Barry (dog)

Barry (dog)

Barry (18001814) was a famous St. Bernard that worked as a mountain rescue dog. He lived at the monastery at the Great St Bernard Pass near the Swiss-Italian border and was responsible for saving over 40 lives.

Barry's body is preserved and on display at the Natural History Museum in Berne, Switzerland. In addition, a monument to him is located at the entrance to the Cimetière des Chiens pet cemetery in Paris.


Barry, who lived and made history between 1800 and 1814, was one of the greatest rescue dogs the world has ever seen. Barry was a Saint Bernard dog who earned worldwide fame for the brave rescue operations he carried out during his lifetime. His painting by Salvatore Rosa still hangs in a hospice in the Alps of Switzerland.

Barry was an expert rescue dog well versed with the rescue drill and amongst his famous rescue adventures there is this famous story about a young boy who was found stranded on an icy ledge, all covered with thick snow under an ongoing, heavy snowfall. It was not possible for any man to climb that icy ledge, but Barry braving all adversity crawled inch by inch to the injured boy. As the drill has it, Barry started licking the boy's face but the snowfall was too heavy and the ledge too difficult to climb for any monk to reach the boy. So, there was no help coming. The boy, however, woke up due to Barry's warm licks and wrapped his arms around Barry's strong neck. The dog pulled him carefully and bravely from the ledge and brought him to safety.

It is just one of the many gallant rescue stories of this great rescuer Saint Bernard. He lived from 1800 to 1814 and saved more than 40 lives in his lifetime.


The name Barry has nothing to do with the English first name of Barry, but in Swiss German tradition "Bäri" (i.e. Bear) was the usual name given to a dark coloured dog. In the late 1800s, the name was changed to a more English-sounding "Barry" to pay tribute to the legend of the dog, which had widely circulated the English-speaking world with its newfound interest in the Alps. It is, like Heidi, a clever example of promoting legends to increase tourism.

There is no historic report stating that Barry had ever carried a little cask of liquour on his collar to warm up his rescuees and this has always been denied by the monks. Barry was allegedly shot dead by a rescuee who mistook him for a wolf. Given that Barry died at a relatively old age (well into his senior years for a dog) this is very unlikely; Barry would probably have been used more for breeding than rescuing in later life.

The dogs used by the monks on the St Bernard Pass were very different in shape and color from the present day St Bernards dog. After an accident killed off a large part of the kennel, they were crossed with mastiffs to the present day look. This explains the name "Bäri", as the original St. Bernards dogs had dark coats, not the bright ones of today.

External links

* [ The Legendary Barry at the Natural History Museum in Berne, Switzerland]

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