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7 Facts About St. Bernards You Probably Didn’t Know

Written by: Arlene Divina
Arlene Divina, one of the content writers at IHD, loves going on adventures with her adorable fur baby. She now creates informative content for pet parents. Read more
| Published on May 18, 2023

St. Bernards, known for their impressive size and amiable nature, have been the beloved giants of the canine world for centuries. While many know them as rescue dogs from the Swiss Alps, there’s much more to these gentle giants. Here are seven surprising facts about St. Bernards that you probably didn’t know.

  1. Monastic Origins

St. Bernards got their name from the Great St. Bernard Hospice, a traveler’s refuge in the treacherous Swiss Alps. Monks at the hospice started breeding these dogs around the year 1660 for rescue missions in the snowy mountains. Before being officially named St. Bernard, they were known as “Saint Dogs,” “Noble Steeds,” or “Barry Dogs.”

  1. Rescue Superstars

The most famous St. Bernard was named Barry, who reportedly saved between 40 and 100 lives in the early 19th century. His taxidermied body is now displayed in the Natural History Museum in Bern, Switzerland. Unlike the common image, the rescue dogs didn’t carry brandy barrels around their necks. This was a myth perpetuated by a popular painting by artist Edwin Landseer.

  1. Gentle Temperament

Despite their intimidating size, St. bernards are known as “gentle giants.” They have a calm, friendly temperament and are notably patient and gentle with children. They are also known to get along well with other pets, making them a wonderful choice for a family dog.

  1. They Drool…A Lot

St. Bernards are one of the breeds known for drooling excessively. This is due to their loose, fleshy mouths and lips that don’t contain saliva very well. Prospective owners should be prepared for a bit of a mess, especially after meals or during hot weather when drooling can increase.

  1. Not Built for Heat

St. Bernards have a thick double coat designed to withstand the harsh cold of the Swiss Alps, making them poorly suited to hot climates. They can easily overheat and must be kept in cooler environments. Air conditioning in the summer months is a must for these dogs.

  1. Short Lifespan

Unfortunately, like many giant breeds, St. Bernards have a comparatively short lifespan. On average, they live between 8 to 10 years. However, they fill those years with boundless love and loyalty, and proper care can sometimes extend this lifespan.

  1. The Heaviest Dog

The record for the heaviest dog ever recorded belongs to a St. Bernard named Benedictine, who weighed a staggering 367 pounds. While modern St. Bernards don’t typically reach this weight, they are still one of the heaviest breeds, with males weighing between 140 and 180 pounds on average.

Learn More About the St. Bernard Dog Breed: Information, Facts & Pictures

In conclusion, the St. Bernard breed, renowned for its size and rescue history, harbors a wealth of lesser-known facts. From their monastic origins and famous rescuer Barry to their temperaments, drooling, and sensitivity to heat, these insights give us a deeper appreciation of the breed. While their short lifespan and significant weight might pose challenges, their gentle, loving nature makes them a beloved member of any family. Whether you’re a proud St. Bernard owner or an admirer of the breed, these unexpected facts underline the unique charm of these gentle giants.

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