Mohrele and Barry, pioneers of rescue at high altitude
Tasked with the challenging undertaking of saving lives, the avalanche dogs of today, have in their history some legendary pioneers, who have been mythologised and somewhat worshiped. The first, and perhaps most famous avalanche dog was Barry, a daredevil St. Bernard who, in the nineteenth century, saved many lives in the Swiss Alps thanks to specialised training by the monks of the Great St. Bernard Hospice (a hostel for travellers). Barry continued his rescue duties even after the death of his trainer and reportedly died ‘at work' while attempting a rescue (however this fact is disputed). Such was the affection and admiration for Barry that after his death, his body was passed in to the care of the Natural History Museum of Bern where it was preserved and placed on display.
Shrouded in legend however, is the existence of Mohrele – a mixed-breed dog with an extraordinary sense of smell – who in 1960, reportedly found the body of a priest missing for a year following a huge avalanche. This particular anecdote marked the inception of the common practice of training dogs for avalanche search and rescue in the region, and in 1966, the first dedicated avalanche dog training course took place in South Tyrol.