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Saint Bernard Dog Breed

Jun 8, 2008
The St. Bernard has a long history of servitude to mankind. Their origins are the Swiss valleys around the centuries old Hospice of St. Bernard, where the original dogs were used as guard dogs and companions for the community of monks living and working within the Hospice.

The Hospice was used as a way stop for travelers crossing the passes that linked the Swiss Alps with Italy. Because of the treacherous snows, wayfarers often became lost or disoriented or tragically died. Eventually some of the monks began to train these large and gentle dogs to go out on missions to save these passers-by. These dogs seemed to posses an inherent desire to seek out and locate the lost and the missing people, and also possessed the kind of coat that not only protected them from the fierce winds but did not cake with snow and ice.

The dogs worked in teams of four. Two would lie down with the victim and keep him warm, one would lick his face to try to keep him alive, and the other would go back to the Hospice to bring back human rescuers. Eventually they became known as the Hospice dogs, and this name was most common until the early 19th century, when they began to be called the Saint Bernard.

The actual origins of the breed are most likely a mingling of the Alpine dogs such as the Tibetan Mastiff and the large Roman war dogs brought to Switzerland by the Romans in the second century A.D. In the year 1350 the likeness of a Saint Bernard was placed on the Swiss Coat-of-Arms.

The typical picture in one's mind of the Saint Bernard carrying the flask of whisky beneath his chin is not true, this most likely came from a painting of the Landseer Newfoundland done by Sir Edwin Landseer.

The Saint Bernard, like the Newfoundland, has an uncanny instinctive ability to seek out and find humans. This is a strong instinctive desire and those folks who train these dogs for that purpose don't have a difficult job, since the strong instinct of the breed already pre-disposes the dog for the Search and Rescue function.

The Saint Bernard is gentle and yet protective. They have an imposing look about them, standing at a shoulder height of 25 to 27 inches, and can weigh as much as 200 pounds although the standard calls for an average weight of 150 pounds for an adult male. The body is massive, the coat is short and dense and resistant to cold winds and icy conditions. Their large feet are built to form a "snowshoe" effect in deep snow and their thick fur and loose neck allows for protection of the lungs and chest in cold conditions.

As a family dog they exhibit courage and loyalty, truly their nickname of the "saint" fits the breed well.
About the Author
For more information on the Saint Bernard or a full list of dog breeds take a look at this Dog Training website.
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