The Musée et Chiens du Saint-Bernard, aka “Barryland,” is a dog-lover’s dream. Enormous, fluffy dogs abound, their tails wagging and tongues lolling against a backdrop of gorgeous mountain scenery. Playful puppies frolic around their snoozing parents. Both a breeding facility and a museum, Barryland tells the story of the Alps’ most iconic dog breed.
St. Bernards are known around the world for their heroic mountain rescues. The stalwart dogs would trek across snowy, icy mountain passes in search of wayward travelers, carrying barrels of spirits around their massive, furry necks. One dog in particular, a beloved pooch named Barry, is particularly well-remembered for his heroic feats.
At the turn of the 19th century, Barry lived and worked in the Great St. Bernard Hospice, an alpine hostel for all sorts of travelers. It was founded in the Middle Ages and was a spot of refuge along the ancient pilgrimage route from Canterbury to Rome that winds through treacherous alpine passes.
The hospice used a hardy stock of mountain dogs to search for lost travelers and avalanche victims. According to legend, during his short life Barry dug 40 people out of the snow, plied them with Schnapps, and saved their lives by carrying them back to the safety of the hospice. He died in 1814, and his taxidermy body is now on display at the Bern Natural History Museum.
Barryland pays tribute to this legendary mountain pup and his fellow St. Bernards. The lower level holds the star attraction. There, the hospice’s resident St. Bernards romp within a fenced-in enclosure, all eager to greet curious visitors. You can even go for a hike with one of the lovable dogs. The upper level contains informational displays that go far beyond the common narrative and offer a complex historical image of the local geology, zoology, religion, and politics, all woven together by a common dog-centered theme.