behaviour around strangers, and although it lacks the protective and territorial instincts to function as a guard dog, it can take a long time to warm to people it does not know well.

Trainability

Photo of Bavarian Mountain Dog puppy

An experienced owner will find the Bavarian Mountain Dog easy to train through positive reinforcement, while novice owners might become frustrated by its typically hound-like capacity for occasional stubbornness. An assertive, patient approach to training is the path to success, as an owner that becomes irritated will find that the dog loses interest in cooperating with their petulant human.

It is vital that the Bavarian Mountain Dog is well socialised as early as possible in puppyhood to increase its social skills with both dogs and humans. This can be achieved by attending formal socialisation classes, or simply by encouraging interactions with other walkers and their dogs in the local park.

Health

Partly because of its relative rarity, the Bavarian Mountain Dog has had very few health problems associated with it. Unfortunately, issues such as hip and elbow dysplasia tend to become more prevalent as increasing numbers of breeders get involved with breeds gaining popularity as pets, so this situation may change in future.

  • Otitis externa – A predisposition to ear infections is the only fault that is frequently seen. This arises because of the pendulous carriage of the long ears, preventing aeration of the ear canals. Regular cleaning of the canals with a proprietary wash should help prevent many cases.

Exercise and Activity Levels

This is a dog that can happily spend an entire day roaming a mountainside in thin air, and it needs a great deal of exercise, especially if being kept purely as a pet – couch potatoes need not apply for Bavarian Mountain Dog ownership! Ideally, more than one person should be available to exercise the dog at different times during the day, and it is virtually impossible for it to over-exercise, except perhaps during very warm weather.

Grooming

Shedding of the harsh coat is constant and reasonably heavy, so the Bavarian Mountain Dog needs daily brushing throughout the year. However, it does not need professional grooming, and should be washed only when absolutely necessary, as most dirt will simply brush out once it has had a chance to dry.

As mentioned above, the ear canals should be cleaned out regularly, around once a week, to both prevent and detect ear infections. As the nails are typically darkly pigmented, some owners may elect to have a veterinary nurse or groomer clip these when they grow too long; however, with practice, this can usually be safely done at home as needed.

Famous Bavarian Mountain Dogs

This hard-working hound doesn’t seek the limelight, and hasn’t yet made headlines around the world.

Cross-Breeds

With less than one hundred Bavarian Mountain Dogs being imported into the United Kingdom in a typical year, the breed is not routinely cross-bred, and has not yet spawned any so-called designer dog offshoots.

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