65 Incredible Fun Facts about Saint Bernards

Saint Bernard Standing Tall in Snowy Forest

Are you considering adding a Saint Bernard to your family? Perhaps you already have one and simply love learning more about them.

Whatever the reason you have come to the right place!

The Saint has been a beloved breed of dog for hundreds of years and that is likely to continue into the future!

Saint Bernard at Disney Land

1. The Saint Bernard originated in the Alpine region of Switzerland.

2. There it gained notoriety as a search and rescue dog.

3. While many picture the Saint rescuing travelers in the snow with a Keg of Brandy around it’s neck, this image is a fantasized one. Painter Edward Lanseer, an artist that was traveling through the alps in 1819 added the detail to his painting of the famous breed and the idea stuck.

4. The Saint Bernard got it’s name from the Great St. Bernard Hospice in the western alps.

Saint Bernard Side of Face

5. The monks at the St. Bernard Hospice were given dogs by the farmers in the valley below the mountains for protection. When the monks realized how great their sense of smell was they began using them for rescue work.

6. The avalanche rescue dogs were never trained by the monks, the younger dogs simply followed the older dogs until they got the hang of things.

7. Barry, the most famous of the rescue dogs at the St. Bernard Hospice saved between 40 and 100 people.

8. He has his own monument in the Cimetiere des Chiens and his body has been preserved at the Natural History Museum in Berne, Switzerland.

9. Marroniers were assigned to begin accompanying travelers through the alps and in 1750 each Marronier was paired with a Saint who would help to clear paths for the travelers.

10. Over the years Saints have been credited with saving nearly 2000 people from the hazards of the Alps.

Saint Bernard in the Snow

11. Dogs would often travel in pairs of two, one would wait with the stranded while the other would return to the monks for help.

12. Due in large part to the dogs dedication when Napoleon and his army crossed the mountain pass between 1790 and 1810 there were no losses of life!

13. The last known rescue was of a 12 year old boy who was found close to death in the snow and brought back to consciousness by one of the famous Saints.

14. The breed was almost wiped out after several avalanches killed most of the breeding stock, the monks then crossed the Saints with Newfoundlands.

15. This saved the breed, but also made it impossible for the dogs to continue their rescue missions as their long hair would freeze in the snow and become too heavy for them to move freely.

16. While the St. Bernard stopped doing search and rescue in 1955, the hospice maintained several until 2004.

17. That year, the Barry Foundation purchased the remaining 18 dogs and used them in a breeding program.

Saint Bernard Puppy with Mom

18. Other names for the Saint are the Alpine Mastiff, Bernhardiner, and St. Bernhardshund.

19. Known for it’s immense size the average Saint weighs between 130 and 200lbs.

20. This size is much larger than the original working Saint Bernards and unfortunately, the growth has led to lots of health problems.

21. Saints are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, osteosarcoma, seizures, heart problems, and eczema.

22. These health concerns keep the Saint’s life span relatively short at an average of just 7-10 years.

23. The first Saint Bernard Breed Club was organized in Basel, Switzerland in 1884.

24. The earliest written records are from 1707, but there are paintings dating back even further.

Two Saint Bernards in Snow

25. There is a town in Ohio, U.S. called St. Bernard.

26. Saints’ coats can be either short or long haired.

27. They are known for their excessive drooling, but there are a handful that have a drier mouth.

28.The Saint’s coat is white, with shades of tan, red, mahogany, brindle, and black.

29. The average puppy weighs 1.5 pounds at birth!

30. They can not handle extreme changes in temperature, so take care to keep them cool during summer months.

31. They are known to be great with children and other pets.

Saint Bernard with a Child

32. Good socialization as a puppy is key to these gentle giants being well rounded adults.

33. Most don’t reach maturity until 3 years of age, so be prepared for your Saint to keep growing and learning for quite some time.

34. Instinctively good watchdogs, the Saints are great at sensing danger and will alert their families when needed.

35. Saints rarely bark, so when they do you should check your surroundings to be sure everything is ok.

36. Overactivity at a young age can cause issues with bone development, so be sure your puppy isn’t jumping up or down from surfaces that are very high.

37. The Saint requires minimal exercise and makes a great apartment dog. For other breeds that make great apartment dwellers, read this article.

38. Saint’s are now commonly used for cart pulling, weight pulling, agility, and nose work.

Saint Bernard Digging in the Snow

39. Benedictine V Schwarzwald Hof was the largest recorded Saint at an astounding 315 pounds. He even earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

40. Beethoven, the movie, featured a troublesome, but adorable Saint Bernard puppy.

41. The sequel found Beethoven and his lady friend Missy raising a litter of puppies. The production team on the movie said the puppies grew so fast it took 100 to finish the filming of the movie!

42. Nana, the loveable Nanny from Disney’s 1953 animated adaptation of Peter Pan, was a St. Bernard (note: In the original version, Nana was a Newfoundland. The writer, J.M. Barrie had two incredibly similar dogs, a Newfoundland and a St. Bernard).

43. J.M. Barrie had a pet Saint named Porthos.

44. Buck from Jack London’s Call of the Wild was a Saint Bernard mix.

45. Some of the Saint’s closest doggie relatives are the English Mastiff, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, and the Bernese Mountain Dog.

46. Many large breed dogs faced extinction after WWII and fanciers began cross breeding to strengthen the lines.

Saint Bernard in a Field Looking Behind Him

47. The original St. was about the size of a German Shepherd.

48. However, he was bred to be bigger and bigger by those in the show circuit.

49. Once fanciers of the working dogs noticed the change it was too late to correct—  the breed had a closed stud book, meaning that other breeds couldn’t  be brought in to better the breeding stock.

50. Saint Bernards are thought to be descendants of Molosser dogs which were brought to Europe by the ancient Romans.

51. Though they are no longer working dogs, they are still classified as such by the AKC.

52. The Saint Bernard Club of America was established in 1888. .

53. The Saint is the 50th most popular breed according to the AKC.

54. The St. Bernard Club of America has 83,495 dogs registered in their system.

55. Saints were named after Saint Bernard de Menthon, the patron saint of mountaineers.

56. The average Saint eats 6.5 cups of food a day.

Saint Bernard Face Looking Up

57. Like many drooling dogs, Saint Bernards drink more water than their dry mouthed cousins.

58. Due to the drool factor it’s important to change their water several times a day so it doesn’t get slimy.

59. Saints typical loose their coat twice per year, but they can shed year round.

60. Saints are prone to Bloat, so take care when feeding that you use an elevated bowl and don’t let them eat too fast or too much in one sitting.

61. A Saint named Hercules was credited with saving his family only 6 hours after he was adopted when he caught a burglar trying to break in and held him by the leg until help could arrive.

62. Saint Bernards range in height from 25-30 inches at the shoulder.

63. Out of 52 Saints tested by the American Temperament Test Society 44 passed, giving the Saint a passing rate of 84.6%.

64. The earliest paintings of Saints were by Salvator Rosa in 1695.

65. It wasn’t until 1880 that the Saints were officially given the name St. Bernard by the Swiss Kennel Club.  

Saint Bernard Up Close Nose

Now you know all there is to know about Saint Bernards. This loving breed has come a long way from his alpine ancestors to being snuggly companions in homes across the globe.

Keep in mind that training and socialization are very important to the young Saint. He needs a great diet to help his joints and bones develop properly, and he probably isn’t the best dog for an extremely warm climate.

If you can keep this big guy cool, well fed, and loved he will be a great companion for you!!


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