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Alps, Mountaineering Dogs

Mountaineering Dogs. In canine connotation, the St. Bernard, a small cask suspended from his neck, busily digging a bewildered traveller from the snow, is generally thought of when Alpine dogs are mentioned. Most of us recall childhood stories of “Barry,” thrilling enough but mostly untrue. Albert Smith created a sensation in 1853 by exhibiting one of this breed in London at his Mont Blanc performance at Egyptian Hall.

Bourrit, on his second attempt on Mont Blanc by the Aig. du Gôuter (1785), mentions, “Mon fidèle chien se hazardoit sur de petites saillies de glaces et de rochers allant de l’une à l’autre avec la l’égèrete et le sang-froid d’un chamois.” (Itinéraire de Genève, 1808.)

The well-known guide, Sylvain Couttet, keeper of the Grands Mulets hut during the period 1866-80, was often accompanied by his dog, more than once reached the summit of Mont Blanc.

In an appealing essay in Alpine Studies, W. A. B. Coolidge commemorates his dog “Tschingel,” who accomplished thirty-six peaks and thirty passes. When the present editor called on Coolidge at Grindelwald in 1925, Tschingel’s collar, with little bangles on which were engraved the names of the ascents, still hung in a place of honor.

When the German climber, Alfred von Radio-Radiis visited the Brenta Group in 1901, he noticed a dead dog on the slopes of Cima Tosa. A few days earlier it had been killed by a fall in the great chimney. It belonged to a guide, and had ascended the mountain innumerable times. (D. Ö. A. V. Jahrbuch, 1909.)