The Saint Bernard is believed to have origins in the Molossian dogs brought to Switzerland by the Romans, but the dog’s most relevant history began in the mid-1600s. At that time, the original Saint Bernard was introduced to the Hospice, a refuge for travelers crossing the Swiss Alps. The dogs proved invaluable; guarding, carting, and locating and rescuing lost travelers and people trapped in avalanches. Saint Bernards saved more than 2,000 lives during their service in the Alps.
Whether the St. Bernard ever actually rescued snowbound alpine travelers is debatable, but that image is irreversibly established.
Today’s benevolent hulk is an impressively muscular giant, whose size makes it unsuitable for most forms of indoor living.
Giant, 130 to 180 pounds; females 251⁄2 inches and up; males 271⁄2 inches and up.
Red and white, with the red in varying shades.
Devoted, gentle, dignified, and patient. Willing to please, but can be stubborn.
Protective nature should be controlled, not encouraged.
Energy level: Medium to low.
Best owner: Confident, strong owner who can provide a cool living environment.
Needs: Daily exercise (to prevent obesity), outside time in a fenced yard (except when it’s hot), obedience training, weekly brushing, drool patrol.
Life expectancy: 8 to 10 years.