Dog of the Day: Melvin the (Red!) Bernese Mountain Dog

According to genetic typing, Melvin is 75% Bernese mountain dog and 25% Great Pyrenees… (edit: nope, see below) bearing in mind that those tests often have a very tenuous connection to reality. According to me, Melvin is 35% goofball 110% great foofly snorghound. He looks just like a Berner except he’s only bi-color instead of tri-color, everywhere he should have black instead being red. I will say that I can’t identify anything that looks particularly Great Pyrenees-like in Melvin.

Edit: After extensive research, our merry band of giant-dog-ologists has determined that Melvin is most likely a purebred Bernese Mountain Dog, whose parents were both carriers of the (very unusual in Berners) ‘recessive red‘ gene. (The top part of the linked page talks about masks… scroll down to the bottom to see the discussion of ‘recessive red’). If so, this must be a vanishingly rare condition, since google does not appear to know of any other purebred Berners that look like Melvin. Pretty neat!

Red Bernese Mountain Dog

Anyone who says gingers have no soul, I challenge you to look into this dog’s eyes and say that.

Red Bernese Mountain Dog

I guess his face looks a teensy bit different than a full-blooded Berner, too. (C’mon closer so we can have a good look!)

Red Bernese Mountain Dog

Hmm, I dunno, he looks like a Berner to me! What a sweet face.

Red Bernese Mountain Dog

I was shocked because Melvin wasn’t shedding AT ALL. Until his mom said it was because he’d gone romping through the wilds the day before, and then she’d spent three hours trying to brush all the clingy vegetable matter (burrs, foxtails, etc) out of his fur.

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45 Responses to Dog of the Day: Melvin the (Red!) Bernese Mountain Dog

  1. Karen says:

    Melvin rocks!

  2. Adam Lang says:

    Melvin does, indeed, rock. I hear I just barely missed him at Swiss Dog Day, which is a pity, ’cause I wanted to show him his picture on the web site!

    • Susan (Melvin's mom) says:

      Thanks for posting the awesome pics! Melvin was quite the hit at Swiss Dog Day – sorry we missed you. Several Berner enthusiasts didn’t think he was a mix (a home DNA kit told us that). Whether all Berner or half chihuahua, we’d love our big wookie just the same. πŸ™‚

  3. Michelle Li says:

    I took Melvin’s photo at Swiss Dog Day. Where can I post it?

    • Adam Lang says:

      I’ll drop a note to you too: if you send the picture (highest resolution that you have, please!) to me (at the address alang@ and then the site name (dogsofsf dot com) I’ll post it. Melvin’s well worth another look.

  4. Pingback: Dog of the Day: George the Foooooofly Wiener | The Dogs of San Francisco

  5. Tori says:

    Melvin is beautiful! I found his picture trying to figure out if my dog (B) was some sort a red Bernese, too. They look like they could be long- lost siblings πŸ™‚

    • Adam Lang says:

      Oh, please do post links to photos in a comment if you have any. Melvin is one of my favorites ever! I’ve run into him three times now and I just fall more in love every time.

  6. Tori says:

    We uploaded a few pics:
    Bailey is a bit dirty in some of these, and had a (bad) home haircut in a few, but I still think he’s cute πŸ˜‰
    We got him as a rescue, he apparently came from the pound in Pima county, AZ, but lives in Boise now.

    • Adam Lang says:

      He’s not just cute, he’s adorable. In some of them he looks like a pure Bernese, and in some he looks like a Bernese or St. Bernard crossed with something else. Whatever he is, though, I’m pretty sure he is a recessive red, and I’m absolutely certain he’s gorgeous. Thanks for the pictures!

  7. Nancy says:

    Hi! Melvin is beautiful!!

    My Berner (Giorgi) had a red father. You can see him on the website. The breeder is in upstate NY. Choco-latte is the dog’s name.

    We do love our Berners!!


    • Adam Lang says:

      Wow, that’s awesome. I took a look, and I wish they had some bigger images. Such a pretty dog!

      And I can well see why you love your Berners. I get to dogsit some on Wednesday, and probably this weekend too. I’m really looking forward to it.

  8. Marley says:

    He looks like he’s a giant toller! Maybe he’s part Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever?

    • Adam Lang says:

      Hah! He does look a bit like a toller at that. But no… I’ve actually now found a couple of breeders who have seen red Berners before. It’s an unusual genetic combination (a regular Bernese mountain dog with a recessive red gene) but it does happen.

      Sure is pretty, isn’t he?

  9. Will says:

    Oh my gosh. This has got to be one of the most rare things I’ve ever seen. He may have a little of something else in there besides berner but my guess is NO. Look closely at his feet. Above the white paws you can still see rust coloring from tri-coloring genes like from the sennunhunds (which include berners)… And I could be my imagination but I’d swear I can see rust colored makings on his face too. The piebald markings on this dog are very conformed to those of the Bernese as well. Notice how the white doesn’t wrap around his neck as you’d see on some of the other tri-colored breeds like aussies. I could post some photos of armed berner mixes but this dog may genuinely be the first and only truly pure red berner I’ve ever seen!

    • Adam Lang says:

      I totally agree. Everything about him screams berner except the lack of any black. He really is an amazing dog.

    • Adam Lang says:

      And I totally see what you mean about the rust markings from the tricolor genes, although I didn’t notice it until you pointed it out. Neat!

  10. Elisa Gutierrez says:

    I have a 7 month old Burmese… I was told he’s full Burmese, anyways…. he’s red. So we figured he has something else in him. He’s a goofy, fun, extremely loving baby. But he’s always his own dog… until I saw Melvin!! He looks just like our Oliver!! How do I send you a picture???

    • Adam Lang says:

      Two choices: one, you can upload it to an image sharing site (like, which is pretty easy to use) and post a link in a comment. Or two, you can email it to me at alang at this site (that is,

      I would LOVE to see him! It’s a genetic combination that’s really rare in Berners, and oh my god is it adorable. πŸ™‚

      • Elisa says:

        I just loaded some to Flickr. I’ve got from when we got him to the most recent which is the picture where he is sitting on my fiance on the chair. (Elvis background).

        • Adam Lang says:

          Oops, I think you may have just sent a link to ‘my camera roll’, which basically shows the person who visits it their own pictures. (I, for example, found some stuff I uploaded like ten years ago, since it’s been that long since I used that site). I admit, flickr doesn’t exactly make this stuff simple.

        • Adam Lang says:

          I had to tweak the URL of the imgur post for you a bit, but now it works fine. And OMG Oliver is adorable! And you’re right, he looks an amazing amount like Melvin.

          You have to promise me that if you ever bring him to San Francisco, you’ll meet up with me so I can take some pictures.

          • Elisa says:

            I’m sad to say that we had to put our precious Oliver down on October 24th. Our hearts are absolutely broken. He was genetically sick. We miss him everyday.

        • Adam Lang says:

          That’s terrible. I’m so sorry for you, and for him.

  11. Marie Fraser says:

    If you look at the pictures in the Berner Garde database you will see another red Berner. I was told that there were a few of them with the red genetic marker produced in the 1970’s. Gotta love the Berners!

  12. diane barlow says:

    hi, we think our dog is also a red Bernese you can see him on ‘Flicker’ under the heading ‘fritz the golden hound and friends’ he’s almost identical Melvin.

  13. Daniele Tromburg says:

    I don’t know how to upload pictures but our Brutus is a red Berner! He’s a big fluffy sweetheart!

  14. Christina G says:

    Wondering if my girl is a red berner!? She has THE sweetest disposition and the most loving dog I’ve ever owned. If I could clone her I would! Original owners were told Lab Pyrenees. Littermates looks like a black labernese. So different so gorgeous.

    • Adam Lang says:

      If the littermates look like black Lab/Bernese, then they could very well be. A Labrador retriever’s coat color is determined in part by whether they carry the recessive red gene. A yellow lab is recessive for both ‘red’ genes (known as ‘ee’ as opposed to ‘EE’, ‘Ee’, or ‘eE’). Chocolate and black have either one or both of those genes as the dominant ‘E’ variant. So all yellow labs have two ‘e’ variants, plus about a 2/3 majority of both black and chocolate Labs have one.

      Here’s what that means. Let’s say the dad was the Lab, and was a chocolate Lab with mixed Ee genotype, and the mom was a full Berner with the standard (for Berners) EE genotype. That means that on average (very rough average) 1/4 of the puppies would get the E from the dad and the first E from the mom, 1/4 would get the E from the dad and the second E from the mom, 1/4 would get the e from the dad and the first E from the mom, and 1/4 would get e and the second E. In this case none of the puppies would be red, because none of them have ‘ee’, which is the only way you get a red.

      But now let’s say the lab was chocolate but the Berner had the genotype ‘eE’ too. Combining as above, we’d get 1/4 of the puppies with EE, 1/4 with Ee, 1/4 with eE, and 1/4 would be ee and would be… red!

      If the dad was a yellow lab, then actually HALF of the puppies would be red (since Ee crossed with ee means that half the puppies get mom’s E and half get mom’s e), which means that that’s less likely (though it’s all just averages so it’s still possible.)

      Right. Enough geeking out.

      More info is available here:
      See the little chart in the middle of the page. You can ignore the ‘B’ vs ‘b’ for the purposes of this.

      And post some pictures of your pup on and share some links here! I’d love to see ’em!

  15. Isaiah Wells says:

    I have a red Berner male as well. He looks identical to yours. Both his parents were classic looking.

  16. Brooklyn says:

    Wow! I’ve never heard of a red Bernese! We even breed Bernese!! This isn’t very common right?

    • Adam Lang says:

      It’s quite rare. There were never very many Berners that carried the recessive red gene, and they’ve been pretty ruthlessly culled from the breeding pool as folks have found them. I’ve only ever run across two, and one other person who had owned one.

      Recessive red is a lot more common in golden retrievers (for example), where you can’t even tell that they have it until they’re crossed with something that isn’t a golden retriever, and suddenly you end up with an utterly unexpected color. And Labrador retrievers are expected to have it: in fact, the only way you get a yellow lab is via the ‘ee’ recessive red gene, which overrules the genes that normally decide whether you get a black or chocolate lab. So it’s a lot more common in Bernese crosses that have a ‘dog in the manger’ (as it were) a few generations back.

  17. Leah Azzopardi says:

    Looking for advice my Berner had 3 red pups trying to do research

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