As the chairman of the South African club, I was invited to present a lecture at the international conference held in conjunction with the 40th anniversary show of the Club Italiano San Bernardo “Antonio Morsiani” C.I.S.B.


The conference and show took place at the “Antonio Morsiani Foundation for Dog Studies” on the grounds of the famous Del Soccorso kennels in Bagnara Di Romagna, Italy. I first visited Villa Morsiani and the “Antonio Morsiani International Foundation for Dog Studies” 10 years ago. Although
I have been back since then, it was a very special honor for me to be the first South African to present a lecture to a group of my peers with such high standing in the international Saint Bernard community.

It is interesting to note that the Italian Saint Bernard club is our nearest neighbor club, only 8500km away.
The conference took place on the 1st and 2nd of June 2007. It was attended by more than 100 delegates who included Saint Bernard club Chairmen or Representatives from Italy, Germany. Portugal, Spain, Austria, Luxembourg, France, USA, Russia, Lithuania, Hungary, Belgium, Venezuela, Denmark, Canada and South Africa.

Three languages, English, German and Italian, were used throughout the conference and shows, with translators present during the entire 3 days. Lectures included current situation reports from many countries as well as more technical subjects by veterinarians and other specialists on subjects such as discussions on the requirements of the Official Standard, a lecture on Gastric Torsion and Saint Bernards used in Pet Therapy. An important initiative championed by Dr. Giovanni Morsiani, Chairman of the Italian club, was a round table discussion on the importance of uniting the 3 breed standards. Another lecture, on a subject close to my heart, was presented by Dr. Gianluigi Streparola, Vice Chairman of the Italian club. This was entitled “Comment on the Standard re: correct proportion, Construction and Movement”.

I believe that everybody attending the conference learned a great deal about the Saint Bernard breed, or reinforced previous knowledge gained at previous conferences or breed seminars.

During the following 2 days of the shows I received many compliments on the professional quality of my presentation and most people expressed surprise at the excellent quality of Saint Bernards in SA.


The main show began at 4.30 in the afternoon, and continued till 9.00 pm. These were the bulk of the classes up to winners of all the individual classes. The show was split into 2 rings with various classes taking place simultaneously. With 127 dogs entered this was absolutely necessary, but did make it difficult for some exhibitors where classes clashed, and for photographers like myself, trying to take photos of all the class winners.

The judging panel included specialists from Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal and the USA.

From left to right: Mr. Hans Wiebauer(Germany), Mr. Carlos Lopez da Silva (Pres. Portugal) Mr. Glenn Radcliffe (USA) Dr. Gianluigi Streparola(Vice Pres. Italy) Mr. Peter Brieskorn (Pres. Germany) Mr. Julian Hernandez (Pres. Spain) and Dr. Giovanni Morsiani (Pres. Italy)

From left to right: Mr. Hans Wiebauer(Germany), Mr. Carlos Lopez da Silva (Pres. Portugal) Mr. Glenn Radcliffe (USA) Dr. Gianluigi Streparola(Vice Pres. Italy) Mr. Peter Brieskorn (Pres. Germany) Mr. Julian Hernandez (Pres. Spain) and Dr. Giovanni Morsiani (Pres. Italy)

The show had a fantastic relaxed ambiance, even though it was an important event in the European show calendar. Generally the dogs were well groomed and in excellent condition. The handlers presented their dogs well, without any of the over handling usually seen at SA shows. The procedure in the rings was relaxed and friendly, often with 4 or 5 people in the ring besides the exhibitors. These included the Judges, translators, Steward, ring secretary, and often a few photographers as well.

All this activity is normal and did not seem to bother the dogs or exhibitors at all!
At 9.00 pm, after the initial classes were judged, everyone changed and attended a Gala dinner. A 3 course meal followed by elegant desert, plenty of good quality wine and presentation of awards to judges and conference speakers, was enjoyed by 120 people. italy3

At 12.00pm on Saturday night, after a relaxed and thoroughly enjoyable dinner, everybody went back to the show rings to watch the “Saint Bernard Olympics”. This was a new event introduced this year. Each country was able to enter a team of 4 dogs made up of 1 smooth male and female and 1 rough male and female. The dogs were judged as in a normal show but by all 7 judges together in the ring. The judges then voted publicly on the team positions, starting at 5th place and working upwards to the winners.

As a member of the Saint Bernard club of Germany, I was offered a position on their team and handled the smooth bitch. The Italian team took top honors, with Germany second and Spain taking the 3rd place. 4th place went to Austria and 5th place to Portugal. Gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded to the 1st three teams, so I have returned to SA with a silver medal from the first ever Saint Bernard Olympics. The event was very well attended and could become a permanent feature at this type of show.

Everyone left the venue by about 2.00 am.

On Sunday the show began at 09.00 am. The main events for the day included choosing the CAC (cc’s) for 4 different groups, being smooth and rough males and smooth and rough females. From there the judging moved to all the extra events such as best head, best body, best movement etc. These proved to be very popular with both exhibitors and spectators, with up to 20 dogs in a class.

I was offered the opportunity to handle a young German bitch which I quickly accepted. (How could I travel so far to a show without actually taking part in the ring?) I showed her in the “Best body” class without winning but went on to win Best in Show in the “Movement” class, a great honor for me.
In my opinion the short hair Saints were of better quality overall, with a beautiful smooth male, Ch. Espana Hugo De El Busgosu taking Best in Show.


The lasting impression is of an extremely successful weekend for the Saint Bernard club of Italy. The conference, various dinners and social events together with a well attended, smoothly run show are a huge credit to the efforts of the club committee, and especially Gr. Giovanni Morsiani and his lovely wife Dinora. Throughout the weekend they could be seen everywhere, directing people, caterers, judges, translators, exhibitors, stewards, groundskeepers and everybody else that needed assistance. My compliments to them both on a fantastic effort and an extremely pleasant weekend.

From the moment I arrived in Imola, I was treated as a guest of honor by my Italian hosts, ensuring that South Africa was well represented in the conference, Saint Bernard Olympics and the Championship show, as well as the dinners and other social events.

I returned to South Africa via Switzerland, where I visited a few of their top kennels before returning home.

I believe that it is vital to attend these types of shows to keep pace with developments in our breed. Even though we are isolated in terms of our breed, it is important to maintain contact with other countries and breeders to ensure that the dogs we breed are in line with those of the European communities and the required standard.

My thanks go to Nola, manufacturers of Bobtail dog food, for their generous sponsorship enabling me to attend this world class event.

You can view all the images from this trip here