St. Bernard illustration

St. Bernard

Iconic mountain rescue dog of the Swiss Alps

Breed characteristics

Up to 1 hour per day
Size of home
Large house
More than once a week
Coat length
Under 10 years
Vulnerable native breed
Town or country
Size of garden
Large garden

About this breed

The national dog of Switzerland, the St Bernard is named after the monk who, in the 10th Century, founded a hospice to care for travellers on the perilous routes through the Swiss Alps. The first dogs were Alpine Mastiffs, initially used to guard property, but with the discovery of their rescue abilities their role was changed. These dogs were the ancestors of the modern St Bernard.

By the 18th Century the role of the dogs had changed and they were being used for rescue work, locating lost and stranded travellers. The monks were using new blood to develop bigger dogs and it is thought that the Newfoundland and the Bloodhound might have contributed to the new type. Certainly the dogs became larger and longer coated. The outcrossing was disputed by some of the monks as they felt that a longer coat would ice up, so some of stock was purposely kept which remained close to the original short-coated type. Hence the breed still has long coated and smooth coated specimens today. The breed retained the name of Alpine Mastiffs well into the 19th Century, and it was not until 1888 that the modern title of St Bernard was adopted.

The traditional view of the rescuing St Bernard with a cask of brandy attached to his collar is a romantic and fanciful one, created by the famous Victorian artist Edwin Landseer, who painted the first two St Bernard’s to arrive in London.

Read the breed standard

Images for this breed

The Working breed group

Over the centuries these dogs were selectively bred to become guards and search and rescue dogs. Arguably, the working group consists of some of the most heroic canines in the world, aiding humans in many walks of life, including the Boxer, Great Dane and St. Bernard. This group consists of the real specialists in their field who excel in their line of work.


Colour Watch

Category 0: Breeds with no NBS colour registration options. 

Read more about Colour Watch.

Breed Standard colours 

Breed standard colour means that the colour is accepted within the breed standard and is a traditional and well-known colour in this breed.

Breed standard colours in this breed include:

  • Brown & White
  • Brown & White & Dark Shadings
  • Mahogany & White
  • Mahogany Black & White
  • Mahogany Brindle
  • Mahogany White & Dark Shadings
  • Mahogany White Orange Shadings
  • Orange & White
  • Orange & White & Dark Shadings
  • Orange Black & White
  • Red & White
  • Red & White & Dark Markings
  • Red Brindle
  • Tricolour

Other colour/s

'Other' means you consider your puppy to be a colour not currently known within the breed and one that does not appear on either the breed standard or non-breed standard list. In this instance you would be directed through our registrations process to contact a breed club and/or council to support you on identifying and correctly listing the new colour.

Non-breed standard colours

Non-breed standard colour means that the colour is not accepted within the breed standard and whilst some dogs within the breed may be this colour it is advised to only select a dog that fits within the breed standards for all points.

Colour is only one consideration when picking a breed or individual dog, health and temperament should always be a priority over colour.


Whether you’re thinking of buying a puppy, or breeding from your dog, it’s essential that you know what health issues may be found in your breed. To tackle these issues we advise that breeders use DNA tests, screening schemes and inbreeding coefficient calculators to help breed the healthiest dogs possible.

More about health

Priority health schemes and tests

The Kennel Club's Assured Breeders must use the following (or equivalent) schemes, tests and advice. All other breeders are strongly advised to also use these.

Important health schemes and tests

We strongly recommend that all breeders, both assured breeders (ABs) and non ABs, use the following (or equivalent) schemes, tests and advice.

Find out about a particular dog's results

Please visit our Health Test Results Finder to discover the DNA or screening scheme test results for any dog on The Kennel Club's Breed Register.

You can also view the inbreeding coefficient calculation for a puppy's parents, or for a dog you're thinking of breeding from.

Have any questions about health in your breed?

If you have any concerns about a particular health condition in your breed then you may wish to speak to your vet or you could contact your breed health co-ordinator.

Breed health co-ordinators are individuals working on behalf of breed clubs and councils who are advocates for the health and welfare of their chosen breed. They acts as a spokesperson on matters of health and will collaborate with The Kennel Club on any health concerns the breed may have.

To contact your breed health co-ordinator please email 

Tanya Booth

Help with research

Take part in a research project run by the breed clubs to better understand the health of the breed. Complete the online health survey to report any health issues or cause and age of death.

Breed watch

Category 3

Particular points of concern for individual breeds may include features not specifically highlighted in the breed standard including current issues. In some breeds, features may be listed which, if exaggerated, might potentially affect the breed in the future.

Read more

Breeding restrictions

There are a number of The Kennel Club's rules and regulations that may prevent a litter from being registered, find out about our general and breed specific breeding restrictions below.

More about breeding

There are not currently any additional breed specific restrictions in place for this breed.

Looking for a puppy?

Looking for a St. Bernard? Explore our list of puppies and rescue dogs for sale near you.

More information

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