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St. Bernard: 17 Interesting Facts (with Pictures)

Ed Malaker

By Ed Malaker

St Bernard Dog standing on snow

The St. Bernard is a large and friendly dog that will make a great addition to the household as long as you have enough space in your yard. If you are thinking about getting one of these wonderful animals for your home but would like to know more about them first, keep reading as we list several interesting facts that might help persuade you!

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The 17 Interesting St. Bernard Facts

1. Origin of the St. Bernard Name

St. Bernards get their name from the Great St. Bernard Pass in the Swiss Alps, which is where monks at the Hospice of St. Bernard started to breed them to help travelers as they passed through the dangerous terrain.

st. bernard dog
Image Credit: Piqsels

2. Search-and-Rescue Dogs

St. Bernards have a well-developed sense of smell and have performed as search-and-rescue dogs in the Alps for many years. The monks trained them to locate lost or injured travelers in the snow and return them to safety. Some reports suggest the dogs saved more than 2,000 people while working in the mountains.

3. Impressive Size and Weight

The St. Bernard is one of the largest dog breeds, with males typically weighing 140–180 pounds and standing 27–35 inches tall at the shoulder. Other giant breeds include the Mastiff, Irish Wolfhound, and Newfoundland.

St. Bernard lying on grass
Image Credit: Ilona Krijgsman, Pixabay

4. Gentle Giants

St. Bernards are known for their friendly and gentle nature, and people often refer to them as “gentle giants” due to their calm and patient demeanor, especially with children. While they can appear intimidating, they often like to lie at your feet or get up on the couch with you.

5. No Brandy Barrel

Contrary to popular belief, St. Bernards never carried brandy barrels around their necks. In the 1820s, a teenage artist painted a picture with the title, “Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveler,” showing two St. Bernards standing over a fallen traveler. One of the dogs has a barrel around their neck, which the author said contains brandy. This is the source of the myth that continues to this day. However, brandy is not good to give a fallen traveler in the mountains because it causes the body to drop in temperature rapidly.

st. bernard dog standing outdoor
Image Credit: Piqsels

6. Protective Coat

The St. Bernard has a thick double coat that helps protect them from the mountain’s cold weather and windy conditions. Their coat is usually white with patches of reddish-brown or brindle, but it can also be other colors. This dog’s coat needs quite a bit of maintenance to help keep it looking its best, especially during shedding seasons, when they can drop quite a large amount of fur.

7. Exercise Needs

Due to their large size, St. Bernards require regular exercise to stay healthy. Despite their massive build, though, they are not particularly high-energy dogs and are generally content with moderate exercise and daily walks. It’s important to keep them motivated to maintain a healthy body weight.

st. bernard dog walking with his owner
Image Credit: SasaStock, Shutterstock

8. Good With Other Animals

St. Bernards are generally good with other animals and can be friendly toward them, including other dogs and household pets. However, early socialization and proper training are crucial to ensure that they get along well with others, especially if you socialize them with other animals as a puppy.

9. Drooling Tendency

Your St. Bernard can drool quite a bit! Their loose jowls and deep chests contribute to their propensity for drooling, so potential owners should prepare for this aspect of their care.

St. Bernard
Image Credit: vlaaitje, Pixabay

10. Movies and Pop Culture

St. Bernards are part of popular culture and have been in several movies, including “Beethoven” and Disney’s “Peter Pan.” Other features include “Little Cesario” and “My Dog the Thief.” Their iconic appearance and gentle nature have made them popular choices for media representation since it began.

11. Lifespan and Health Considerations

St. Bernards have a relatively short lifespan of around 8 to 10 years and are prone to certain health issues, including hip dysplasia, lymphoma, entropion, bloat, and cancer.

st. bernard dog resting in the grass
Image Credit: Kev Gregory, Shutterstock

12. Training Challenges and Recommendations

Due to their large size and independent nature, St. Bernards can have training challenges, requiring consistent and positive reinforcement methods. Holding short sessions at a scheduled time daily can help them get into a routine that makes it easier for them to focus and learn.

13. Distinctive Facial Expressions

St. Bernards have expressive faces, often characterized by their soulful eyes and droopy jowls, which add to their overall charm. They can often get what they want just by looking at you, and it’s easy to see when they are unhappy.

Saint Bernard sitting in meadow
Image Credit: rokopix, Shutterstock

14. Therapy Dogs

Their friendly and calm temperament makes a St. Bernard well-suited for therapy work, providing comfort and emotional support to those in need. Use a professional trainer when the dog is still a puppy to prepare them for this job.

15. Unique Howl

The St. Bernard has a deep and melodious howl, which they use to communicate or express themselves in certain situations. Anyone that’s heard it can instantly recognize it, and it will help you keep track of your pet when there are many dogs around.

saint bernard dog standing on the lawn
Image Credit: Rita_Kochmarjova, Shutterstock

16. Adaptability to Different Climates

Despite their origins in the snowy Swiss Alps, St. Bernards can adapt well to various climates, including warm regions, with proper care. However, when it gets hot, you may notice that they lose their appetite, which means it’s time to cool them down and ensure that they have plenty of water to stay hydrated.

17. Show Dogs

The St. Bernard is a popular participant in dog shows, where judges review their size and coat and determine if they conform to breed standards. They often come out on top and are usually one of the main attractions of any event that they enter.

saint bernard dog at the dog show
Image By: DmyTo, Shutterstock


Final Thoughts

There are so many interesting facts about St. Bernards, many of which are positive. They are intelligent and strong dogs that are capable of performing search-and-rescue operations in the harshest weather but are kind and gentle at home with family members and other pets. They have expressive faces that convey their feelings and are popular in the film industry, starring in several movies. The only downsides are that their double coat requires a great deal of brushing to keep it looking its best and that they tend to drool.

Featured Image Credit: Grigorita Ko, Shutterstock

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