The Alpine Spaniel is an extinct breed that originated in the Swiss Alps and was used mainly for mountain rescues. Also called the Bernardine, this breed is thought to be the predecessor of the modern Saint Bernard and the Clumber Spaniel.
Alpine Spaniels are still, to this day, one of the larger breeds of the spaniel family, and they are said to be around six feet in length stretching from the nose to the tail and two feet in height.
With a history dating back to the 1800s, Alpine Spaniels were kept in monasteries along the Swiss Alps and were used to search for lost travelers in heavy snowstorms as well as for rescue missions. These Spaniels would be sent out in pairs in order to locate any fallen/lost travelers; once done, the Spaniels would head back to the monastery and bring rescuers back out to the travelers. They were also used as guard dogs – specifically guarding livestock.
The Alpine Spaniel died out due to disease and accidents along the Alps around 1847.
The Alpine Spaniel had a coat that was recognizably thick and curly. The hairs were long, which aided in keeping the dog warm through the cold winter months. Through a collection of skulls in Bern’s Natural History Museum, Alpine Spaniels are determined to have had two distinct skull variations over the span of their existence. The larger skull type had a more pronounced stop and a shorter muzzle, whereas the smaller skull type had a less obvious stop and a longer muzzle.
Image by Thomas Brown – Public Domain