September 11, 2015 | Posted in Rescue Dogs


Drawing of Barry with a small child.

Barry was a famous St. Bernard, possibly the most legendary representative of the breed. Barry lived at the Great St Bernard Hospice in the Pennine Alps. The hospice is located at an altitude of 2469 m above sea level.

This remarkable dog’s full name was Barry der Menschenretter and his tales of courage go back two hundred years. He lived during the years 1800-1814. He was a mountain rescue dog and in this capacity is credited with having saved more than forty lives of wayfarers who either lost their way or got caught in storms and blizzards and would have undoubtedly perished on steep mountain edges had it not been for Barry.

The St. Bernard breed is reputed to have a very highly developed sense of smell and can presage the arrival of snowstorms. Barry, undoubtedly, put these abilities to great use. His most famous rescue is that of a young boy whom Barry found unconscious and huddled in a small cave. Barry licked the boy’s body to warm him and then coaxed the little one on his back. He then headed back to the hospice where the child recuperated and finally was reunited with his parents. Barry’s feat is rendered that much more incredible because back in those days the dogs we know as St. Bernards today were slimmer and weighed less. Barry would not have tipped the scales at above 85 pounds.

Barry made regular rounds to the craggy cliffs and dangerous mountain paths seeking out lost travelers. He would guide them to the monastery or would rush back and inform the monks whom he would lead to the stranded person. Whether or not Barry had a barrel of rum around his neck is a matter of conjecture.

Barry bid the world adieu in 1814, he lived his final years in comfort in the city of Bern; his body was treated by a taxidermist and today is on permanent display at the Natural History Museum in the city.

It is a testament to Barry’s popularity that over the years Barry’s likeness has appeared on works of art that include embroideries, paintings, wood carvings, statuettes, metal work, and a lot more. He was held up as a shining example of courage and appeared on product endorsements for liver tonics, cigars, and even clocks.

It is worth noting that during Barry’s time, the breed was not known as St. Bernard. In fact, after Barry, this breed of proto-St. Bernards was dubbed Barry Dogs or Barry Hounds. The name St. Bernard is of 1865 vintage.

So strong is the legacy of Barry in that particular region that even today the hospice keeps one dog, a St. Bernard that is named Barry.