At the height of the Great St. Bernard Pass, 2469 m (8100 ft.) above sea level, a hospice was founded by monks in the 11th century as a refuge for travellers and pilgrims. Large mountain dogs have been kept there for watch and protection since the middle of the 17th century.
These dogs were soon in service as companion dogs for the monks, being especially deployed as rescue dogs for travelers lost in snow and fog. The shaggy dense coat of the Saint Bernard protects it from the cold and allows it to spend large amounts of time in severe conditions. The Saint Bernards also have a keen instinct for predicting bad weather, like snowstorms and avalanches, as well as an incredible sense of direction during the heavy snows. Numerous chronicles tell of the many lives saved by these dogs in the face of “the White Death.” The fame of the St. Bernard spread throughout Europe in the 19th century.
The notorious barrel attached to the collar of the legendary Saint Bernard is only a legend; barrels filled with alcoholic beverages were an invention of storytellers.
All writings about the dogs mention their large size. Dogs then were relatively smaller than they are today, so the Saint Bernards of the past were probably much smaller. The colouration of their coats has always been stated as white with red-brown patches.
Saint Bernards are divided into two categories, both of notable size. The short hair variety has a thinner smooth coat and are also known by the name of Stockhaar. The other variety is the long hair, the most common of the two. Both divisions of Saint Bernards have thick muscular bodies and are generally sturdy hardy animals. Saint Bernards have very large heads and are prone to drooling due to their large saggy lips.
Saint Bernards are gentle and calm dogs and make great pets. A Saint Bernard requires plenty of exercise and does not do well in hot weather, but for the right family they can make a wonderful addition.
I have trained many Saint Bernards but my best boy was Laurence of The Roman Oasis, he was a very special fellow in my life. I trained him with Paul and Jake. I so enjoyed watching him doing his turn and tricks. If ever a dog was able to wink at me and say ‘Was that O:K: Boss’ then it was my boy Laurence. He even had an air conditioned kennel, no joke.