St Bernard

The movies and storybooks reflect the St. Bernard dog as a hero carrying food and medicine to the injured or those lost deep in the treacherous mountains. These dogs would battle the snowstorms and find victims. But truth lies in those depictions.

The Saint Bernard dog breed worked diligently in its native country of Switzerland. Many of these very trainable animals went over the mountains with small barrels attached around their necks. They were filled with necessary medicines and food to give to travelers lost in the cold and snow. These intelligent animals saved many people through the years.

Monks at the Hospice of St. Bernard had raised these animals to give care to the stranded and snowbound. It is said that many of their animals died from disease or from an avalanche. The monks needed to cross breed this animal with other dogs to keep their mission alive.

The Beginnings of the St. Bernard

It is believed that the St. Bernard breed has been around for more than 600 years ago. But not much was written about them until competitive exhibitions began in Great Britain when people began to notice these huge specimens. This particular breed of dog has grown in popularity and then plummeted from time to time in history, depending on the breeders and the shows.

The dog seen today remains a mix of many crosses from possibly a bulldog to a Newfoundland to a Pyrenean sheepdog. There also could be traces of the Bloodhound and Mastiff.

Because of these strong mixes, the St. Bernard has become a dog with great appeal to families and show people. The size alone of the dog makes it a great protector. However, his docile temperament and attitude makes him great with children.

Their even-keel sweetness toward people of all ages seems to help them win hearts.

St.Bernard Dogs and Their Coats

The brindle or orange hue color with white markings makes the dog stand out from the rest. The majority of these dogs” coats have a mixture of smoothness and roughness.

An authority on the St. Bernard in Switzerland, the late M. Shumacher, found that the dogs with rough coats had trouble being used in the Alps. Their thick coats and feet became so covered and clogged with the weight of snow that they eventually collapsed and died.

The large male dogs can grow to 170 to 210 pounds, while the females reach 160 to 190 pounds. Breeders enjoy the notoriety and possibly blue ribbons for growing these beautiful, massive dogs.

Modern-day St. Bernard dogs do not track through snow. In fact, they don”t do much of anything physical except play with their owners. They have increased height and greater weight than their ancestors, which makes them more cumbersome. Sometimes this added weight has injured them and left some crippled.

Some breeders still look for more improvement in genetics. Many of today”s St. Bernard dogs do not live up to the standards set forth by dog clubs.


Leighton, R. (2004). Dogs and all About Them. Retrieved March 24, 2008, from The Project Gutenberg EBook of Dogs and All About Them Web site: