The St. Bernard Dog is a large breed of dog originally bred for rescue and as a working dog. A full-grown male can weigh between 150 and 200 lb (68 and 90 kg). more...
There are two varieties of the breed: the short-haired or smooth-coat variety and the long-haired or rough-coat variety.
The St. Bernard is known for its loyalty and vigilance and is tolerant of both children and animals. Because of these traits, it has become a family dog. They also make good watchdogs, as their size can be intimidating to strangers, though their temperament is gentle.
The ancestors of the St. Bernard were the herding dogs of Swiss farmers as well as hunting dogs and watchdogs. Their history has also been connected with the hospice at the Great St. Bernard Pass. First reports of the dogs' presence at the pass date to the 17th century, and they still are loyal companions to the monks there.
The most famous St. Bernard to save people at the pass was Barry (sometimes spelled Berry), who reportedly saved somewhere between 40 and 100 lives. There is a monument to Barry in the CimetiÃ¨re des Chiens and his body was preserved in the Natural History Museum in Berne.
The St. Bernard originally was a smooth-coated dog developed to rescue travellers from the snow. In the 1830s the monks who owned and bred the dogs introduced Newfoundland blood to strengthen the breed, and this gave rise to the rough-coat St. Bernard. Although more popular, the rough-coat variety proved to be unsuitable for mountain work because the long hair tended to collect icicles. For this reason the monks kept the smooth coat variety for rescue work.
St. Bernards are very gentle giants. They are extremely fond of children and are loyal to their family, though their size can be a problem around unsupervised small children.
The name "St. Bernard" was not in widespread use until the middle of the 19th century. The dogs were called "Saint Dogs", "Alpenmastiff", or "Barry Dogs" before, and in parts of North America, they're still called "Saints".
In 1977, Wonderful World of Disney played a TV movie about St. Bernard rescue dogs, Barry of the Great St. Bernard. Other movies about St. Bernards include Beethoven and Cujo.
St. Bernards are often portrayed, especially in comics and cartoons, with small barrels of brandy worn around their necks.
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