St. Bernard is an ancient dog breed, going back to the time the Romans got to the Alps; formed by the crossbreed of Roman Molossos dogs. However, who garanteed the breed's survival were the monks from Hospice du Grand St. Bernard, a monastery located in one of the highest spots of the mountains, an obligatory stop for travellers crossing the Alps. They adopted the dogs in 1660, according to historians, first using them as property guards. The first rescue mission the St. Bernards participated as helpers, though, only happened in the XVIII century and, from that point on, the monks trained the dogs to continue saving and rescuing people in the mountains. They could find submerged victims and even go back to the monastery to ask for help when the monk who accompanied the dog (called a "marronier") or the victim couldn't walk through the mountains anymore.
Although many images represent these "Alps' Angels" with kegs in their necks, such adornment was never used in rescue missions. According to some texts, the rescue strategy used by the St. Bernards involved up to 4 dogs simultaneously: when the victim was found (thanks to their powerful sense of scent), two dogs laid side by side with the person to keep him/her warm. A third dog would lick the person's face, trying to reanimate him/her and a fourth dog would return to the monastery to seek for help. Apparently, such such rescue strategy really worked: a St. Bernard dog named Barry became famous for rescuing more than 40 people during his life!