The Saint Bernard is a massive dog breed that is affectionate and gentle. They’re also intelligent and have made several appearances on the big screen. They’re well-loved around the world and are celebrated each year on May 28th, which is Saint Bernard Day.
However, this day is actually in remembrance of the man who created this stunning breed and the incredible person he was. There is a lot of confusion around the Catholic monk associated with this powerful breed, but we’ve got all the facts right here, so keep reading!
Who Created the Saint Bernard Dog?
A lot of people believe that St. Bernard of Clairvaux is the founder of the Saint Bernard breed because he is associated with a famous quote which, in modern form, reads as “Who loves me, loves my dog.” However, this Catholic monk had a lot more to do with bees than dogs and shouldn’t be confused with St. Bernard of Menthon (otherwise known as St. Bernard of Montjoux).
The Saint Bernard dog breed was named after St. Bernard of Montjoux after he died in 1081. His followers gave these giant dogs his name because he was the one who bred and trained them.
He wasn’t alone in his mission and had the help of several other monks who stayed with him in the monastery and hospice he established around 1050. This hospice is situated on a pass that is also named after the monk, called Great St. Bernard Pass, which is a route through the Western Alps separating Italy and Switzerland. Another hospice was established on Little St. Bernard Pass a few years later.
The Saint Bernard was developed to help with search and rescue missions in this dangerous and snowy area. They were put to work after avalanches and snowstorms to find lost, trapped, or injured people. The dogs succeeded in their mission and rescued over 2,000 people, with one dog named Barry saving more than 40 people on his own. His body remains in the Natural History Museum in Switzerland today.
The Saint Bernard breed continued to be bred at this hospice and monastery by the Augustinian monks up until 2004. The dogs have now been relocated, but the monastery is still an active one.
The Saint Bernard Nearly Went Extinct
These big dogs weren’t afraid to brave the cold and put their lives on the line to rescue those in need. Unfortunately, between 1816 and 1818, many Saint Bernards lost their lives during the harsh Alps winters as more and more avalanches occurred and buried these dogs as they went about their search and rescue missions.
At the end of 1818, these dogs had decreased in number so drastically that they were near extinction. The only way to save the breed was to breed the few remaining Saint Bernards that were left with Newfoundland dogs. Sadly, this brought about many changes in the breed, especially in their appearance and their rescue abilities.
What Is the Saint Bernard Like Today?
The Saint Bernard is a muscular and powerful breed that is giant in size. Males can weigh up to 200 pounds with a height of 27 inches. They have floppy ears, droopy eyes, and a large head. They have double coats of short or medium length that usually display the colors of red and white, brown and white, or brindle and white. They often have a mask over their dark eyes.
Saint Bernards are big droolers who love food. However, they shouldn’t be overfed because the extra weight, as well as their large bodies, can cause joint problems. They require moderate grooming and shed twice a year, which is when brushing sessions should become more frequent. Saint Bernards needs to be exercised, but because of their laid-back natures, they only require around 20 minutes of exercise or active play a day.
Saint Bernards are excellent companions who are often described as gentle giants. They are social and love people. They also love attention, and when they don’t get it, they tend to sulk. They are a breed that needs to be around their owners and should not be left on their own all day long.
They love to be a part of family activities and are great with children. Although placid and friendly, they are protective over their family members. These dogs require training early on but are easy to train thanks to their pleasing personalities and their intelligent minds.
How to Celebrate Saint Bernard Day
The best way to celebrate Saint Bernard Day is to create awareness around this special breed. You can give a donation to a Saint Bernard rescue shelter in your area, or you can give up a few hours of your day to volunteer at the shelter by washing, brushing, and walking the dogs at the shelter. You can even ask friends and family to join you in donating food and dog necessities to a Saint Bernard shelter.
This day is celebrated in honor of St. Bernard of Montjoux, the work he did, the lives he saved, and the stunning breed he developed. You can honor his legacy by educating yourself on what he did and sharing that information with others.
Saint Bernard Day 2023 is on May 28th. It is a day to honor the life of St. Bernard of Montjoux and the breed he developed. Saint Bernards were created to help with search and rescue missions in the Alps after snowstorms and avalanches buried or injured travelers. These dogs were excellent at their tasks, but many of their lives were lost during their efforts.
The original Saint Bernard was bred with Newfoundland dogs, which resulted in many changes. However, the giant breed we know and love today are excellent companions and deserve to be celebrated around the world.
Featured Image Credit: Fotokostic, Shutterstock