For hundreds of years, Saint Bernards have been renowned for their bravery in rescue work, saving thousands of lives in the treacherous mountains of the Alps between Switzerland and Italy. At the same time, Saint Bernards have been just as well known for their big, loving personalities.
The breed was traditionally the companion of monks who lived in hospices high in the Swiss Alps. When a person was lost in the snowy mountain passes, the Saint Bernards were used to find the unlucky traveler. Their keen sense of smell and pathfinding skills, combined with their durability in the cold, made them life-saving naturals.
These early rescuers were short-haired Saint Bernards; the longhaired variety appeared in the 1830s when the breed was crossed with the Newfoundland to create a variety used mostly as a farm dog.
Both kinds of coats need brushing weekly, daily during shedding. Colors are white with red, brown-yellow, or brindle.
Excerpts from the Standard
Powerful, strong, and tall, intelligent expression.
Size, Proportion, and Substance
Height--males, 271/2 inches or taller at the withers; females,25 inches or taller.
To train for rescue work, young Saint Bernards would go out on mountain searches with monks and older dogs. When the missing person was located, the young dog lay down beside the person to warm him and lick his face so the person wouldn't fall asleep and freeze to death. The older dogs went back to the hospice, alerted a search party, and guided searches back to the lost person.
Excerpted from The Complete Dog Book For Kids © 1996, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.