The St. Bernard in everyday life

The Saint Bernard is a good watchdog as well as family and companion dog, which at moderate temperatures can be taken on hikes and other activities - like pulling carts, or horseback rides. However, fast sporting activities are less suitable for him; In hot weather he will seek a cool place to rest.

Even today, St. Bernards are used as search and rescue dogs.

Keeping and care

Despite his simplicity he needs a consistent education, therefore he is more suitable for advanced dog owners.Although his urge to move is limited, he needs enough exercise and activity.
A small city apartment with many stairs is hardly suitable for him. A house or a garden apartment in the countryside with plenty of space and a garden suits him better.
Through his enormous body mass a St. Bernard has high feed costs, which should also be considered before purchasing.

His coat should be brushed regularly.


Saint Bernards are prone to hip dysplasia (HD), osteosarcoma (bone tumor), bone and ligament problems, cardiac insufficiency, gastric torsion, entropion (inverted eyelid) and ectropion (eversion of the eyelid).

Life expectancy is about 8-12 years.
As care about health and character has always been taken in breeding, there are in this regard no regularly repeating problems.

Also thanks to a healthy diet, the Saint Bernard is a loyal family member without special risks.


Barry I was the most famous of all the hospice dogs. Records show that he lived from 1800 to 1814. In his function as an avalanche rescue dog he saved over 40 lives.
The myth , called "Knabenritt", is a beautiful story. There are many different versions. Here is the most popular one:

Once upon a time Barry was on the way alone on the Great St Bernard Pass.  Suddenly he saw a young boy in the snow. The boy was so exhausted from the long hike that he fall asleep in the biting cold. To wake him up Barry has licked him until he woke up.

It's not know how Barry has made the boy understand that he could ride on him. The myth says that he brought him back healthy to the hospice. This story arised at the beginning of the 19th century. A high amount of people were crossing the pass at this time. The mortal remains of Barry I are still visitable today at the Natural History Museum of Bern.
(bibliographical reference: Die Hospiz-Bernhardiner - weit mehr als ein Mythos, Anja Ebener)


On March 15, 1884 has Heinrich Schumacher, butcher and landlord in Holligen in Bern - he sold the students a drinkable wine - wrote a letter to, at that time barely a year old, SKG that he tried to portray the history of St. Bernard, as far as they was known to him.

Schumacher was the first, who breed the St. Bernard; he laid in 1867 its own studbook to number bred dogs from him and put them in pedigrees.
Is it a coincidence or not, the fact is that on the same day as Schumacher wrote his letter to the SKG, so on 15 March 1884 in the Veltlinerhalle in Basel the Swiss St. Bernard Club was founded. For the founding meeting had Dr. B. Siegmund, abattoir manager in Basel, and Dr. Th. Künzli, St.Gallen convened. The founding protocol no longer exists, but rather a brief report in the "animal cards».

In February 1884, the Swiss Dog Stud Book was opened. No. 1 of the registered dogs was the St. Bernard "Léon", a dog of unknown origin, bought by B. Siegmund of "fahrenden Comödianten" and probably by "Eggerscher Race" as Siegmund wrote on a picture of the dog.

Even a year later, namely from May 29 to June 1, 1885 an international dogshow took place in Basel, at which the considerable number issued by 81 St. Bernard-Dogs.

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