Saint Bernard Description
The dominant color of the coat is white. Common secondary coat colors are red, brown, black, and tan. Their fur is always very dense. Their face droops at the eyelids. Saint Bernard is an ancient breed that dates back to 980 AD. The breed is named after Saint Bernard de Menthon, however, they were not referred to as Saint Bernards until the middle of the 19th Century.
Previously they were called “Saint Dogs”, “Alpenmastiff”, “Barry Dogs” and often just “Saints”. They are descendants of the Tibetan Mastiff. Great Danes and Great Pyrenees were later introduced to the mix. Saint Bernards were first used as herding, hunting, and as watchdogs. They are most commonly associated with being avalanche rescue dogs which they were first used for in the middle of the 19th century. They have coats that enable them to withstand extremely cold weather. It is also said that they have the ability to foresee storms.
Centuries ago monks started The Hospice of Saint Bernard, a monastery located in the Alps of Switzerland along the Saint Bernard Pass. This pass provides a route between Switzerland and Italy. In the year 43, Emperor Claudius expanded the pass, at that time called Summus Poeninus.
Now, carriages could be driven over the modified passage and it was considered a royal road. Roman garrisons were now responsible for the safety of travelers. A small temple in honor of Jupiter was build on top of the pass and a small manor house was added to accommodate weary travelers.
The pass was the most important crossing over the Alps and provided the shortest trail to the recent conquered province, Britannia. After the Teutonic raid the pass lost its significance and was used less often during the following centuries. The royal road where wayfarers once journeyed became desolate.
In the 16th century the pass and the Monastery were given the name of Saint Bernard. The first dogs were probably kept at the Hospice between 1660-1670. Their initial purpose was that of watchdog. Large dogs were brought to the hospice to live and help the monks in their attempts to rescue lost travelers. The dogs were given the name, Saint Bernard dogs.
Origin of the dog:
The Saint Bernard is a breed of dog famous for redeeming snowbound travelers in the Swiss Alps. People have had many ideas regarding the ancestry of the Saint Bernard. Some believe that the breed traces back to the Tibetan mastiff while others say it is descended from the Roman mastiff or molossus. In 1290 Marco Polo described the dogs "as large as a donkey." It is said that the dogs came from the Tibetan Highlands and found their way to Nepal and India. From there they traveled into the Babylonian and Assyrian cultures. It's been said that Alexander the Great introduced the Tibetan Mastiff to Greece.
The American Kennel Club recognizes the Saint Bernard as the heaviest breed. The dog usually weighs from 140 - 170 (63 to 77kg) pounds; it is not unusual to see a dog weighing 200 pounds. Males should be at least 27.5 inches high at the shoulders and Females 25.5 inches high. The Saint Bernard dog has two types of coat. They are either longhaired or shorthaired and their colors are brindle and white or red and white.
Down through the years, artists came to the monastery to paint the famous dogs. Around 1690 Salvatore Rosa arrived at the monastery to paint two of the dogs. One of them was Barry, a Saint Bernard dog who became famous throughout the world. The painting of Barry still hangs in the Hospice today.
The dogs have a keen sense of smell and can find someone even if he is buried deep in the snow. The monks trained the dogs to rescue lost travelers in the Alps. The Alps are snow-packed, and icy and many gigantic snowslides somersault down from the steep mountain slopes.
When the dogs find someone, they lay on the person to keep them warm and lick their face to wake them up. Then they bark loudly for the monks who come with a stretcher and warm blankets. The person is then taken to the monastary and given warm tea and food. Actually the dogs do not carry a brandy keg around their neck but some still believe that they did many years ago.
The story of Barry:
A young boy lies stranded on an icy ledge and snow is falling, covering his body. No man is able to climb the icy ledge but a Saint Bernard dog crawls slowly to the injured boy. When Barry reaches the boy he lays on top of him and licks his face. The boy awakens and wraps his hands around Barry's big strong neck and holding on for dear life, Barry the Saint Bernard drags the boy to safety.
Barry, the Saint Bernard saved the lives of many lost people in the snowy Alps. He lived from 1800-1814 and is known for his many rescues. He was publicized for his deeds in rescue work, and saved 40 or more lives.
Saint Bernard is a very gentle and kind-hearted breed. Despite their size, they are not aggressive or dangerous. They do extremely well in homes with children. They are easy to train and very obedient. Loyalty is in their nature. They are more intelligent than most breeds. They can be great guard dogs because they have a keen sense of hearing and smell.
Saint Bernards are more prone to some diseases and disorders than other breeds. Hip dysplasia frequently occur as they get older. Heart problems can afflict this breed, especially if they are overweight. The breed is prone to bloating and should be fed several small meals a day rather than one large one. Saint Bernards ofter suffer from twisted stomachs.
Saint Bernard puppies should have limited exercise. A Saint Bernard puppy grows very large very quickly and should not have an excessive strain on their bones and muscles during the developmental stage. Short walks and short periods of playtime are best until they are about two years old. When a Saint Bernard becomes older longer walks and longer playtimes are necessary.
Special Grooming Needs
Both short and long coated Saint Bernards are easy to groom. Brushing a few times a week and bathing when necessary will keep a Saint Bernard’s coat healthy and clean. They shed twice a year and may require more attention during those times.