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Word of Mouth - Barry the Great

Word of Mouth // Explore Switzerland // Oct. 13, 2016

In this week's episode of Word of Mouth Garry Littman takes a look at Swiss heroes. 

And there are none braver than Barry the Great. Sorry, it’s not your turn Mr William Tell. Put down that crossbow, eat that apple while I tell you the story of Barry the Great.

Barry had four legs and was rather large and a little shaggy. He is known today as a St Bernard, but was in fact about half the size of what we today know as a massive drooling St Bernard...

The name comes from the Great St Bernard Hospice or refuge founded in the 11th century by a monk known as Bernard of Menthon.

The refuge provided food and shelter for travellers negotiating the treacherous Great St Bernard pass which links Martigny in the Valais to Aosta in Italy.

It is here the legend of Barry began in the early 1800s.

Our Barry is said have rescued at least 40 people. His most famous rescue was that of young boy he found unconscious at the bottom of a crevasse. Our hero licked the child back to life, as he was trained to do, and carried and dragged him to safety.

A fabulous statue and plaque at the pet cemetery in Paris says: Barry saved 40 people and was killed by the 41st.

Legend has it that he dug out a semi-conscious Swiss soldier buried in an avalanche. Barry tried to give him the lick of life, but the soldier thought he was about to be devoured by a wolf and unfortunately stabbed Barry with his bayonet.

But that’s probably not true because there is a stuffed and slightly shabby version of Barry in the Natural History Museum in Bern. You’ll be happy to know “Barry – the legendary St Bernard” has a permanent multi- media and inter active exhibition at the Museum and he’s top dog especially among Japanese tourists.

Barry and his canine family in the snow saved the lives of thousands of travellers. The younger dogs learnt their search and rescue skills from the older dogs.

One myth we can dispel is that the dogs carried casks or small barrels of brandy around their necks. Not true. Wishful thinking. Good for tourism.

About 50 years after Barry’s death the rescue dogs were crossed with Newfoundlands creating the modern and massive St Bernard of today.  Think of Tom Hanks slobbering friend named Beethoven. Unfortunately, these Beethovens have become obsolete as rescue dogs – their long thick fur freezes in icy conditions and makes them even heavier.

Word of Mouth is bought to you by Garry Littman from The Language House, which offers English language training in Geneva and English language immersion courses around the world. 

You can hear a new episode of Word of Mouth every Tuesday morning at 10:20am during the Mid Morning Mix and repeated throughout the week.

Tags: Word, Mouth, of

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