Although the true origins of the Saint Bernard breed are not well documented, some aspects of this extraordinary breed are known. Authenticated facts combined with reasoned speculation are believed to best describe the development of this magnificent breed.
The Monastery and hospice were founded by Bernard de Menthon, an Augustine monk, in the middle of the eleventh century (no exact date can be found). These edifices were located in the only pass through the Alps between Italy and Switzerland. Being the site of heroic rescue tales, it was later named the Great Saint Bernard Pass to differentiate it from the Little Saint Bernard Pass that is between France and Italy. The altitude at the Great Saint Bernard Pass is a little more than 8,000 feet above sea level. As it was snow free only a few months during the warmest part of the summer, it was very dangerous for foot travelers journeying to or past the hospice. Being caught on foot in that difficult terrain during unexpected inclement weather was often fatal, but those who braved that treacherous territory were comforted to know that the hospice was staffed with dedicated monks and their special dogs.
Powerful, proportionately tall figure, strong and muscular in every part, with powerful head and most intelligent expression. In dogs with a dark mask the expression appears more stern, but never ill-natured.
Correct temperament is an extremely important aspect of the breed. The Saint Bernard was bred to protect life and to seek lost persons, thus requiring an even, congenial temperament, even under stress. It is characteristic of correct Saint Bernard temperament to be gregarious in non-threatening situations, to be noble, steadfast and benevolent, and to display a desire to please his owners. The Saintly temperament is the feature that enables the Saint Bernard to be so readily employed in today’s many activities and lifestyles.
The dog should be 27½ inches minimum, of the bitch 25½ inches. Female animals are of finer and more delicate build.
The longhaired type completely resembles the shorthaired type except for the coat which is not shorthaired (stockhaarig) but of medium length plain to slightly wavy, never rolled or curly and not shaggy either. Usually, on the back, especially from the region of the haunches to the rump, the hair is more wavy, a condition, by the way, that is slightly indicated in the shorthaired dogs. The tail is bushy with dense hair of moderate length. Rolled or curly hair, or a flag tail, is faulty. Face and ears are covered with short and soft hair; longer hair at the base of the ear is permissible. Forelegs only slightly feathered; thighs very bushy.
Very dense, short-haired (stockhaarig), lying smooth, tough, without however feeling rough to the touch. The thighs are slightly bushy. The tail at the root has longer and denser hair which gradually becomes shorter toward the tip. The tail appears bushy, not forming a flag.
White with red or red with white, the red in its various shades; brindle patches with white markings. The colors red and brown-yellow are of entirely equal value. Necessary markings are: white chest, feet and tip of tail, noseband, collar or spot on the nape; the latter and blaze are very desirable. Never of one color or without white.
Learn more at the Saint Bernard Club of America.