Canine collections

The historical roots of the canine collections date back to the end of the 19th century when significant archaeological remains from Neolithic (ca. 4500-2200 BC) and Bronze Age (ca 2200-800 BC) dwellings were found on the shores of Swiss lakes. Along with those remains, a vast number of animal bones were excavated. These bones were mainly considered to be remains from hunting and animal breeding and subsequent butchering and eating by our ancestors thousands of years ago.

In his book "Untersuchungen der Thierreste aus den Pfahlbauten der Schweiz" the zoologist and paleontologist from Basel, Karl Ludwig Rütimeyer (1825 - 1895), tried to reconstruct the Neolithic wildlife along with the domestic animals. For Rütimeyer the dogs he found were not domestic breeds from wild ancestors, but he thought them to belong to a now extinct wild species. Rütimeyer did not concentrate as much on the dog as on the bovines.

The true founder of a scientific approach to the study of dogs, wild- and domesticated, was the professor for zoology and anatomy at the University of Berne and director of the Natural History Museum, Theophil Studer (1845 - 1922). From 1874 on Studer's research concentrated on the origin of the domestic dog and the evolution of modern breeds. In order to gain exact and reproducible results, he consistently made use of craniometric methods, which consist in the comparison of metric values and proportions of skulls. During his years at the Museum he collected a large number of modern domestic and wild dogs. After Studer's death his collection was doomed to be forgotten because of financial problems and because the Museum had storage problems.

His successor, Franz Baumann, although not personally involved in canine research, did not want to store away into oblivion these collections and he sought contacts with the "Schweizerische Kynologische Gesellschaft" or SKG i.e. the Swiss equivalent of the Kennel Club. These consultations lead to the idea of a foundation under the responsibility of the Museum. The foundation was to be named after the world famous Professor for geology, Prof. Albert Heim (1849 - 1937).

Albert Heim was not only a scientist and a teacher, but a very avid cynologist, as many of his still cited publications show. He was a breeder of Newfoundland dogs - he even imported dogs from Newfoundland, quite a feat at that time - and an international judge on many dog shows. In this function his main concerns were the Swiss Mountain Dogs. The Appenzeller Cattle Dog and the Great Swiss Mountain Dog presumably owe their existence to Albert Heim. In honor of this great scientist and his 80th anniversary the new Foundation was given his name on the occasion of a meeting of the board on April 14th 1929 in Berne. The charter of the Foundation was legally signed on March 21st and April 14th 1930.

The Albert-Heim-Foundation (Text in German) still as of today supports scientific research in the field of canine science and encourages the expansion of the museum's collections.