During the winters of 1816, 1817, and 1818, the snowstorms at the Great Saint Bernard Pass were especially severe, and many dogs perished while doing rescue work. As a result, the Saint Bernard strain living at the hospice came close to extinction. The records say that the monks completely replenished the strain two years later with similar animals from the nearby valleys. Rumors persisted that the remaining dogs were crossed with Great Danes or English Mastiffs after that near extinction, but no records exist to confirm that these breedings occurred at the hospice.
Three experimental breedings with Newfoundlands were done at the hospice beginning in 1830. Why were these crossings made 160 years after the breed's origin and after so many years of success using only the shorthaired dogs? Because many dogs perished during the more severe winters, the monks reasoned that the long hair of the Newfoundland would better protect the shorthaired Saint Bernard against the cold. This idea was disastrous. Ice formed on the long hair during the lengthy circuits through the high snow, and the weight of accumulated ice and snow very quickly incapacitated the dogs. Consequently, they could not use longhaired dogs for rescue work. Almost immediately, the monks returned to the exclusive use of shorthaired dogs for mountain work and began to give away all longhaired puppies. The Swiss recipients of these puppies used them for breeding with their own dogs, also resulting in litters containing both longhaired and shorthaired puppies. Selective breeding done by the most dedicated Swiss fanciers resulted in the return to the original hospice type dog with only the length of hair differentiating the shorthaired and longhaired varieties.
During this time, the breed was still without a name. It was the much-traveled and dog-loving English who first recognized this outstanding breed of dog in Switzerland. They called them Hospice Dogs, Holy Dogs, Alpine Mastiffs and Saint Bernard Mastiffs. Others called them Mountain Dogs, Monastery Dogs or Swiss Alpine Dogs. Many Swiss called them Barry Dogs as a tribute to the famous hospice dog. Barry der Menschenretter was reputed to have saved more than forty travelers during his working lifetime. Finally, in 1880, it was agreed to call the hospice dogs Saint Bernards.