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Playful, charming, and inquisitive, the Saint Bernard is considered the genial giant of the Swiss Alps that guarded the grounds of Switzerland’s Hospice Saint Bernard and helped find and rescue wounded travelers. Today, these big dogs enjoy the comforts of family life in a number of homes worldwide.
See the fact file below for more information on the Saint Bernard or alternatively, you can download our 20-page Saint Bernard worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- The Saint Bernard anchors its roots in Switzerland, together with other breeds, such as the Bernese Mountain Dog, Entlebuch Cattle Dog, Appenzell Cattle Dog, and Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.
- These dogs were bred when dogs of the Alps were crossed with Mastiff-type dogs that accompanied the Roman army during the reign of emperor Augustus. By the first millenium AD, canines in the Swiss Alps were brought together and were called “Talhund” (Valley Dog) or “Bauernhund” (Farm Dog).
- The Saint Bernard Pass is a famous and dangerous alpine road that reaches roughly 8,000 feet above sea level.
- Currently, remains of the great Roman road can still be viewed, as well as evidence of Napoleon’s crossing.
- Archdeacon Bernard de Menthon visited the pass (which would later be named after him) in 962 AD, and there he established his hospital that treated injured travelers. This was when the dog’s origins split from the Talhund or Bauerhund.
- It is debatable when these dogs first became part of the hospice, but a painting portraying compact, short-haired dogs that greatly resemble modern Saint Bernards was painted in 1685. The first recorded mention of the breed in monastery’s documents was in 1703.
- Saints were used by the hospital monks to protect the grounds. When the monks went to find lost travelers, they may have been accompanied by these dogs for protection. During these search and rescue operations, monks may have probably discovered by accident that these dogs were outstanding pathfinders that are able to spot helpless travelers. The isolation of the monastery was a factor in the refinement of the Saints into a breed that could endure severe winters and that developed the physical characteristics needed for retrieval work.
- The hospice’s breeding stock was sometimes filled with dogs from the lower valleys, most of which were puppies of the hospital dogs that were dispatched after birth. In 1830, the monks tried to improve the dogs’ coats by crossing them with thick-haired Newfoundland dogs. This seemed to be a mistake. The long-haired puppies were inferior because of ice buildup in their longer fur. After that, the monks gave away or sold any long-haired dogs they produced.
- Over the next three centuries, Saints were recognized for rescuing more than 2,000 travelers. By the 1800s, the hospice dogs did not have a formal name, despite being well-known. Between 1800 and 1810, Barry, a hospital dog, was acknowledged for finding 40 individuals and was among the most famous dogs that existed. The dogs were occasionally called Barryhunden in his honor.
- The English labeled them as Sacred Dogs and brought many of them to England to restore their own Mastiff breed. In Germany, the term Alpendog was one of the breed’s name suggestions in the 1820s. Thirteen years later, Daniel Wilson proposed that the breed be called the Saint Bernard Dog. This was eventually the winning title, as the Swiss Kennel Club acknowledged the breed in 1880.
- When the Saints became popular in other countries, these dogs’ strain started to change. Saint Bernards in other parts of the world became leaner and taller as a result of cross-breeding. In 1887, the International Congress of Zurich came up with the first breed standards. However England, unlike all the other countries, rejected it.
- In the United States, Plinlimmon, a Saint Bernard, became famous in 1883. He was owned by an actor and topped the dog shows of his time. His owner took him across the country, displaying him at theaters. In 1888, the Saint Bernard Club of America (SBCA) was established, and the club recognized the breed standards suggested by the Swiss. Saints rank 39th among the 155 breeds that were listed by the American Kennel Club.
- Today, Saints can be found in homes, on the big screen, and at dog shows, although there are still some who are serving at the Saint Bernard Hospice in Switzerland. They no longer search for wounded travelers but instead aid living representatives of hospice history.
- Males stand 28 to 30 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 140 to 180 pounds. Females, on the other hand, reach 26 to 28 inches tall and weigh 120 to 140 pounds.
- Muscular and imposing, the Saint Bernard’s skull is massively wide and slightly arched, and the sides slope mildly into the well-formed, prominent cheekbones.
- Deeply implanted between the eyes at the root of the muzzle is a furrow that extends over the whole skull. Its muzzle is short, with a straight bridge that is sometimes slightly broken.
- Its strong neck is set high when on alert or at attention. Otherwise, it points horizontally or slightly downward. Saints have broad, sloping shoulders and a deep, well-arched chest. They also have well-developed hindquarters, with moderately angled hocks and strong, broad toes. The thighs are slightly bushy, and the tail at the base has longer and thicker hair that slowly becomes shorter at the end.
- Short-haired (stockhaarig) Saints have very dense coats that usually come in white and red shades with brindle patches and white markings.
- Known as genial giants, the Saint Bernard is calm, patient, and affectionate with adults and children.
- Although naturally friendly, Saints should socialize with people and other dogs to get rid of fearfulness and any sign of aggression or territoriality, just like any large breed.
- They have retained their natural ability for scent work, and depending on how they are trained by their owners, these dogs can join in tracking events or be involved in search and rescue operations.
- Hip dysplasia. An abnormality in the hip socket, causing crippling lameness and painful joint inflammation, such as arthritis.
- Elbow dysplasia. An inherited condition that results from different growth rates of the three bones on the dog’s elbow, causing joint laxity.
- Entropion. This eye condition happens when the lower eyelid rolls inward, making the hair on the lid irritate the eye.
- Epilepsy. A hereditary condition that can cause mild or severe seizures.
- Cataracts. An eye condition that causes difficulty seeing, usually affecting dogs in old age. This happens when the Saint Bernard’s eyes have a cloudy appearance on the lens.
- Allergies. Saints are prone to food allergies (symptoms include dry, itchy skin, too much scratching or licking, bald patches, and a number of hotspots), contact allergies (caused by a reaction to flea powders, dog shampoos, and other chemical substances), and inhalant allergies (brought about by airborne allergens like pollen, dust, and mildew). Curing allergies depends on the cause and may include diet restrictions, medication, and a change of environment.
- Saints require only moderate amounts of exercise, but it is still necessary that they exercise to prevent obesity, which may be hard on their joints and can lead to arthritis or other orthopedic problems.
- They are more likely to experience heat exhaustion and heat stroke, so it is best for owners to avoid letting them exercise in the heat of the day. Owners should also make sure shade and fresh water are easy to reach.
Saint Bernard Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Saint Bernard across 20 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Saint Bernard worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Saint Bernard which is considered the genial giant of the Swiss Alps that guarded the grounds of Switzerland’s Hospice Saint Bernard and helped find and rescue wounded travelers. Today, these big dogs enjoy the comforts of family life in a number of homes worldwide.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Saint Bernard Facts
- The Giant Alpine Rescuer
- Breed Standards
- Fetch Some Facts
- Growing Up a Saint
- Just Saint Bernard Things
- Other Dogs of the Alps
- Pros and Cons of a Saint
- Handling a Gentle Giant
- The Barrel Myth
- Notable Saints
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Link will appear as Saint Bernard Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, November 5, 2020
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.