Painting by John Emms portraying St. Bernards as rescue dogs, with th...
| The St. Bernard is a breed of very large working dog from the Italian and Swiss Alps, originally bred for rescue. The breed has become famous through tales of alpine rescues, as well as for its enormous size.
The St. Bernard is a giant dog. The average weight of the breed is between 140 and 264 lb (64–120 kg) or more and the approximate height at the withers is 27½ inches to 35½ inches (70 to 90 cm). The coat can be either smooth or rough, with the smooth coat close and flat. The rough coat is dense but flat, and more profuse around the neck and legs. The coat is typically a red color with white, or sometimes a mahogany brindle with white. Black shading is usually found on the face and ears. The tail is long and heavy, hanging low eyes should have naturally tight lids, with "haws only slightly visible". Sometimes the eyes, brown usually, can be icy blue, nearly white.
The ancestors of the St. Bernard share a history with the Sennenhunds, also called Swiss Mountain Dogs or Swiss Cattle Dogs, the large farm dogs of the farmers and dairymen of the livestock guardians, herding dogs, and draft dogs as well as hunting dogs, search and rescue dogs, and watchdogs. These dogs are thought to be descendants of molosser type dogs brought into the Alps by the ancient Romans, and the St. Bernard is recognized internationally today as one of the Molossoid breeds.
The name "St. Bernard" originates from the Great St Bernard Hospice, a traveler's hospice on the often treacherous St. Bernard Pass in the Western Alps between Switzerland and Italy. The pass, the lodge, and the dogs are named for Bernard of Menthon, the 11th century monk who established the station.
The breed is strikingly similar to the English Mastiff and Newfoundland. This can be attributed to a common shared ancestry with the Alpine Mastiff and the Tibetan Mastiff. It is suspected that these breeds were used to redevelop each other to combat the threat of their extinction after World War II.
The four Sennenhund breeds, the Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund (Greater Swiss Mountain Dog), the Berner Sennenhund, (Bernese Mountain Dog), the Appenzeller Sennenhund, (Appenzeller), and the Entlebucher Sennenhund (Entlebucher Mountain Dog) are similar in appearance and share the same location and history, but are tricolour rather than red and white.
Source: Wikipedia, "St. Bernard (dog)", available under the CC-BY-SA License.