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Alpine Mastiff Breed Description

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Breed Organization

Saint Bernard Club of America

Native Country

Other Names
Bernhardiner, St Barnhardshund, Saint Bernard

Life Expectancy
Approximately 8-10 Years

Litter Size
Average 6-8 Puppies

Breed Group
AKC Working, Mastiff

General Description

The Saint Bernard is a breed of very large working dog from the Italian and Swiss Alps, originally bred for rescue. The breed has become famous through tales of alpine rescues, as well as for its enormous size. There are now three Saint Bernard standards; a modified old Swiss version still used in the United States, the English version, and a much revised Swiss version adopted by all FCI countries in 1993. The Saint Bernard Club of America (Saint Bernard Club of America) maintains that the only standard that correctly describes the original hospice type is the Swiss Standard adopted in 1884. Since the currently approved American Kennel Club standard differs only slightly from the original Swiss Standard, it is the position of the Saint Bernard Club of America that this is the only standard that is acceptable.

The St. Bernard is recognized internationally today as one of the molosser breeds.[6] It is a giant dog. The coat can be either smooth or rough; the smooth coat being close and flat, while the rough is dense, flat, and more profuse around the neck and legs. The colour is typically a red shade with white, or a mahogany brindle with white. Black shading is usually found on the face and ears. The tail is long and heavy, hanging high. The eyes are usually brown, but sometimes can be icy blue.

Breed Standard

Head: Powerful and imposing. Broad, slightly domed skull. Straight nose bridge. Short muzzle. Large nose.
Ears: Medium size, set on high, triangular, drop.
Eyes: Fairly large. Dark brown color. Dark rims.
Body: Imposing. Powerful neck. Withers strongly pronounced. Ribs well sprung.
Tail: Long, heavy, hanging down and reaching the hocks.
Hair: Two varieties: - Short-haired: Dense, tough, lying smooth; abundant undercoat. - Long-haired: Straight. Culottes, feathering, bushy tail. Short on the face and ears. Abundant undercoat.
Coat: White with moderately large reddish-brown markings. Reddish-brown brindle is permissible. Dark shadings on the head are favored.
Size: Dog: at least 70 cm Bitch: at least 65 cm
Weight: 55 to 100 kg.


The Saint Bernard is thought to be descended from ancient Molosser dogs that crossed the Alps with the Roman legions. This breed's roots can be traced to Switzerland where monks at the Grand Saint Bernard Hospice (founded in the Middle Ages) developed the breed around the twelfth century. The St. Bernard quickly developed a reputation as a mountain rescue dog. The most famous Saint Bernard in history, Barry, born in 1800, saved forty people over a period of ten years. Prior to 1830, Saint Bernards had short coats. They were later crossed with the Newfoundland, and the long-haired variety was created. It is the long-haired variety that is now most common. Called at different times in history the Mountain Dog, the Saint Bernard, and the Barry Dog, this breed was officially recognized as the Saint Bernard in 1880. The Swiss Saint Bernard club was formed in Basel in 1884, and the St. Bernard's standard was fixed in Bern as of 1887.


Known as a classic example of a gentle giant, the Saint Bernard is calm, patient and sweet with adults, and especially children. However St. Bernards, like all very large dogs, must be well socialized with people and other dogs in order to prevent fearfulness and any possible aggression or territoriality. The biggest threat to small children is being accidentally knocked over by this breed's larger size. Overall they are a gentle, loyal and affectionate breed, and if socialized are very friendly. Because of its large adult size, it is essential that proper training and socialization begin while the St. Bernard is still a puppy, so as to avoid the difficulties that normally accompany training large dogs. An unruly St. Bernard may present problems for even a strong adult, so control needs to be asserted from the beginning of the dog's training. While generally not instinctively protective, a St. Bernard may bark at strangers, and their size makes them good deterrents against possible intruders.

This breed requires considerable space and long walks every day. Energetic daily brushing is required. The St. Bernard does not tolerate heat well.

The St. Bernard was bred to be a working companion and to this day the St. Bernard lives to please its master and is an amiable yet hard worker. St. Bernards have retained their natural ability for scent work and depending on the skill of the trainer and the talents of the dog, St. Bernards can participate in tracking events or even become involved in search and rescue work.


Guard Dog, Mountain Rescue Dog, Pet.


The very fast growth rate and the weight of a St. Bernard can lead to very serious deterioration of the bones if the dog does not get proper food and exercise. Many dogs are genetically affected by hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia. Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) has been shown to be hereditary in the breed. They are susceptible to eye disorders called entropion and ectropion, in which the eyelid turns in or out. The breed standard indicates that this is a major fault. The breed is also susceptible to epilepsy and seizures, a heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy, and eczema.

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The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) was the first humane society to be established in North America and is, today, one of the largest in the world.

Our organization was founded on the belief that animals are entitled to kind and respectful treatment at the hands of humans and must be protected under the law. Headquartered in New York City, the ASPCA maintains a strong local presence, and with programs that extend our anti-cruelty mission across the country, we are recognized as a national animal welfare organization. We are a privately funded 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, and are proud to boast more than 2 million supporters across the country.

The ASPCA’s mission, as stated by founder Henry Bergh in 1866, is “to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States.”

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Jeff Gold, Founder, Rescue Me! Animal Rescue Network

Jeff Gold lives in Watkinsville, Georgia on the same property as Rescue Me's Animal Rehabilitation Center, with 18 rescue animals. Shown with him in the photo to the left are Maggie, Izzie and Cortez. In 2003, after learning there was nobody doing boxer rescue work in Georgia, Gold founded Boxertown, an organization which helped find homes for over 500 boxers during its first two years. Based upon this success, Gold came up with the vision for Rescue Me! ― a network which helps all breeds of dogs, cats and other animals find good homes, anywhere in the world. is also a free service of Rescue Me! and provides the world's largest and most up-to-date directory of animal rescue organizations for all breeds of dogs, cats and other animals, including a comprehensive directory of wildlife rehabilitators in over 150 countries.