Pyrenean Mountain Dog

Pyrenean Mountain Dog

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The Pyrenean Mountain Dog, also commonly known as the Great Pyrenees, is a large, majestic breed of dog that was used traditionally for protecting livestock (especially sheep) in pasture. The Pyrenean Mountain Dog, known as the Great Pyrenees in the United States, is a large breed of dog, used as a livestock guardian dog. The Great Pyrenees is a very old breed, and has been used for millennia by the Basque people, who inhabit parts of the region in and around the Pyrenees Mountains of southern France and northern Spain. 

More recently, the breed served as the official dog of the royal French court (whose prominence began circa the Middle Ages, and lasted until the middle of the nineteenth century). During World War II the dogs were used to haul artillery over the Pyrenean Mountain range to and from Spain and France. They are related to several other large white European livestock guardian dogs (LGD), including the Italian Maremma Sheepdog, Kuvasz (Hungary), Anatolian Shepherd (Turkey) and Polish Tatra or Polski Owczarek Podhala?ski.

It is a very old breed, and has been used for millennia by the Basque people. The Basques are an indigenous people who inhabit parts of the region in and around the Pyrenees Mountains of southern France. More recently, it has served as the official dog of the royal French court (whose prominence began circa the Middle Ages, and lasted until the middle of the nineteenth century).

Males weigh in at about 100-130 pounds (45-59 kilograms), while bitches are approximately 85-115 pounds (39-52 kilograms). Their fur is often whitewith shades of grey or tan around the face, ears and sometimes on the body; these dogs are called “blaireau”. Only one in four will have a pure white coat.

The Great Pyrenees is readily identifiable by a double dewclaw on each of its hind legs. These are considered breed standard, more than two dewclaws is not a fault just undesirable and should not be removed by veterinarians.

Temperament: Loyal and protective of its territory, the Great Pyrenees makes for a great family dog. However, there are several reasons owning a dog of this breed may be inconducive, including the following:

  • fenced yard is a must with this breed. Unfenced, they will roam. So called invisible fences are often ineffective with this breed, as they can withstand a high degree of physical discomfort, and will train themselves to run through it.
  • Owners can expect copious amounts of white fur — down hair and coat — in their homes and on their dark clothing. Seasonal “blowing of coat” – in which the Pyr sheds vast amount of undercoat – occur at least once a year. Weekly grooming is a must to avoid mats, and nails – particularly the dewclaws – must be regularly trimmed. Actual bathing is seldom needed because the undercoat sheads out when dirty so all that is needed is a quick weekly brushing.
  • Neighbours may be annoyed and complain about the deep, booming bark — if the dog is left outside continuously or left inside without a companion too long.
  • They cannot be trusted off-leash, as their guardian dog nature will cause them to investigate anything and everthing they find interesting, and to not trust their owners to make the final decisions.
  • A mature Great Pyrenees may be somewhat standoffish and wary of strangers. They are extremely protective of their family members – human or animal – and will never trust or like anyone who they think is a potential danger or threat to their family. That said, they do warm up to friendly and kind people, especially children and women, fairly quickly.
  • Interested owners should be wary of comparing the temperament of Golden Retrievers with this breed of dog. Prospective owners are advised to familiarize themselves with characteristics of Livestock guardian dogs (LGD) — which are known for their independent nature. While the Pyr will defend its owner to the death, it will see no reason to slavishly obey commands.
  • Best suited for those living on property with a large yard, as it enjoys walks and attention — especially from children and other animals.
  • Even with property, daily walks – a minimum of an hour total each day – are important.
  • Obedience training and socialization at a young age are a must, as this breed grows large and strong very quickly and is best suited for someone capable of handling a large dog. Bad habits, such as jumping, pulling on lead and table surfing should be nipped in the bud – any bad puppy habits will be ten times worse when the dog is 100 lb!
  • Pyrs readily take to crate training, which should be started during puppyhood.
  • In the field it is an excellent guardian — large enough to be a deterrent to smaller pests, such as coyotes and foxes, and a match for larger wildlife, such as cougars and bears, in fact a single male pyr is supposed to be able to hold off a bear long enough to allow a shepherd to move the herd away.

Miscellaneous: In the U.S., this breed is known as Great Pyrenees. In the U.K., they are called Pyrenean Mountain Dogs. 

They are related to several other large white European Livestock guardian dogs (LGD), including the Italian Maremma Sheepdog, Kuvasz (Hungary), Anatolian Shepherd (Turkey) and Polish Tatra or Polski Owczarek Podhala?ski, among others. In the anime/manga Azumanga Daioh, Tadakichi-san (Mr. Tadakichi) is a Great Pyrenees. 

  • In the novel, Belle et Sébastien, Belle is a Great Pyrenees.
  • The 2004 film Finding Neverland used a Great Pyrenees to represent J.M. Barrie’s Landseer Newfoundland.
  • The Spanish designer Javier Mariscal was inspired by this dog breed for the design of the 1992 Summer Olympics mascot “Cobi”.
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