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The Saint Bernard, often referred to simply
as the Saint and best known as the gentle
giant, has been bred in Switzerland since
the 17th century. This Swiss breed is named
after St. Bernard of Menthon, who lived
from 996 to 1081, and who founded the Hospice
at the pass between Italy and Switzerland.
For the past several hundred years, the
St. Bernard dogs have lived at the Hospice
and helped the monks search for and aid
lost travelers. The powerful breed was also
used in local villages to pull carts of
food and supplies. By the mid to late 1800s,
the breed was internationally recognized
and its popularity began to spread. While
the St. Bernard enjoys a cold, snowy winter,
they are also well-adapted to warmer climates.
The Saint Bernard should have daily exercise
and plenty of room.
Saint Bernards must measure 28" (71
cm) or more; females must measure 26"
(66 cm) or more.
Bernards weight 160 - 200 lbs (71.4 - 71.4
kg) for dogs, 130 - 160 lbs (58 - 58 kg)
Shorthaired and longhaired; the original
St. Bernard was a shorthaired dog. The rough
coat or longhaired dog emerged in the early
1800s. The Saint Bernard's longer coat requires
more grooming than the shorter coat, to
coloring of the Saint Bernard's coat is
generally tan or red markings on tail, back
and head, with white required on underbelly,
legs, chest, neck, tail-tip and muzzle;
the mask on the face is desirable but not
required; half-mask or no-mask dogs are
The Saint Bernard is a gentle, loyal dog
with a sweet disposition. Although strong
and powerful, they are generally calm and
not overly zealous at play. Saint Bernards
are excellent with children, but as with
all giant breeds, should be supervised at
play, and should have their training started
early as a puppy.
Saint Bernards can be affected by hip dysplasia,
a short life-expectancy (seven to nine years),
and entropion. Because of its deep chest
cavity, the Saint Bernard is at risk for
gastric torsion (bloat). Epilepsy is highly
suspected to have a genetic component in
Monks at the Hospice du grand St.
Bernard used the dogs to rescue more than
2500 travelers lost in the snowy Alps.
The Saint Bernard did not carry a brandy
flask around its neck when it went out on
rescue work; this idea came into being when
Landseer, the artist, painted a Saint Bernard
with a brandy cask around its neck. The
Saint Bernard is listed in the Guinness
Book of Records as being the heaviest
breed in general (tied with the Mastiff).
A Saint Bernard is also listed for the largest
litter, with 23 pups (in a tie with a Great
Dane and an American Foxhound); however
the American Foxhound is considered to hold
the record since all 23 of its pups survived.
AKC: Group 3 - Working Dogs
ANKC: Group 6 - Utility
CKC: Group 3 - Working Dogs
FCI: Group 2 Section 2 Molossoid breeds
KC: Non-Sporting - Working Group
UKC: Guardian Dog Group