After being involved with Saint Bernards for a number of years I had an opportunity to visit Switzerland to explore the attitude of the Swiss towards breeding these dogs. Certain basics soon became evident. These are as follows:
1. The Swiss have for a period of a hundred years or more practised the type of line breeding or in breeding. However, what we have in the case of a Switzerland is a whole country operating according to the rules and therefore on a scale which a single kennel could never hope to achieve. Let us examine the system which the Swiss use and relate this to what we should try and achieve on a International ground.
2. THE CONTROL OF BREEDERS
The Swiss Saint Bernard Club, through its affiliation with the Swiss Kennel Union, has the authority to determine which dogs shall be registered and which shall not. The Club exercises this power through wardens appointed in various parts of the country and whose function it is to approve puppies to be registered. The effect of this is extremely careful control over which dogs are mated and over the quality of puppies allowed to be registered. On the average not more than a couple of hundred new dogs are registered every year, but these are selected to be of the very highest standard.
3. Judging in Switerland is strongly orientated towards the inherent capabilities and characteristics of the dog, both as a show dog and as a stud or brood bitch. In the ring the handler is precluded from in anyway manipulating the dog so as to conceal its faults. Accordingly dogs are selected for their inherent good features, rather than the way in which they are shown. Further, the history as a successful stud or brood bitch is taken into account when making final decisions. (This is why a breed serva test should also be implemented before the dogs should be bred, and a record should be held for International distribution by a central rulling body. The matter of H.D. and other problems should be discussed on a International conference and rules should be revised on a 2 year basis, so that this breed serva test can be successful.)
4. The effect of the above is that champions have been carefully selected for all the characteristics which the Swiss Saint Bernard Club wishes to see in their line, and can safely be used for breeding purposes. Taking all this into account the conclusion is that with over a hundred years of breeding almost exclusively within the framework of the same bloodlines the Swiss have created a genetic pool that is very firmley fixed. The Swiss type of dog (i.e. that is selected by the Swiss Saint Bernard Club as being the type they wish to breed) has been reinforced by fifty generations or more of careful breeding and selection.
5. If you examine the pedigrees of virtually all registered Swiss dogs you will find similarities in all generations. Further examination of histories in the stud book confirms that a comparatively few really good studs and bitches have dominated the whole Swiss breeding campaign.
The outcome of the above system is predictable. Line breeding and in breeding of the type described by the late Mr John Treger has been carefully done, and dogs selected of their compensating features over a long period of time.This has natural resulted in a type which can clearly be identified. Of course, like those from any other Kennel, the Swiss dogs do vary around that type but most of the features desired by the Swiss Saint Bernard Club have been fixed in all of them. It is intresting to note that the concept of using a smooth coat so often in a breeding programme ( in order to re-establish the type) is not prevalent in Switzerland and by myself here in South Africa where I have been breeding from these bloodlines. Breeders that the Late Mr. John Treger spoke to, indicated that they do not find it necessary to revert to smooth coat dogs to fix type. In fact, smooth coat dogs are fairly unpopular and a comparatively small number is produced , compared to the rough coated dogs. One can assume that the type is so firmly fixed in the Swiss dogs gentic patterns that it is no longer necessary to correct a drift away, which does occur in other countries. The Late Mr. John Treger and my hypothesis is that out-breeding and cross-breeding in many other countries has been far more prevalent than it has in Switzerland and that the loss of type is an outcome of this practice. In many cases the importation of a dog from Switzerland, be it rough or smooth, has often been used in order to restore the type.
The late Mr. John Treger quotes; By examining a large number of Swiss dogs one can come to certain conclusions as to the concept for which the Swiss Saint Bernard Club has aimed.
Firstly, the dogs generally move well and, in particular, have very strong hind quaters and good angulation.
Secondly, they are normally not very tall. Many of them are grouped towards the lower end of the required hight in the Standard, rather than the middle or upper end.
Thirdly, they are typically broad and deep in the chest.
These are the typical characteristics of a strongly moving, hard-working animals. What has not been achieved, in general, is a very large, massive head. Here, an examanination of the past is of intrest. There have been occasions when various breeders (with the support of The Swiss Saint Bernard Club) have attempted to breed for a larger and more massive head by importing dogs, normally from Germany. In all cases this has been discontinued and the imported line has been eradicated from the breeding pattern after a comparatively short period of time (i.e. three or four generations). It appears that the outcome of such breeding has been to produce a larger dog with a large head, but which does not have the strength of movement and power ( particularly in the hind quarters.)
Despite comments to the contrary, therefore, it appears that if you carefully examine the genetics of pure Swiss bred dogs and their physical characteristics, you will find a type which is somewhat diffrent from those in many other countries. There will be times in the future when judical crossings between the German and Swiss bloodlines will be beneficial, and I sincerly hope that there are those who will want to experiment with this on a controlled basis.
Here I must express that the late Dr. Antonio Morsiani of Del Soccorso Kennels in Italy has produced very large, powerful, large headed, large boned dogs with good rear end drive in crossing the two bloodlines together. It took him a life time of hard dedicated breeding and has produced outstanding type and quality. KUDO'S to Del Soccorso Kennels. It shows you what one can achieve.
In the last two generations I have crossed some German Bloodline in my stock and the progress is looking very positive but is well monitored. My stock mainly consists of the Swiss bloodline which the Late Mr John Treger brought in from Mr Eduard Rhodel of Von Sauliamt Kennels. The Late Mr. John Treger selected Mr Rhodels Kennel was because he has been breeding for over thirty years that time. The Late Mr. John Treger's philosophy was that since Mr Rhodel had been selectively breeding for longer than almost any other breeder in Switzerland and from a much bigger base of stock in terms of numbers (which at times have reached over 150 ) the fixing of the genetics which he considered to be so important, was most likely to have occured in his dogs. Certainly, for those who had visted his Kennel would confirm that there is an identifiable type that he produced. Together he and Mr. Rhodel selected a number of dogs for physical characteristics and pedigree. He believed that we now have established sufficient stock in this country to enable us to breed within the framework of the Swiss line and maintain that type, without the need for substantial future importation and how correct he was. The Richtavier bloodline is the one that still kept the bloodline flowing in South Africa. A few new kennels have started to work with us namely the Hunterstryst Kennels, Montacrie Kennels and Snoweyriver Kennels. This is the only way that we can try and keep the old Swiss bloodline going.
The Saint Bernard Clubs all over the world ( hopefully with the support of there Kennel Clubs) should do their best to exercise control over the breeding of our dogs and that members of the Clubs willingly submit to that control. It is a great shame that healthy competition between various styles of Saint Bernards has resulted in personal conflict all over the world with diffrent members of diffrent clubs. This can be a very small world if we all work together as one and I earnestly suggest that a serious effort be made to forget the personal diffrences between various members and groups, instead we should strive for the perfection in our lovable breed.
The late Mr John Treger. (Sauliamtsa Saint Bernards)
Horst Kranz (Richtavier Saint Bernards)
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