Saint Bernard

This large, impressive-looking dog is thought by some to be a member of the Molossus group of dogs, used by ancient Greeks, Persians and Romans as war dogs, guards and fighting dogs. However, it is anything but aggressive and is very affectionate.


Roman armies took their war dogs marching north through the Alpine passes and these may have been the ancestors of the Alpine Mastiff-style breeds. Another theory is that some big "cow herding" breeds were already in existence and the St Bernard evolved from them. Their name comes from the Saint Bernard pass between Switzerland and Italy where a hospice was founded in 1050 to aid travellers. In the mid-1600s. the hospice was under threat from brigands, so they acquired big watch dogs. They proved so successful in finding lost travellers and detecting incipient avalanches that the monks started to breed them. The first St Bernards had short, thick hair, but when they came to Britain in 1810 they were crossed with Newfoundlands to get longer hair, making them popular as pets but not so good in snow; they were first exhibited in 1863.

The gentle Saint Bernard requires a lot of space, grooming and attention from owner. It will repay all the work you put in with outstanding loyalty and affection.


This dog has an unsurpassed gentle temperament and seems to be "in tune" with its human family, particularly children. Intelligent, courageous and faithful, the Saint Bernard is relatively easy to train but is very sensitive by nature, so harsh training is always counterproductive.

must know

Some hip dysplasia and heart problems have been reported in this giant breed of dog.


This dog is well boned with a broad, muscled back. There are two coats: roughs (dense and flat with well feathered thighs and tail); and smooths (close and hound-like, with light feathering on the thighs and tail). Colours may be orange, mahogany-brindle, red-brindle, or white with patches of these colours. They can have a white muzzle, blaze, collar, chest, forelegs, feet and tail end, and black shading on the face and ears. The Standard gives no size but the "taller the better" as long as symmetry is kept.

Strangers 4/5

Suspicious, will warn vociferously

Temperament 5/5


Exercise 4/5

When adult, as much exercise as possible

Grooming 4/5

Twice a week

Other dogs 2/5

Not given to quarrelling


A sensitive, very benign family dog, loyal and gentle

General care

Puppies and young dogs should not have long walks: wait until the bones and joints have ossified. Good, nourishing food is needed for rapid growth at this age. Keep this dog wormed at the correct intervals, as worms ruin the coat. Groom at least twice a week.

Gallery of Saint Bernard