All About the Saint Bernard
The iconic image of the Saint Bernard breed is known from the cartoons as the dopey brown and white dog with a barrel around its neck, that pours some sort of liquid to weary travelers. These days the barrel is replaced with cute bow ties or premium dog collars — all kinds of different accessories for every day of the week. But what is the story behind the barrel the Saint Bernard once carried? Find out more about the infamous mountain dog, that loves snow as much as they love people.
The gentle giant
The Saint Bernard is a gentle giant that is among one of the most beloved breeds in the US, but way before the cult hit Beethoven hit theaters in the 90s, Saint Bernard dogs were famous for saving lives. Since the 18th century, monks living amongst the St. Bernard pass (located between the Italian and swiss alps) kept these loyal canines to aid them in rescue missions after treacherous snowstorms. It has been recorded that in the span of over 200 years, Saint Bernards have rescued over 2,000 people. The dogs were exceptionally skilled at rescue because their broad chests were great for clearing paths in the snow, along with their keen sense of smell and ability to rescue travelers buried in the snow. When a buried traveler was rescued, the Saint Bernard would lay on top of them to provide warmth until help could reach them.
Saint Bernard’s are portrayed as carrying barrels of liquor around their necks to warm rescued travelers, and while it became an iconic lore of the breed, there simply are no records that exist that document this tradition. In the winter seasons between 1816 through 1818, the breed almost became extinct because while they were providing rescue work to people, many of them were dying in avalanches. The breed did manage to survive after two years on the verge of extinction, and are as popular as ever.
Why Saint Bernards make excellent pets
Despite being a burley being, the Saint Bernard makes a wonderful family dog, as they are intelligent and good-natured. They are quite calm and relaxed indoor dogs, but they do require a yard for room to spread out and get exercise. While a yard is preferred for this large breed, they are able to adjust to apartment living, as long as they receive the minimum of one long walk per day. If you keep a spotless home, the Saint Bernard may not be the best choice because they tend to excessively drool and shed, and can track in mud and dirt — saintliness is not next to cleanliness with this breed!
Saint Bernards are a very extroverted breed that needs constant human companionship, so a family is perfect. The gentle giant is very patient with children and not overly playful; the only consideration is their size, as they can easily knock a little one over with their tail.
Saint Bernard Care
- Diet - A Saint Bernard does require specific nutrition for puppyhood into their senior days in hopes that they reach their lifespan of 10 to 12 years. Look for breed specific formulas.
- Grooming - both short and long haired breeds need consistent, daily brushing as they shed more than usual.
- Exercise - Saint Bernard’s should be kept in a fenced area or kennel space, and walk on a lead.
- Health - Saint Bernard’s are generally a healthy breed, but are prone to hip dysplasia and eye diseases.
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