AKC Group: Working
Height: Minimum 27.5 inches (70 cm) for males, 25.5 inches (65 cm) for females (Male)
Weight: 110 pounds (Male)
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The history of the Saint Bernard goes back centuries. Between what are now Italy, at 8,000 feet (2,438 m) above sea level, is the oldest pass through the western Alps, dating back to at least the Bronze Age. From ancient times, travel through this pass was risky - not only was there the threat of marauders, but it was difficult to traverse the permanent snow cover. In the 10th century, Bernard of Menthon, an Augustine monk, established a monastery and a hospice at the pass to aid travelers. Because of the help he gave and the people he saved, Bernard was made a saint, and the place came to be called the Great Saint Bernard Pass. A hospice and monastery continued on the site for centuries.
In the late 1600s, the monks began to keep large dogs as draft animals and guard dogs. They were probably descended from mastiff-type dogs first brought to the area by the Roman armies. By the year 1700, possibly because they had accompanied the monks on patrol after bad storms, the dogs had evolved into a role as rescuers. A team of dogs would use their keen sense of smell to find a lost traveler, sometimes under feet of snow. One dog would run back to the monastery for help, while the others crowded around the traveler to keep him warm. There have been more than 2,000 documented rescues by these noble dogs.
In 1962, a Saint Bernard named Beggar was named "Dog Hero of the Year" after he pulled three-year-old Bobby Mitchell out of a flooded river, saving his life.