The St.Bernard, mythical dog of mountains
The St. Bernard is the mountain dog par excellence. This huge hound is every bit as powerful as the world with which it’s associated, measuring 80 cm (height at withers) and weighing up to 90 kg. Discover this animal with Renée and Jean-Pierre, breeders of St. Bernards in the Mont-Blanc valley.
The St. Bernard, mountain rescuer
This dog gets its name from the Swiss mountain pass: The Grand-Saint-Bernard. During the Middles Ages, the Augustinian canons built a hospice there. It was these monks who were responsible for introducing the animal to help rescue lost mountain climbers or those caught in an avalanche. The Canons of the Hospice only closed the Grand-Saint-Bernard breeding kennels in 2004. Today, the Martigny kennels have been taken over by the Barry foundation, named after a famous dog.
The story of Barry
Barry is one of the most famous St. Bernards who lived with the monks. During the 19th century, he alone was responsible for saving more than 40 lives. Some stories tell of how he was killed by a lost climber who thought the animal wanted to attack him. In reality, Barry died of old age and has been stuffed and preserved in Berne museum.
“But how old is the barrel around its neck?”
René was asked this rather amusing question by a small girl, a question which clearly illustrates the power of the image of the St. Bernard.
The contents of this small barrel continue to be a source of discussion. One thing’s for sure; contrary to popular opinion, it contained no alcoholic spirits but rather a warm drink. The dog would set off in search of the missing climber and then provide him with some early sustenance while waiting for more help to arrive. Others think that it was a way of reassuring mountain travellers, who encountered the dog, that it wasn’t wild and encouraging them to follow it. Although we are unsure about the purpose of this barrel, it really did exist and is exhibited in the Great Saint Bernard museum.
To learn more about the St.Bernard , discover the article on the last issue of the magazine Hiking on the Moon #8 by Quechua, special MOUNTAIN LIFE!