In the very center of the Alps, at an altitude of almost 2.5 km, on the Bolshoy Saint Bernard Pass there is a shelter.
For many centuries the pass served as a sort of watershed between the Mediterranean and the countries of Central and Northern Europe. Amphitheater of mountains of unprecedented beauty with icy jagged peaks.
Due to the special location on the Bolshoy Saint Bernard Pass, cold winds are raging all year round, making these places practically uninhabitable. At least in the form we are used to.
For hundreds of centuries, the legend of the Saint Bernard dogs, sacred dogs about which children all over the world learn from school textbooks. St. Bernard is undoubtedly the most famous breed of dogs, which for centuries has faithfully served man.
The most reliable hypothesis about the history of the origin of St. Bernard He considers this huge alpine dog to be the descendant of the Giant Tibetan Mastino, from which all large mountain dogs originate, as well as fighting dog breeds. His first image (a bas-relief depicting a slave leading a huge dog on a leash), kept in the British Museum, dates back to 850 BC.
The impressive size of a dog can be judged by the fact that its head is at the level of a person’s shoulder. The constitution, the backbone, the musculature of the dog speak of its remarkable strength, which is a distinctive feature of modern St. Bernard. Most likely, Aristotle described this dog as “a watchdog of extraordinary power”. And Marco Polo described her as “a dog the size of a donkey and in everything resembling a lion, and roaring and physique”. The Romans used these dogs to protect herds and in fights with wild animals. In the Alps, they got along with the legions during the campaigns of Alexander the Great.
Pursuing the rescue of people in the mountains, the monks of the shelter tried to use for this purpose the most varied breeds of dogs, but given the particularly complex nature of this activity, which implies special strength and endurance, they finally settled on large dogs that were bred by residents of the Swiss valley. Initially, dogs were used to protect the shelter from robbers and wolves, but over time they began to be involved in the rescue work, which constitutes the main activity of the monks of Greater St. Bernard.
It was the monks, engaged in breeding dogs by crossing related individuals, that were able to preserve and consolidate such characteristics as - great growth, physical strength - the qualities most needed to save people in the mountains. The rescue work conducted by the monastery reached its peak between 1795 and 1851, when amongst other dogs St. Bernard Barry I was particularly famous - the most famous rescue dog in history, having saved life from 1800-1812 to at least 44 people. In honor of the merits in Paris, St. Bernard Barry erected a monument.
History breeding St. Bernards outside the orphanage begins with the name of the Swiss dog breeder Schumacher, who grew up on many individuals, taking the old Barry as the standard. The morphological portrait of St. Bernard, which almost coincides with the present, was approved at a congress of dog handlers in Zurich in 1887 (although the name “Saint Bernard” was officially fixed 7 years before - in 1880). This date symbolizes the official entrance of St. Bernard into the world of organized dog breeding and dog shows, which were first held in England in the middle of the last century and spread from there throughout Europe.
Thus, the British merit the fact that they became the first true propagandists of this breed. Without their efforts, the St. Bernard breed probably did not receive further development. Since this time, both in Switzerland and in Germany, a number of outstanding dog breeders have appeared, whose work has had a significant impact on the development of the breed. Beginning in the twenties, the “golden age” of the Saint Bernards in Europe began, which lasted more than 20 years.