St Bernards belong to the pastoral group and their true function is search and rescue work. They make excellent family pets and, of course, are admired in the show-ring.
>£15 per week
Feeding St Bernard puppies takes knowledge, time and money. It is imperative they are given the correct feeding when young to ensure correct growth and development of bones. Advice must be taken from the breeder as diet greatly affects this breed's orthopedic well being. Over-supplementation, along with feeding lesser quality food can result in growth complications.
Puppies will cost from £950 - £1100. Definitely one of the most expensive breeds to own, with large feeding bills. Yearly health check-ups at your vet are to be recommended.
< 9 years
The St Bernard can have quite a short lifespan, 6 years not being uncommon. The correct diet and regular health check-ups will, however, prolong their lives, in which case they can live to 10 or 11 years.
Average Litter Size
Litter sizes vary dramatically from 1 to 16 puppies. The average is 9.
General Physical Description
Weight Height Range
The dog stands at a minimum of 70cms and the bitch at 65cms. There are no upper limits but the tallest recorded is 91cms. Their weight depends on the size and build of the dog or bitch but is normally around 68 to 91 kgs.
The very size of St Bernards make them susceptible to a variety of skeletal and bone-related problems. Hip dysplasia is a very serious problem and parents must be hip-scored with good results before any breeding takes place. The eye problems are less serious and hemophilia B and epilepsy, whilst infrequent, have been reported.
Susceptibility To Illness
The breed takes its name from the Hospice of the Great Saint Bernard Pass which was founded in AD980 by St Bernard de Menthon as a refuge for travellers through the dangerous Alpine pass between Switzerland and Italy. By 1707 the overworked monks realised that dogs with their superior noses, strength and weather-resistant coats were better equipped to rescue travellers. They had an in-bred sense of direction which was the key to survival in blizzards which caused humans to become totally lost and disorientated. Early records have been lost but by 1800, the monks had established their own breeding programme, calling the dogs Alpine Mastiffs. Edwin Landseer painted these dogs on canvas, one entitled, 'Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveller' portrayed two dogs standing over a fallen traveller. One of the dogs was baying for help, and the other had the well-known brandy cask around its neck, attempting to revive the man by licking his hand. This famous, though non-existent brandy keg has carried as a symbol through the years. Tales of great rescues were reported with one of the most famous dogs, Barry, having saved the lives of 40 people. On his 41st mission, the traveller killed the poor dog in a 'fit of cowardly terror'. Around 1810 the breed was often referred to as Barry hounds. In the 1830's many of the dogs were lost due to interbreeding, disease and bad winters causing the monks to outcross the remaining dogs with Newfoundlands, Great Pyrenees and also, it is thought, Great Danes. This established the St Bernard's breed. Today the breed is still a mascot at the monastery. In 1870 the Reverend J C Macdona, an English owner, brought the breed before the public, making a sensation in America. In 1877 the first St Bernards' were shown at Westminster Kennel Club and in their catalogue, asking prices for sales of some of the breed reached US$1000. The breed still enjoys tremendous popularity in America, although its numbers in Britain and the Continent remain limited.
Because they are slow thinkers, St Bernards require a lot of understanding from their owners during training. Young dogs must be taught from an early age not to pull on their leads as this habit will be difficult to break when they are older.<
In the Rough coated, the coat should be dense and flat, fuller round the neck and thighs with a well feathered tail. In the Smooth coated, the coat should be close and hound-like with slight feathering on the thighs and tail. The head should be massive, a short muzzle with a somewhat abrupt stop and fairly prominent brow. The nose should be large and black with well developed nostrils. The jaws should be strong with a complete scissor bite. The eyes should be medium-sized and dark in colour. The ears should be medium-sized, lying close to the cheeks, with no heavy feathering. The neck should be long, thick and muscular, joining onto broad and sloping shoulders. The back should be broad and straight with well rounded ribs. The forelegs should be straight, with good bone and of good length. The back legs should again be heavy in bone with muscular thighs. The feet are large, compact with well arched toes. The tail should be set on high, long and carried low. Markings should be as follows: white muzzle, white blaze on face, white collar, white chest, white forelegs, feet and end of tail, black shadings on face and ears.
Country Of Origin
Barry, the most successful mountain rescue dog ever recorded who died in 1814 with 40 lives to his credit.
60 - 80 minutes per day.
Exercising St Bernard puppies must be done very gradually to avoid putting excess strain on their growing bones and tender tissues and, even with the adult dog, care must taken to build up exercise gradually. Having said that, for their size they really do not need copious amounts of exercise. As puppies, they must not be allowed to go up and down stairs. Care must again be taken if giving free running off the lead to ensure they do not damage their limbs. Roadwork is ideal to keep them controlled and muscled up.
Distress if Left Alone
Guard Dog Suitability
Risk of Sheep Worrying
Tendency to Bark
Level of Aggression
Compatibility With Other Animals
Suitable For Children
General Character And Temperament
A 'gentle giant' sums up the character of the St Bernard. They are good-humoured, trustworthy and benign. This is a breed that loves family life and revels in the company of children. They are very loyal dogs who rarely bark, but will defend you and your possessions if necessary. They normally accept other household animals with no problems. The breed is not the most extroverted but is a slow, deep thinker.
Requires Professional Groomer
Grooming is not a problem apart from the amount of coat to get through! St Bernards need brushed or combed daily to remove loose hairs. The ears should be kept clean and the eyes checked very regularly, especially those dogs with drooping eyelids. St Bernards are clean animals but do tend to slobber.
This breed can be solid white with red markings; solid red with white markings or brindle patches with white. There are both long and short haired St Bernards.
Suffers From Allergies