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St. Bernard


 

The Saint Bernard appears to originate from native dogs that have been present in the Alps for millenia. Roman armies crossed into Switzerland in the second century possibly bringing with them an infusion of Mastiff-type dogs. These dogs form the background of today's Swiss breeds, including the Saint Bernard. As with all modern Swiss breeds, (including Bernese Mountain Dogs, Great Swiss Mountain Dogs, Entlebuch Cattle Dogs, and Appenzell Cattle Dogs) these dogs were used for a variety of duties including guarding, herding, and drafting. By 1000AD, these ancestral dogs were apparently well known and referred to as "Talhund" (Valley Dog) or "Bauernhund" (Farm Dog) by this time. They came in a variety of sizes and shapes.

The breed that has been credited with saving more than 2,500 travelers lost in the snow was named for the Hospice du Grand St. Bernard in Switzerland, where the monks have bred these large dogs since the 17th century. The breed is thought to be a combination of the blood of the Great Dane, Sennenhund, Bloodhound and Mastiff. Original Alpine dogs were smaller and shorter coated than the St. Bernard we know today.

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