The Great Saint Bernard Pass is one of the most treacherous passes in the world located 8,100 feet above sea level deep in the southwestern Pennine Alps the alpine frontier pass connects the northern tip of Italy to Switzerland. Along the pass found nuzzled in the side of the mountain sits The Great St Bernard Hospice where for almost 1,000 years the monastery has served as a resting spot for travelers along the route. Offering housing, food, and even sunday mass for anyone it was a staple among travelers at the time.
However, the hospice also serves another important role as it is the place, where the great Saint Bernards for which the pass was named after, reside. It has been reported that over the hospice’s lifespan these dogs have saved over 2,000 travelers’ lives who could not weather the dangerous pass. The dog’s keen sense of smell and thick fur coat makes them the ideal companion for guides when looking for stranded travelers within the deep snowy alps.
Out of these incredible dogs one named Barry has rose to worldwide fame thanks to his heroic deeds performed within the mountains. Born in 1800 Barry stood at a solid 25 inches tall weighing close to 100 pounds. Although Barry is depicted nowadays to closely resemble the modern Saint Bernard he was actually a good deal smaller due to how new the breed was at the time.
It is estimated that Barry is responsible for saving the lives of over 40 people during his time at the hospice. Quite possibly his most famous rescue came when a young boy was trapped in an avalanche on the mountain and started to slowly freeze to death. But in heroic fashion, Barry showed up just in time to lick the boy warm, flip him on his back, and drag him back to base.
Fast forward to today and Barry’s remains are now on display at a special exhibit in the Natural History Museum in Bern Switzerland where his story is shared with thousands each year. Barry and the other Saint Bernards of The Great St Bernard Hospice have become a staple of Switzerland’s culture, where even in 1995 Barry was made the official hallmark of all precious metals and all fineness standards in Switzerland!
These dogs just go to show the amazing feats that can be achieved when working with our canine friends. Check out the links below to learn more about this fascinating part of history!