The Saint Bernard is famous as a search and rescue dog. They can detect a person under many feet of snow and have even been known to detect snow storms and avalanches. Early rescue dogs would go out in pairs so that one dog could lay next to the victim to keep them warm while the other went back for a rescue team.
They are giant, strong and muscular with a massive, powerful head. Their dense coat can be rough or smooth and comes in red with white or mahogany brindle with white. They usually have black shading on the face and ears.
They were bred by monks from the Saint Bernard Hospice to rescue travellers caught by avalanches in the Alps. Early Saint Bernards were a little smaller and had shorter hair because the long hair would fill with ice and weigh them down.
Saint Bernards are gentle, friendly and patient. They are slow moving, extremely loyal and intelligent and easy to train. They are affectionate to other animals, people and children but need to be trained to be impeccably behaved due to their great size. They have good stamina so need a long daily walk but don't tolerate hot conditions well.
They need to be brushed and combed fairly regularly and bathed only occasionally so that the coat is not stripped of its natural oils. Their eyes need to be checked, too, as they have a tendency to water. St Bernards are prone to "wobbler" syndrome, heart problems, skin problems, hip dysplasia, tumours, extropion and bloat. They also have a tendency to wheeze, snore and drool.