If you’re a horror fan, you might be familiar with the cult classic Cujo (1983) or the original Stephen King novel about a dog called—you guessed it—Cujo. If you’re curious about what breed poor Cujo was, he was a Saint Bernard.
Saint Bernards are absolutely wonderful dogs with fantastic temperaments—they’re gentle, calm, and the ultimate family dogs, in a nutshell. If you’re curious to know more about these gentle giants and the character of Cujo, read on! Let’s kick off with a little refresher for those who are thinking about watching the movie or haven’t seen it in a while.
Who Is Cujo?
Stephen King’s psychological thriller Cujo is the story of a once sweet and affectionate Saint Bernard dog that turns rabid and murderous after being bitten by a bat. In a rare twist, this novel’s antagonist is an animal rather than a human, which was a huge part of the novel and movie’s intrigue.
Who Played Cujo in the Movie?
In Cujo (1983), there were actually five canine stars of the show! Four of these dogs were real Saint Bernards and one was—wait for it—a Labrador-Great Dane crossbreed donning a Saint Bernard dog costume. In addition to this, stuntman Gary Morgan dressed up as Cujo to play him in certain shots. Mechanical dogs were also brought in when necessary.
How Do Dogs Get Rabies?
Dogs contract the rabies virus when an infected animal bites them, which transmits the disease via saliva. In the US, the animals most likely to pass on rabies are bats, skunks, foxes, raccoons, and coyotes.
Are Rabid Dogs Really Aggressive?
They can be. Symptoms of rabies in dogs include aggression, agitation, irritability, and sensitivity to lights and movement. In some cases, rabies can make dogs even more affectionate or clingy than usual or conversely cause them to become impassive.
What Are Saint Bernards Really Like?
Though the character of Cujo is absolutely terrifying (through no fault of his own, mind you), a Saint Bernard’s actual temperament is a far cry from the violent, bloodthirsty dog you read about in the book or saw in the movie. If you watch the first part of the movie or read the first part of the book before Cujo gets bitten, you’ll get a much better idea of what Saint Bernards are actually like.
Due to their history of being bred to rescue people in the Italian-Swiss Western Alps in the 18th century, Saint Bernards are naturally alert and watchful while at the same time being as soft as cookie dough. They’re typically great with families and especially children because of their patience and how much they enjoy cuddles and just chilling out with their favorite people.
Saint Bernards are probably as far away from aggressive as you can get, but their natural alertness makes for an excellent watchdog that won’t hesitate to alert you to potential dangers. They’re not a high-energy or especially playful breed and tend to prefer life in the slow lane, but they still need daily walks and exercise.
Are Saint Bernards Hard to Care For?
Saint Bernards are really easygoing and aren’t difficult to train, but, for other reasons, they’re not the easiest dogs to care for. For one thing, there’s no getting around the fact that they’re humungous. These giant dogs typically stand between 26 and 30 inches tall and can weigh anywhere from 120 to 180 pounds, with males being somewhat taller and heavier than females.
For this reason, Saint Bernards just aren’t built for life in small apartments—they’re better suited to families that can provide them with ample space to lounge about and exercise. Their large size can also make them a tad clumsy, so they might accidentally whack your favorite vase off the table when wagging their tail or knock a small child over while passing them.
For this reason, as with any dog, you should always supervise small children and Saint Bernards, not because they’re aggressive, but simply because they’re so big they might inadvertently cause a minor accident.
Saint Bernards have double coats so you can expect them to shed heavily, especially in shedding season (spring and fall). For this reason, regular brushing and sometimes de-shedding is a must. When it comes to bathing your Saint Bernard, you might want to consider investing in a low doggy bath they can climb into themselves—good luck lifting them into a bathtub is all we can say!
To sum up, Saint Bernards are best for people with lots of space, who are active and can commit to daily walks, and don’t mind tackling a heavy-shedding coat when necessary.
To recap, Cujo was a Saint Bernard—a sweet, affectionate dog breed that originated in the Italian-Swiss Alps. Saint Bernards are popular family dogs because of their gentleness and patience, but they’re very large and so won’t be suitable for every household. If you’re considering adopting a Saint Bernard, please consider whether you have the space and time to dedicate to their needs.
Featured Image Credit: Characters by Warner Bros. Pictures. All rights reserved to the copyright owners.