A powerful animal with a kindly disposition.
They are intelligent and trustworthy companions and devoted to all members
of the family.
Description & History
The Saint Bernard - once known as the
Alpine Mastiff - is a Swiss breed and is named after the hospice in
which it was bred. This hospice, which was well known as a refuge to
travellers, was situated high up on a mountain pass between Switzerland
The monks of the hospice first bred Saint
Bernards in the in the latter part of the seventeenth century.
They were originally used as guard dogs
and mountain guides, but their ability to sense storms and avalanches
led naturally to another talent - rescue work. After storms or avalanches
the Saint Bernards would use their keen sense of smell to find lost
or buried travellers.
The dogs accompanying the monks knew instintively
which road or track to take when searching for the victims; they would
have fastened round their necks casks of liquid refreshment (not always
brandy - sometimes wine or sweet tea), or food and clothing, which would
be given to the rescued travellers.
Since their talent for rescue work was
first discovered over 2000 people have been rescued by the breed.
The most famous of these dogs was Barry,
born in 1800, who saved the lives of 40 people during a working life
of 12 years. Barry died in 1814. His achievements have been commemorated
in the National History Museum in Berne.
In 1905, when the Simplon Tunnel connecting
Switzerland and Italy was built, the work of the Saint Bernards at the
hospice gradually came to an end.
The original dogs were smaller and smooth-coated
as the monks found that the rough -coated variety were impractical in
The dogs seen in the show ring today are
a larger, rough-coated strain with a heavier coat. A breed which requires
short but regular walks.