Saint Bernard dogs are often depicted in media as carrying barrels of brandy around their necks, which was used to warm rescued victims from the cold.
The monks of the Saint Bernard Hospice deny that this was ever used in Real Life
, and instead the early depiction came from an early painting◊
The idea that the dogs could do this, or that a drink could even save someone from hypothermia was examined and busted by the MythBusters
. Alcohol would, in fact, endanger their lives because the warming effect is caused by increasing heat flow to the extremities, which would lower the core body temperature and accelerate the onset of hypothermia, though if rescue was imminent it might
have the benefit of delaying frostbite. (That said, dogs are often trained to be able to sniff and dig out people trapped by natural or man-made disasters. The handlers
of the dogs often carried brandy to try to warm up the people the dogs dug up before getting them to safety, which is probably how the myth got started.)
A common gag in cartoons, especially Warner Bros.
cartoons, involves the dogs actually taking swigs of the brandy for themselves.
Anime and Manga
- This mid 80s ad in which a man is saved not with brandy, but by Time magazine.
- Robison Oil has a St Bernard with a oil drum in place of the brandy container for their logo mascot. I know this because as I type this line, it is staring at me from the ad on the Saint Bernard Rescue page itself!
- There was an ad for cold medicine in the 80s featuring this trope. The barrel, of course, held the medicine (I believe it was NeoCitran).
- A strange case where it can be Justified happens in one of the Doraemon movie. In that movie, Nobita and co time-travelled to the pre-historic era to stop a time-criminal who have established a personality cult of cavemen, and his temple is in a snowy mountain. A blizzard descended upon them and they fainted one by one (what where they thinking?). However, Nobita is rescued by a mammoth that dispenses a strange liquid that resuscitates him, via its flail, in the spirit of St. Bernard dogs. Later, it turns out that that mammoth is actually Time Police robot in disguise, who has been tailing the fellowship to find out the criminal's hideout.
- A Donald Duck comic had Donald stranded in the mountains with his car, when eventually a St. Bernard with a barrel came to him. He chugged the liquid, only to spew it back out, because the liquor was WAY too hard for him. Then the dog pointed out that it was gasoline for the car.
- In the Laurel and Hardy vehicle Swiss Miss, Stan Laurel coaxes a tot of brandy from a Saint Bernard.
- A 1949 Punch magazine cartoon. A man has a St. Bernard and several puppies, all of which wear neck casks. The man says "Of course, I only breed them for the brandy."
- The Wizard of Id has at least once had Town Drunk Bung resort to getting in trouble on a mountain so that he'll be rescued by a Saint Bernard and he can drink its brandy.
- Two cartoons of The Far Side toy with the idea:
- One with a guy in an outhouse in the middle of nowhere, yelling for help, cutting to a Saint-Bernard with a roll of toilet paper around its collar (The caption is "Far away on a hillside, a very specialized breed of dog heard the cry for help.").
- Another is "Common rescue animals", featuring among others: a Saint-Bernard with a keg of brandy, a dolphin with a pair of swim trunks, a rhinoceros with car keys.
- In PDQ Bach's "half-act opera" The Stoned Guest, a St. Bernard appears right on cue after Don Octave says "For who can save us now?", and the cast sings its praises until they get around to discovering that the cask around its neck has been drained of its contents.
- There's at least one Bugs Bunny cartoon with the Saint Bernard — but instead of sharing his brandy with others, he drinks it himself and shows up drunk at his rescues.
- In the short "Piker's Peak," the barrel contains a minibar. The dog uses the contents to mix himself a martini.
- There are at least two Tom And Jerry shorts with similar gags.
- In the Disney short "Alpine Climbers," Pluto falls in the snow and comes out blue and frigid. A Saint Bernard pours his keg of brandy on Pluto's mouth, and a rainbow of colors spreads from Pluto's belly to his extremities as he warms up again.