The national dog of Switzerland, the Saint Bernard is named after the monk who, in the 10th Century, founded a hospice to care for travellers on the perilous routes through the Swiss Alps. The first dogs were Alpine Mastiffs, initially used to guard property, but with the discovery of their rescue abilities their role was changed. These dogs were the ancestors of the modern Saint Bernard. By the 18th Century the role of the dogs had changed and they were being used for rescue work, locating lost and stranded travellers. The monks were using new blood to develop bigger dogs and it is thought that the Newfoundland and the Bloodhound might have contributed to the new type. Certainly the dogs became larger and longer coated. The outcrossing was disputed by some of the monks as they felt that a longer coat would ice up, so some of stock was purposely kept which remained close to the original short-coated type. Hence the breed still has long coated and smooth coated specimens today. The breed retained the name of Alpine Mastiffs well into the 19th Century, and it was not until 1888 that the modern title of Saint Bernard was adopted.
Saint Bernards are known for being gentle giants and suit most families as long as you have the space for a large breed. They are big shedders though so be prepared for a house full of hair all year round! They are very big and strong, so you’ll need to positively train them from a young age so they walk nicely on a lead and know how to behave in the right way. To keep your Saint Bernard fit and healthy, they’ll need at least an hour of exercise every day once they’re fully grown. This should include walks (at least one fairly long one with some shorter ones), with extra playtime, brain games and plenty of off-lead time in a secure environment – usually Saint Bernards will likely be able to manage more. Saint Bernards are known for being great with people of all ages – which includes children, they are known for being patient and affectionate. They love nothing more than being with a family which is why so many people choose them as family pets. You should always supervise them with smaller children and adults unfamiliar with the breed, however, as they are so big they may accidentally knock them over, especially if they get a bit excited. Saint Bernards are very social and will usually get along fine with other dogs, as long as they are socialised from an early age.
Read about the history of the breed – HERE
STATS AND FACTS
Most of these stats are from the UK Kennel Club. You can view stats from kennel clubs around the world at the links below, which may have different standards and classifications.
|Group – UK||Working|
|Bred For||Search and Rescue, Guardian|
|Country of Origin||Switzerland|
|Temperament||Intelligent, Courageous, Trustworthy|
|Exercise Needed||Up to 1 hour a day|
|Size of Home Needed||Large|
|Height at Withers – Females||70 cm / 28 in|
|Height at Withers – Males||75 cm / 30 in|
|Grooming||Several times a week|
|Coat||Long and Smooth Coated|
|Life Expectancy||8 – 10 years|
- The traditional view of the rescuing St Bernard with a cask of brandy attached to his collar is created by the famous Victorian artist Edwin Landseer, who painted the first two St Bernard’s to arrive in London.
- There are two varieties of the St Bernard; Short-haired variety (“Stockhaar”, smooth coat). Long-haired variety (Rough coat).
- Depending on the weather, the level of excitement, and the shape of the dog’s jowls, most Saints will drool on occasion. Technically, there is no such thing as a “dry mouthed Saint”, but most Saints do not drool to an offensive degree.
- Their coats are great in snow and ice. They keep them cosy and warm and are water repellent, but this means Saint Bernards don’t do as well in the heat.
- A hospice dog named Barry became famous in 1800 to 1810 for finding more than 40 rescues; he became the most famous dog ever and often the Saint Bernard was referred to as Barryhunden in his honour.
LINKS TO KENNEL CLUB BREED STANDARDS AROUND THE WORLD
Breed standard varies throughout the world, these links will inform you of those standards and give further information about Saint Bernards.
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WEBSITES ABOUT SAINT BERNARDS
Here’s some websites specifically dedicated to the Saint Bernard breed. I am not affiliated with any of these sites, they’re just here for further information. Please note I will not advertise breeders on this site.
- St. Bernard Trust
- Saint Bernard Club of America
- Health and Welfare For The St. Bernard
- The St.Bernard Club of NSW
- Saving Saints Rescue
- Colorado Saint Bernard Rescue
- English St.Bernard Club
- United Saint Bernard Club
- New England Saint Bernard Club
- The Saint Bernard Club of Ireland
- Saint Bernard Club of the Pacific Coast
- Saint Bernard Club of Puget Sound
- Ohio Saint Bernard Club
- Saint Bernards Archive
- Saint Bernard Club of South Africa
Thanks for reading!