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.
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.