St. Bernard

Last updated October 2009

A breed standard is the guideline which describes the ideal characteristics, temperament and appearance including the correct colour of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for function. Absolute soundness is essential. Breeders and judges should at all times be careful to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which would be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of this breed.

From time to time certain conditions or exaggerations may be considered to have the potential to affect dogs in some breeds adversely, and judges and breeders are requested to refer to the Breed Watch information related to this breed for details of any such current issues. If a feature or quality is desirable it should only be present in the right measure. However, if a dog possesses a feature, characteristic or colour described as highly undesirable, it must not be rewarded in the show ring.

General appearance

Well proportioned and of great substance.


Distinctly marked, large-sized, mountain-rescue dog.


Steady, kindly, intelligent, courageous, trustworthy and benevolent.

Head and skull

Large, circumference of skull being more than double its length. Muzzle short, full in front of eye and square at nose end. Cheeks flat, great depth from eye to lower jaw. Lips deep but not too pendulous. From nose to stop perfectly straight and broad. Stop somewhat abrupt and well defined. Skull broad, slightly rounded at top, with fairly prominent brow. Nose large and black with well-developed nostrils.


Of medium size, neither deep set nor prominent, eyelids should be reasonably tight. Excessive haw must be heavily penalised. Dark in colour and not staring. There should be no excessive loose wrinkle on brow which would detract from a healthy eye. Free from obvious eye problems.


Medium size, lying close to cheeks, not heavily feathered.


Jaws strong with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws. Well developed teeth of good size.


Long, thick, muscular, slightly arched, dewlap well developed.


Shoulders broad and sloping, well up at withers. Legs straight, strong in bone, of good length.


Back broad, level, ribs well rounded. Loin wide, very muscular. Broad croup sloping slightly to set on of tail. Chest wide and deep, but never projecting below elbows.


Broad, strong and well muscled. Legs heavy in bone. Moderate bend of stifle with firm, strong hocks. Well developed first and second thighs. When viewed from the rear the hindlegs are perfectly straight, turning neither in nor out and not too close together. Straight hocks are highly undesirable.


Large, compact with well-arched toes.


Set on rather high, long, carried low when in repose, when excited or in motion should not curl over back.


Easy extension, unhurried and smooth, with power from the hindquarters. Back remaining level and firm. The feet should move along straight lines with the rear feet tracking the fore. Capable of covering difficult terrain. Absolute soundness essential.


Roughs: dense and flat, rather fuller round neck, thighs and tail well feathered.

Smooths: close and hound-like, slight feathering on thighs and tail.


Orange, mahogany-brindle, red-brindle, white with patches on body of any of the above named colours. Markings as follows: White muzzle, white blaze on face, white collar, white chest, white forelegs, feet and end of tail, black shadings on face and ears.


Minimum height: dogs 75 cms (30 ins), bitches 70 cms (28 ins). Size is desirable but only if combined with quality, correct balance and absolute soundness.


Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and on the dog’s ability to perform its traditional work.


Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

*Note for prospective puppy buyers

Size – The Kennel Club breed standard is a guide and description of the ideal for the breed; the size as described does not imply that a dog will match the measurements given (height or weight). A dog might be larger or smaller than the size measurements stated in the breed standard.