- The Saint Bernard is one of the largest dogs in the world with some members of the breed outweighing Mastiffs.
- The ancestor of the St. Bernard was known as the Swiss Cattle Dog. It earned its name after popping up in hospice records in the Great St. Bernard Pass in 1707.
- It is one of the most commonly employed mountain dogs in the world, with tales of its heroism following blizzards and avalanches stretching back hundreds of years.
- St. Bernards were on the verge of extinction following a rash of avalanches between 1816 and 1818. The survivors were crossbred with Newfoundlands to keep the population stable, resulting in somewhat of a smaller dog and longer fur which made them unsuitable for rescue operations for a number of years.
- The St. Bernard is the national dog of Switzerland.
Few breeds can attain the same legendary status as the St. Bernard. With tales of their heroism going back hundreds of years, this breed hardly needs an introduction. It is beloved, revered, and an instantly recognizable breed.
As a working dog, its strength is unmatched. As a house pet, though, it does have some deficiencies. The thick coat is notoriously difficult to groom and constantly sheds. Couple that with the St. Bernard’s habit of drooling profusely and you have one messy dog. In addition, it is quite large and clumsy, making it difficult to navigate around furniture. This makes the St. Bernard not the most ideal house pet.
When you put the mess aside, however, the St. Bernard is the epitome of the phrase “gentle giant.” It is extremely loyal to its owners and very patient. It also gets along famously with children, making it the ideal childhood companion. They are calm, affectionate, and get along with other dogs as well. In addition, they are a superior watch dog with a deep, booming bark that is sure to scare off any midnight intruders.
Strong social training is required to make the St. Bernard friendly to strangers. It does not have a strong protective or territorial streak, so it rarely attacks potential threats, but barks at unfamiliar people. Vigorous physical exercise is needed to keep the breed happy, though it is also perfectly content to keep you company at home.
St. Bernards are extremely large dogs that grow into their adult configuration rapidly. This makes the breed susceptible to some serious musculoskeletal issues.
- Hip and elbow dysplasia are early onset in the breed. Arthritis sets in quite early as a result.
- The breed is susceptible to a number of eye problems such as glaucoma, as well as entropion and ectropion, causing the eyelid to turn inward and outward, respectively.
- Epilepsy is a common problem in the breed.
- Bone cancer is hereditary in a number of different lines, so be sure to reference the pup’s pedigree.
- The world record holder for largest dog in the world was held by a St. Bernard named Benedictine V Schwarzwald Hof, who weighed in at 315 pounds before he was beaten out by an Irish Wolfhound.
- Beethoven, the titular character from a series of family movies, was a St. Bernard.
- Barry is a national hero in Switzerland. In his 12 years of service starting in 1800, he saved over forty people in the Great St. Bernard Pass. The legends surrounding him state that he died saving another person from an avalanche; however, this is not true. He is preserved at the Natural History Museum of Bern.
- Several sports teams use St. Bernards as their mascots, including the New Orleans Saints of the NFL and the Colorado Avalanche of the NHL.
- St. Bernards are common fixtures in books as well. Buck, a St. Bernard mutt in The Call of the Wild by Jack London and the titular character from Stephen King’s Cujo, are the most famous literary Bernies.
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