Intrepid Superhero Pets: The life-saving St. Bernard
The St. Bernard is famous all around the world and embodies dignity, devotion and sacrifice. So, how did this breed of dog become one of Switzerland’s most iconic and intrepid ambassadors?
The St. Bernard is physically considered as powerful, imposing and massive. A male stands a minimum 27.5 inches at the shoulder; females will be smaller and more delicately built. This massive dog is named for the ancient Hospice du Grand St. Bernard founded by the monk St. Bernard, a monastery in the St. Bernard Pass between Switzerland and Italy in the 11th century. This high mountain pass — over 8,000 feet, in fact — is snowed in much of the year.
An Alpine legend
In the mid-1700s, the monks who inhabited the isolated monastery began using St. Bernard to help locate and recover travelers lost in the treacherous route referred to as the “White Death.”
The St. Bernard made rescue excursions on the St. Bernard Pass for the next 150 years. Often the dogs would find buried travelers, dig through the snow and lie on top of the injured to provide warmth. Meanwhile, the other dog would return to the hospice to alert the monks of the stranded pilgrim. The system became so organized that when Napoleon and his 250,000 soldiers crossed through the pass between 1790 and 1810, not one soldier lost his life.
The cask – an essential part of the St Bernard image
Although in legend casks of liquor were strapped around the dogs' collars to warm up travelers, no historical records exist that document this practice. But another legend was very real: famous St. Bernard, Barry, who lived in the monastery from 1800-1812, saved the lives of more than 40 people!
We can say that the St-Bernard deserves the title of "Intrepid Superhero Pet"!