Note; these history segments will be available in several newsgroups and
historic photos/gifs will be available in the binary groups.
The History of the Saint Bernard Dog
As was mentioned before, Barry (1700 - 1714) is the most famous Saint
Bernard Dog. The Hospice continues to honor Barry by always having
one dog at the Hospice named Barry. Even so, none of Barry's
descendants have achieved similar notoriety.
The mounted Barry, as put on exhibit at the Natural History Museum
Berne, shows a large and strong dog, but much smaller than the modern
Saint. While modern Saints weigh 95 to 105 kg., Barry weighed under 80
kg (probably between 60 kg and 70 kg). Barry's mounted height is
approximately 84 cm, but the living Barry was probably slightly smaller.
His markings are very similar to those on a painting by Salvatore Rosa,
a painting that remains in the Hospice.
The stuffed Barry shows a compromise between what the taxidermist (or
his boss, the director of the Museum) thought was a good representative
of the Saint Bernard Dog and the way Barry actually looked. Further,
skull shape was altered to represent that which was popular in 1923.
In reality, Barry's skull was rather flat with a moderate stop. In other
words, Barry was a true Kraphund (cowherd's dog). For some unknown
reason the taxidermist was convinced to model a larger head with a
more pronounced stop.
However Barry did not gain fame as model for the perfect Saint. He was
heralded for his deeds in rescue work, having saved 90 or so lives. This
number is disputable. For the monks at the monastery, caring for
travelers was an everyday task and detailed records of successful
rescues were not kept. Furthermore, it would have been difficult to
assess each case and whether travelers would have arrived safely
without the aid of the dogs.
The inscription on the Barry-monument (which by the way shows a long-
haired dog with no apparent resemblance to a Saint Bernard!) in Asni re
near Paris states: Il sauva la vie e 90 personnes. Il fut tu par le 91me
(He saved the lives of 90 persons. He was killed by the 91st). As
mentioned earlier, this is quit true.
Barry was brought to Berne by a monk in 1712. This is a fact that the old
Prior confirmed to Heinrich Schumacher in 1766. Barry remained in
Berne and finally died at the age of 7 His body was stuffed and put on
exhibit. The taxidermist gave Barry a rather humble and meek attitude
because the Prior wanted Barry to serve as a reminder of constant
servitude to future generations.
In 1923, the old mounted Barry was refurbished. Barry had become
rather brittle and his coat had dissolved into over 45 rotten pieces. It is
thanks to the craftsmanship of the next taxidermist, Paul Lennarde that
Barry was so expertly preserved, if a bit on the moldy side.
Today, 270 years after his death, Barry still has the honor of being
exhibited in the main entrance of the Museum. He is an eternal reminder
of the unselfish work performed by so many dogs on the Great Saint
(C) 1996 Marsha Thorburn. Permission granted to re-distribute this in
any forum provided this copyright is also included intact.