History of the Great Pyrenees Breed
Perhaps a descendent of the Tibetan mastiff, the Great Pyrenees may have arrived in Europe with either the Aryans of Central Asia or with Phoenician sea traders, who settled in the Pyrenees of Spain and other European mountain valleys. Believed to be used to guard flocks of sheep in early times, the Great Pyrenees also served as a fortress guard in medieval France, and groups of these dogs were kept by the owners of large chateaus. It was in the late 1600s that the nobility of France became enamored of this breed. During the reign of Louis XIV, the Great Pyrenees was in great demand: to the point that the leader decreed it to be the “Royal Dog of France” in 1675. It was around this time that the Great Pyrenees appeared in Newfoundland and may have had a part in the development of the Newfoundland breed. Documentation suggests that the first Great Pyrenees in America arrived with General Lafayette in 1824. The breed fell out of favor with the French by the 1900s, and those dogs that remained in France worked in the Basque countryside. Interest in the Great Pyrenees declined in England as well, but an adequate number of quality animals still existed in the mountains of the native land that successful breeding could later take place. The Great Pyrenees was imported to the United States in larger numbers in the 1930s, and it was recognized by the AKC in 1933. It is a moderately popular breed today.
Size and Appearance of the Great Pyrenees Breed
Slightly longer than it is tall, the Great Pyrenees is a large dog that features a thick coat which deceivingly gives the impression that the breed has a heavier bone structure and stature than it does. The shoulders are well-muscled, and the front legs are straight and vertical to the ground. The hindquarters are parallel and straight, featuring upper thighs that are strong and muscular. The rounded feet are close-cupped and well-padded with arched toes. The powerful and agile gait is smooth and elegant. The Great Pyrenees has a wedge-shaped head featuring a slightly rounded crown. The almond-shaped eyes are usually a rich, dark brown and offer an intelligent and thoughtful expression. The ears, set at eye level, are V-shaped with rounded ends and small to medium in size. The muzzle features a strong lower jaw with a scissor or level bite. The medium length neck is well muscled. The tail, carried low when the dog is relaxed and over the back when alert, is plumed with long hair. The double coat is weather-resistant. It consists of the outer coat of coarse hair which is long, flat, and thick, and an undercoat made of fine yet dense woolly hair. A mane forms around the neck and shoulders where the hair is more abundant. Long hair appears on the tail. The coat of the Great Pyrenees is usually white or white with tan or grey markings.
Great Pyrenees Temperament
While known to be protective of its family and territorial, the Great Pyrenees is overall a gentle, affectionate breed. It is typically wary of strangers and will be watchful and alert. The Great Pyrenees is usually good with children and will protect other pets in the family. This breed tends to get along especially well with cats. It may not get along well with other dogs of the same sex. Loyal and intelligent, this breed should be trained by a confident owner from a young age. It is not easily trained due to its independent and stubborn nature. The Great Pyrenees is prone to barking, making it an exceptional watchdog. It takes about two years for this dog to fully mature. It is a gentle yet alert guardian of the family and a welcome companion.
Great Pyrenees Recommended Maintenance
Due to the long double coat of the Great Pyrenees, daily brushing is recommended. During shedding season, extra grooming is needed. Bathing or the use of dry shampoo is recommended only when needed. Generally this is a breed that sheds heavily about once a year. Daily exercise is necessary to keep the Great Pyrenees in good shape; a moderate walk is normally sufficient. This breed does not do well in hot weather, but it enjoys being outside in the cold and snow. However, the Great Pyrenees also likes being inside with its family, though it is generally inactive when indoors. A large yard in which to play and roam would be ideal for this breed.
Great Pyrenees Health
Life span: 10 - 12 years
Major concerns: CHD, patellar luxation
Minor concerns: entropion, OCD, skin problems, osteosarcoma
Occasionally seen: ChD, gastric torsion, otitis extrema, panosteitis
Suggested tests: hip, knee, eye