St. Bernard dogs and the little cask of brandy

I’ve read that St. Bernards not only never carried casks of brandy; why would one assume a lost skier or traveler would need–or even want–a potent drink?–but with their size and coat they wouldn’t last long on snowy moutanin ranges in Switzerland anyway. Was there some other breed of dog used as a rescue dog in Switzerland? And does anybody know where that little brandy barrel came from–if it wasn’t created by magazine cartoonists and/or movie-cartoon writers?

No, it was the St. Bernard. They were mainly used as sheepdogs in Switzerland, but the hospice at the St. Bernard pass used to employ them to help find lost travellers. They used to be relatively short-haired, though, until it became the fashion to interbreed them with Newfoundlands around the 1830s.

From this site and others with the same reference.

Oh yeah, the brandy cask probably came from the then-common belief that a drink of brandy, whiskey, etc. would help “warm the blood” on a cold winter night. Of course, that’s about the worst thing you can do, but they didn’t know that back then.

Well…you’ll feel warmer for it. That you will freeze to death faster of course doesn’t help you but at least your passing will be a bit more fun for you. :wink:

Where’s EjsGirl when you need her? IIRC she is the proud owner of two St. Bernards (maybe Newfoundlands…not sure) but she’ll likely have the scoop on these guys. She is quite fond of the breed.

My daycare provider has a big St Bernard. She’s a fabulous toddler-herder at the park–I didn’t know they were sheepdogs, so now this makes more sense. When it snows, she can’t wait to go outside. It’s clearly “her” kind of weather.

That is SO cool to watch! Even more amazing is realizing the dog often hasn’t had a bit of training to do that…it’s just natural.

I have a Shiloh Shepherd (basically a German Shepherd) and I’ve seen her herd young kids and even cats (cat herding being a notoriously difficult task). Never taught her to do anything of the sort. She just takes it upon herself and does it. I could watch her do it all day. What caps it all is the slightly puzzled faces of all the toddlers grouped together as they can’t quite figure out exactly why they are there when they have a vague notion they meant to be somewhere else.


Why do St. Bernards slobber like crazy all the time. Is it some sort of salivary gland defect or swallowing problem?

I once saw a magazine cartoon showing a visitor at a kennel; a breeder of St. Bernards; and an adult dog, presumably the mother of the St. Bernard puppies depicted, each with a cask around the neck. The breeders says, “Of course, I only breed them for the brandy.” :smiley:

You rang, Whack? :smiley:

Newfoundlands are my breed, so blame my dogs for the terrible shedding and drooling of the current St. Bernards!

St. Bernards and Newfs drool because of their mouth structure, and there is nothing you can do about it. There is no such thing as a dry-mouthed Newf, and I think it is the same for SBs. Allegedly, you can have surgery on the dog’s flews to reduce drooling, but that’s kinda cruel.

There are two different coat lengths recognized by the AKC- short and long. More about this here-

Newfs are double-coated, which is excellent for cold and water. St. Bernards should also do well in these circumstances.

My favourite St. Bernard image was a Warner cartoon in which a St. Bernard pulls a frozen Yosemite Sam from a snowbank, then takes off his cask, opens it, pulls out gin and vermouth, mixes them in a martini shaker, pours it into a glass, adds an olive, drinks it, barks at Sam a few more times, and runs off, hiccuping.

We had a St. Bernard when we lived in Wyoming. I never noticed him having any brandy kegs though he would on occasion, or more often if I wasn’t watching, knock my beer over and drink it up. He would, however, eat anything he could make a turd out of.

Anytime my wife would lay out in the sun he would come over and lay down closely beside her. We noticed after a while that he did this to anyone lying down for more than a few moments. Later, after he died, we read this was instinctual in St. B’s. Supposed to have been why they were used to rescue the avalanche prone. Anyway that’s what the article (no cite) said.

I knew two families who had St. Bernards. Well, actually, one was the neighbor of the dog’s family. This St. Bernard was named Slob. :smiley: I visited the family one day, on Thanksgiving, and they finished off a turkey and gave Slob the carcass.
Another time I had a yard customer who had an older, ill-tempered female St. Bernard named Gypsy. She didn’t like strangers so when I was coming over my customers, who both worked, kept Gypsy in the house or the garage while they were gone so she wouldn’t be a problem for me.

I once saw the clarinetist Acker Bilk interviewed on TV during the 70s. He was asked about his missing finger.

He stated that the finger was severed in a toboganning accident, and that shortly after the accident, a St Bernard showed up. He complained that not only did the dog not have the brandy cask he was expecting, but that the dog swallowed the finger and ran off.

Makes a good story. It should be true, even if perhaps it isn’t.