Schweizer Laufhund

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Schweizer Laufhund

The Schweizer Laufhund is a medium-sized hound with short fur, drooping ears and a long body. The four breed types are distinguished by their coat colours and patterns. Other than their fur, and very slight conformational differences, the Bernese Hound, Bruno Jura Hound, Schwyz Hound and the Lucernese Hound are all incredibly similar.

Respected throughout Europe as a hunting dog, the Schweizer Laufhund works with its nose, following scents over long distances. While undoubtedly a committed hunter, the Schweizer Laufhund makes an equally superb companion for the family; loyal and sweet-natured, they do well in an active, rural household.

About & History

The Schweizer Laufhund is a Swiss scent hound that is actually divided into several breed types, the classifications dependent on which association or kennel club you refer to. The four best known types of the Schweizer Laufhund include the Bernese Hound, the Bruno Jura Hound, the Schwyz Hound and the Lucernese Hound. You may also read of the Thurgorvia or Thurgorvie Hound, but this variation is thought to be extinct. Each dog is named after the region in Switzerland from which it came.

Another breed variety in existence is called the Saint Hubert Jura Hound, which is an incredibly rare dog nowadays. As you may have guessed from its name, this dog was originally developed by monks, who were said to send the best of the breed to the French monarchy as gifts. There is great debate today as to whether the original Saint Hubert Jura Hound has survived from ancient times, or whether the current small population have been bred from other modern Schweizer Laufhunds.

Used by the Swiss as hunting scent hounds for many years, the exact date of their origin is difficult to know for certain, but we do know that they are a very ancient breed of dog, likely dating back to Roman times. It is thought that various European dogs, including French and German scent hounds, contributed to the development of the modern day Schweizer Laufhund.

The original breed standard was written in 1882, though this was soon modified to account for the extinction of the Thurgorvia Hound, amongst other changes. It was only in 1933 that the FCI decided to classify all of the breed types under one name: The Schweizer Laufhund.

In recent years, with the decline in scent trailing and the introduction of more modern hunting dogs, the popularity of the Schweizer Laufhund has decreased, and they are very unpopular outside of Europe, not being recognised by any of the major kennel clubs. Rarely seen as a companion animal, the Schweizer Laufhund is still used as a working dog to this day, hunting hares and rabbits among other game.


Schweizer Laufhund Large Photo
Jaroslav Kučík /

All of the breed types of the Schweizer Laufhund look remarkably similar, save for their coat colours, which are their distinguishing features. Each of the breed types comes in a ‘miniature’ or ‘standard’ size, though the typical height ranges from 48 to 60cm at the withers for males and 46cm to 58cm for females, with most breed members weighing between 13.5 and 20kg.

The body of the Schweizer Laufhund must be athletic and muscular and should be longer than it is tall. Their muzzle should be long and narrow, their eyes are brown with a pleading hound expression and their ears are impressively droopy and expansive, often rolling at the tips under their own weight. Their tail is elegant, slim and carried with a curve. The coat is short and smooth in all breed members.

  1. The Bruno Jura Hound and the Saint Hubert Jura Hound are black and tan and may either be tan with black marking or black with a tan saddle pattern. Grey and white markings in small numbers are permitted. Of all the breed types, these two have the loosest skin, which falls into slight wrinkles on the back, neck and face.
  2. The Lucernese Hound is blue with black patches and tan markings on the lower legs and face. The ‘blue’ hue results from a mixture of white and black fur. It is the smallest of the Schweizer Laufhunds.
  3. The Bernese Hound is tri-colour, including white with black patches and tan markings. It is the largest of the dogs.
  4. Finally, the attractive Schwyz Hound is a white and orange colouring, with a distinctive orange saddle pattern.

Character & Temperament

A scent hound through and through, the Schweizer Laufhund was bred to work, and does its job expertly and with passion. Often worked in large packs, this breed is used to sharing its home with other dogs and is at ease in their company. While very canine friendly, it is important that owners understand the strong hunting instincts in this breed and take the necessary precautions when homing them with small animals, such as cats and birds, or when walking off the lead.

Despite them rarely being kept as companion animals, the Schweizer Laufhund is known to be particularly affectionate and bonds strongly with its family, including the children, towards whom they are tolerant and gentle.

Not known for their guarding abilities, they tend to welcome strangers into their home, though may well give off a bark or two to alert the owner of their presence. Owners must realise that baying, howling and barking are just normal behaviours for the Schweizer Laufhund, a trait which needs to be considered if living in close proximity with other people who may not be so tolerant of the noise.


Superb scenting animals, this breed does not have to be told how to hunt; something which comes very naturally to the Schweizer Laufhund.

A docile dog, they are happy to follow orders, though should never be trained using negative reinforcement or punishment. As with most hounds, they can have an independent streak, so perseverance is key. Reward based training, such as offering praise and treats when a task is accomplished, works best for these dogs.


With very limited scientific data and only a small amount of anecdotal evidence, it is difficult to say with much certainty which health condition the Schweizer Laufhund is prone to. What is known, however, is that the breed usually lives until their early teens, and generally enjoy good health. Conditions which the prudent owner will be on the lookout for include:


Progressive Retinal Atrophy is a condition which has been reported in the Schweizer Laufhund within scientific papers. PRA is a condition that is passed on from parents and should be screened for before breeding to reduce the number of animals affected, as well as the genetic carriers within the population. Both eyes gradually lose vision with night vision going first, and eventually affected dogs will become completely blind.

Depending on which type of PRA an animal has, total blindness may occur in weeks, months, or sometimes even years after the condition has been diagnosed. As the Schweizer Laufhund is so often used as a working dog, developing this condition would be hugely detrimental to their quality of life.

Ear Infections

While not largely reported, it would be sensible to assume that the Schweizer Laufhund suffers otitis externa (ear infections) more often than the average dog.

Entropion and Ectropion

Many hounds suffer with improper eyelid alignment and the Schweizer Laufhund is no exception. Entropion is the inward rolling of the eyelids, while ectropion refers to eyelids that roll outwards. Corrective surgeries can be used to improve eyelid alignment and prevent the associated issues, such as corneal ulcers and conjunctivitis.

Orthopaedic Conditions

Developing hip or elbow dysplasia can mean the end of the Schweizer Laufhund’s working life, particularly as the disease progresses and they get increasingly more uncomfortable and lame. Both for the quality of life of the dog, as well as its working potential, it is essential that breeders act responsibly and only breed from those animals that are known to have good elbows and hips.

Exercise and Activity Levels

An active breed that loves to be outside and working, the Schweizer Laufhund needs access to the outdoors and long daily walks, hikes or runs. They make a perfect cycling or jogging companion and won’t ever need to be told to catch up. Their stamina is notable, glad to keep going until they are told to stop.

While best suited to a rural lifestyle, it is possible to keep the Schweizer Laufhund in a suburban setting, as long as they are constantly provided with plenty of activities to keep them occupied and prevent pent up energy from causing problematic behaviours. They particularly enjoy scent work and long-distance tracking.


With their short, low maintenance coat, the Schweizer Laufhund does not need professional grooming or extensive time spent on coat care. Rather, a brush down every week should be more than sufficient to remove dead fur and dirt, and to spread their natural oils.

What are high maintenance, however, are their distinctive ears. An owner should make it a habit to check the ears routinely, cleaning any wax that has built up, and seeking treatment immediately for any early infections.

Famous Schweizer Laufhunde

While it is difficult to confirm which breed type it was, it is widely reported that Adolf Hitler owned a Schweizer Laufhund.


There are no popular Schweizer Laufhund cross breeds at this moment.

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