Saint Bernard

Other names/Nicknames:
  • St. Bernhardshund
Country/Date of origin:
  • Switzerland
  • 1000′s
  • Females:  From 25-1/2 inches
  • Males:  From 27-1/2 inches
  • 110 to 200 pounds
  • Gentle and tolerant.
  • Does not fawn over strangers as a rule.
  • Can be used as a watchdog.
  • May be a fear biter or excessively shy.

Legend is wrapped all around the history of this noble breed.  Its exact origins are obscure but it is of the mastiff type that came across the Alps with the Roman legions.  When the centurions left, some of the dogs remained behind and the Swiss used them for guarding, herding, and draft duties.  Around the year 1,000 that changed.  Monks founded a hospice that was a refuge for travelers crossing the dangerous alpine passes between Switzerland and Italy.  It was discovered that the dogs at the St. Bernard monastery had an uncanny ability to find people buried in avalanches or lost in the snow.  Soon they were trained for the job of rescuing people.  They are credited with saving more than 3,000 human lives.  The Saint Bernard dogs were coveted around the world.  At the turn of the century, show champions commanded record prices.  The United States breed club was founded in 1888 and Saints were among the most numerous exhibits at early American Kennel Club (AKC) shows.

Body Type:
  • A large, heavy member of the mastiff family.
  • The head is massive with a short muzzle.
  • The natural tail is long and carried low.  It is not altered.
  • Ears stand slightly away from the head at the base and then drop sharply, clinging to the side of the head.  They are not altered.
  • Face must have heavily-furrowed wrinkles.
  • Saint Bernards come in both a rough and smooth variety, identical in everything except coat.
  • The rough variety has a medium-length, double coat that is straight or slightly wavy.
  • The smooth variety has a dense, double coat of short hair that is harsh to the touch.
  • Permissible colors are red with white markings, or white with red markings, or brindle patches on a white ground.
  • White markings require a white chest, feet, tip of tail, noseband, collar, or spot on neck.
  • The Saint Bernard can never be of a solid color without white.
  • Dark shadings on the head and ears (mask) are highly desired.
  • Moderate grooming required.  Sheds heavily in the spring.
Health and Wellness:
  • Hip dysplasia.
  • Elbow dysplasia.
  • Gastric dilatation and volvulus syndrome (GDV, also commonly called bloat).
  • Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD).
  • Epiphora.
  • Metabolic bone disease.
  • Hemophilia.
  • Congenital deafness.
  • Fold pyoderma.
  • Idiopathic epilepsy.
  • Pyoderma.
  • Fibrocartilagenous emboli.
  • Osteosarcoma (appendicular).
  • Lymphoma.
What you should know:
  • Famous as Nana in the Peter Pan story and movie.
  • Famous also for drooling.
  • Although the rough-coated Saint Bernard is most commonly seen, the monks preferred the smooth variety for working purposes.
  • The heavier-coated dogs got iced up in the snow (snow compacted and formed little, hard iceballs that clung to the dog’s coat and weighed it down).
  • The Saint Bernard holds two records in the Guinness Book.  Duke is the heaviest recorded member of the canine species—he weighed in at 295 pounds.  Thor holds the record for weight pulling.  In 1974, this 177-pound dog dragged 6,000 pounds of lead for the title.
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