One of the most popular dogs worldwide, the St.Bernard of today used to look quite different back in the 1600's. Closely associated with the Hospice of Saint Bernard in the Swiss Alps, the ancestors of this breed were developed by monks using Italian Alpine Mastinos and old British mastiffs and bandogges, which were employed as guardians. The indegenous cattledog population found in the Swiss Alps also served as a building block for the development of the breed. All of the original St.Bernard dogs were short-haired, as were the other local farmdogs in the area. It was only after the plague, which took the lives of almost every old St.Bernard dog, that the monks imported other breeds in order to revitalize their stock. The Great Pyrenees and the Newfoundland dogs were reportedly crossed with the remaining St.Bernards to create a more resilient dog. This resulted in an increased number of unwanted softer-tempered, heavier and long-haired animals, which were given away. Some early Leonbergers were also found at the hospice and it is very likely that they were used in the breeding of the St.Bernard Mastiff as well.
There are also reports of some Eastern breeds being introduced, most notably the Armenian Storm Dogs, one of the mountain Gampr types, but this theory requires more research. No longer the ferocious guardian, the St.Bernard has become an amenable companion of the monks, who have realized that their dogs could be employed to find stranded travellers in the snow-covered mountains, thanks to their love of humans and aptitude for rescue work, courtesy of the Newfoundland heritage. The famous stories of their life-saving prowess slowly spread throughout Europe, sparking the interest in the breed outside of its home region. Whether all of the original St.Bernards were really used as rescue dogs at all is not completely clear, but the popular legend persists. The monks weren't the only ones that bred this type of dog, either. Other Swiss and German breeders were also responsible for developing the St.Bernard, some dedicated to creating only the short-haired dogs, while others were breeding for the increasingly popular long-haired variant. The modern Saint Bernard is a reincarnation of those 2nd and 3rd generation dogs, developed from specimens still found throughout the Swiss Alps, as well as from Spanish Mastiffs and the Landseer. The breed was standardized in the 19th century and by the 1920's the St.Bernard was a fully recognized and well-loved Molosser.
Intelligent, calm and loving of humans, the Saint Bernard is a loyal family pet and children's playmate. The breed's size makes it better suited for rural areas or homes with spacious backyards, but many Bernadiners make agreable urban companions. The breed isn't very dog-aggressive or confrontational, although some dominant males can be effective defenders of their territory when provoked. Good-natured and well-behaved examples of this breed have helped promote the mighty Saint as a gentle giant and this lovely mastiff is today a popular pet all over the world. The coat still comes in two varieties of smooth and rough, that being the only difference between the two types. Both the short-coated and longhaired puppies are found in St.Bernard litters, due to the common and planned matings between the two types, in order to preserve the original phenotype. This is a wide-chested and well-boned mastiff, with a large head and fairly loose skin.
Regardless of coat type, the Bernardiner is densely undercoated and weatherproof. The colouring is usually either white with red, orange and mahogany patches or white with a solid fully coloured back of those shades, with minimal black markings, except for a partial black mask on the muzzle. The average height is around 30 inches.