Pyrenean Mountain Dog

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Pyrenean Mountain Dog
Great Pyrenees Mountain Dog.jpg
Other namesGreat Pyrenees
Montañés del Pirineo
Perro de Montaña de los Pirineos
Can de Montaña de os Perinés
Chien des Pyrénées
Chien de Montagne des Pyrénées
Common nicknamesPyr, GP, PMD, Gentle Giant
Height Male 70–80 cm (28–31 in)[3]
Female 65–75 cm (26–30 in)[3]
Weight Male 45–73 kg (100–160 lb)[2]
Female 39–52 kg (85–115 lb)[2]
Life span 10 to 12 years[2]
Kennel club standards
Société Centrale Canine standard
FCI standard
Dog (domestic dog)
Pyrenean Mountain Dog puppy

The Pyrenean Mountain Dog, known as the Great Pyrenees in North America, is a large breed of dog used as a livestock guardian dog. It should not be confused with the Pyrenean Mastiff.

As late as 1874 the breed was not completely standardized in appearance, with two major subtypes recorded, the Western and the Eastern.[4] They are related to several other large, white, European livestock guardian dogs (LGD), including the Maremma Sheepdog (Italy), the Kuvasz (Hungary), the Akbash (Turkey) and the Polish Tatra Sheepdog or Polski Owczarek Podhalański, and somewhat less closely to the Newfoundland and the St. Bernard. According to the Great Pyrenees Club of America, the Pyrenean Mountain Dog is naturally nocturnal and aggressive with any predators that may harm its flock. However, the breed can typically be trusted with small, young and helpless animals of any kind due to its natural guardian instinct.[5]

The Pyrenean Mountain Dog breed experienced a dramatic falloff in the number of U.S. AKC breed registrations from 2000 to 2010.[6] The breed was ranked at No. 45 in 2000 but by 2010 had dropped to No. 71. In 2013 the breed was ranked No. 69. Other large breeds in the same working group classification, the Newfoundland and the St. Bernard, have fared far better in maintaining their breed rankings, being ranked No. 44 and No. 45, respectively, in 2010.


Males grow to 50–59 kg (110–130 pounds) and 69–81 cm (27–32 inches), while females reach 41–52 kg (90–115 pounds) and 66–79 cm (26–31 inches).[5] On average, their lifespan is 10 to 11 years.[7]

The weather-resistant double coat consists of a long, flat, thick, outer coat of coarse hair, straight or slightly undulating, lying over a dense, fine, woolly undercoat. The coat is more profuse about the neck and shoulders, where it forms a ruff or mane, which is more pronounced in males so that it may fend off wolf attacks.[citation needed] The longer hair on the tail forms a plume. There is also feathering along the back of the front legs and along the back of the thighs, giving a "pantaloon" effect. The hair on the face and ears is both shorter and of finer texture.

The main coat color is white and can have varying shades of gray, red (rust), or tan around the face (including a full face mask) and ears and sometimes on the body and tail. As Pyrenean Mountain Dogs mature, their coats grow thicker and the longer-colored hair of the coat often fades. Sometimes a little light tan or lemon will appear later in life around the ears and face. The breed being double-coated, the undercoat can also have color and the skin as well. The color of the nose and on the eye rims should be jet black.[8] Grey or tan markings that remain lend the French name, "blaireau", (badger) which is a similar grizzled mixture color seen in the European badger. More recently, any color is correctly termed "Badger" or "Blaireau".[9]

One singular characteristic of the Pyrenean Mountain Dog is the unique double dewclaws on each hind leg.[10]


In nature, the Great Pyrenees is confident, gentle (especially with children) and affectionate. While territorial and protective of its flock or family when necessary, its general demeanor is of composure and patience and loyalty. It is a strong-willed, independent and reserved breed. It is also attentive, quite fearless and loyal to its duties. The Great Pyrenees' size makes it an imposing guardian. A dog of this breed will patrol its perimeter and may wander away if left off its leash in an unenclosed space. The Great Pyrenees protects its flock by barking and, being nocturnal, tends to bark at night unless trained against such behavior.[10]

The Great Pyrenees can be slow to learn new commands, slow to obey and somewhat stubborn to train. For this reason, the breed is ranked No. 64 (out of 79 ranks covering 131 breeds) in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs. Despite this relative stubbornness, it is quite unusual for the Great Pyrenees to become aggressive or turn on its master. It is wary of strangers if the person is not allowed in the house, but will settle down if the owner of the dog seems comfortable with the stranger.[citation needed] This dog was originally bred to be a livestock guard dog and can still be found doing that job on farms and ranches.


When kept as a house pet, the Great Pyrenees' coat needs brushing once or twice a week. The breed needs moderate exercise but tends to be somewhat lazy, especially in warm weather. They particularly enjoy cold weather and snow. Like similar breeds, some Great Pyrenees tend to drool, especially with exercise, heat or stress. However, this is not on a Beethoven-like scale and generally, they are not droolers.[10] Great Pyrenees need to have their nails clipped often to avoid damage. This breed also needs to have their teeth and ears cleaned regularly to prevent infection. Great Pyrenees have a double coat, and will shed their undercoat. They shed heavily in spring, but regular brushing will keep the shedding and the hair manageable. [11]


The Great Pyrenees were bred centuries ago to work with shepherds and herding dogs in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain.[12]

A Great Pyrenees guarding a flock of sheep

One of the first descriptions of the breed comes from Fray Miguel Agustín, "prior" of the Temple who lived between 1560 and 1630, published in 1617, a book which he called Libro de los secretos de la agricultura, casa de campo y pastoril. It gives the reasons why shepherds prefer white puppies, excluding those born with spots of dark color. Relates the friar: "The wool cattle dogs should not must be so big or so heavy as those of the guard of the house, but strong and sturdy, lightweight and ready to combat and fight and for run, because they have to make saves and guard against wolves and hunt them down if those take a cattle... These should be white so that the shepherd can easily see when these run after the wolf and know them in the evening and the morning."[13]

From 1675 the breed was a favorite of the Grand Dauphin and other members of the French aristocracy.[14]

In the mid-19th century, the breed was not homogenized. According to the article published on February 20, 1874, in the journal Acclimatization and written by the canine expert Kermadec, says:

There in the Pyrenees various types of large dogs, called Mountain Dogs, and among other, two very different varieties:

—One, We might designate with the name "Dog of the Western Pyrenees", particularly widespread around Bagneres-de-Bigorre; have a thick snout, hanging lips, rounded ears, a little curly coat black and white, seems to be largely the strain of large dogs designated with the name Terra-Nova Dogs, widespread throughout France.

—The Second type is the "Dog of the Eastern Pyrenees" is large, very slender shape, pointed snout, pointy ears and falls, soft, silky and abundant coat, a complete white snow color. In some cases, there is a blackish band around the eyes, but often it is completely white... It was extended once in the Republic of Andorra and part of Spain, but in Andorra is completely extirpated. It might still exist in the mountains of Spain.[15][16][17]

Mary Crane founded the Great Pyrenees breed in America in 1931, and together with her husband Francis began Basquaerie Great Pyrenees at their Needham, Massachusetts home. Her devotion and dedication to Great Pyrenees continued for more than fifty years.

In 1931 Basquaerie imported the first Great Pyrenees from France, for the purpose of establishing the breed in America. In 1933 the Great Pyrenees was formally recognized by the American Kennel Club as a pure-bred breed eligible to compete in all AKC competition, this due in large part to the efforts of the Cranes toward achieving this recognition. Basquaerie preserved the finest Great Pyrenees dogs and bloodlines in the world from the ravages and hostilities of WWII in Europe. They imported nearly 60 Great Pyrenees from France and Europe to the United States, representing more than 10 distinct bloodlines or kennels and a diverse population of Great Pyrenees.


A young Pyrenean Mountain Dog in Krakow

It is possible that the Venezuelan Mucuchies breed descended from the Great Pyrenees, other Spanish breeds, and a few more other breeds that could have been introduced in the 16th century by the Spanish conquistadors.[18]

The real spread of the Great Pyrenees out of its mountains developed in the 19th century with the birth of Romanticism. This breed, first appreciated for its beauty and poise, and then by its innate temperamental qualities, gained fame in the rest of Europe. The Great Pyrenees were introduced in America by General Lafayette in 1824. In [[Australia],] they were introduced in 1843 to save herds on a farm in Hamilton.

By the early 19th century, there was a thriving market for the dogs in mountain towns, from which they would be taken to other parts of France. The dog was developed to be agile in order to guard sheep on steep, mountainous slopes.[10]

The breed is said to be part of the mix that was used to create the Leonberger.[19]

In popular culture[edit]

  • Belle, from Cécile Aubry's novel Belle et Sébastien (adapted several times for film and television), is a Great Pyrenees.
  • The 2004 film Finding Neverland used a Great Pyrenees to represent J. M. Barrie's Landseer Newfoundland dog.
  • In the television series King of Queens a Great Pyrenees is a recurring customer of Holly the dog walker.
  • In the 1965 film Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, a Great Pyrenees is the household dog at the Lord Rawnsley estate.
  • In the Marx Brothers' Horse Feathers, a Great Pyrenees appears in the dog catcher's wagon.
  • In the Korean variety show Happy Sunday - 1 Night 2 Days, Sang Geun, a Great Pyrenees, is the mascot of the show and recently appointed as "Nation's Pet".
  • A popular Korean singer, Hero Jaejoong from TVXQ, owns a Great Pyrenees named Vick.
  • In the 2009 Disney film Santa Buddies, a male Great Pyrenees puppy named Puppy Paws (voiced by Zachary Gordon) is the protagonist and the son of Santa Claus's dog Santa Paws (voiced by Tom Bosley), a full-grown male Great Pyrenees.
  • Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees owned a Great Pyrenees named Barnaby who was in their television movie Cucumber Castle and the video for their song "Lonely Days".
  • In the Jim Carrey film Dumb and Dumber, a Great Pyrenees appears in the dogmobile.
  • Webcomic artist Jeph Jacques owns a Great Pyrenees named Shelby, who has appeared in his webcomic Questionable Content on occasion. He appears almost exactly the same as Mr. Tadakichi of anime fame (see below).
  • In Hanazakari no Kimitachi e, the male lead had a Great Pyrenees named "Yu Ci Lan" for a pet.
  • Many Japanese manga and anime series have dogs that are either this breed or based on its appearance:
  • In the book Between Mom and Jo by Julie Anne Peters, the family takes in a stray Great Pyrenees.
  • In the book Futures and Frosting by Tara Sivec, Carter's parents buy him, Claire and Gavin a Great Pyrenees puppy. Claire exaggeratingly describes it as a "900-pound [410 kg] animal", "almost the same size as Gavin" and "looks like a polar bear".
  • The logo of the Sea Dog Brewing Company represents the founders' late Great Pyrenees.[20]
  • During the live simulcast of the Stephanie Miller Show radio show on Free Speech TV, Stephanie's two Great Pyrenees, Max and Fred, are often seen on camera and are a subject of discussion.
  • In 2014 a Great Pyrenees known as Duke the Dog became mayor of a small Minnesota town Cormorant.[21][22][23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ FCI Breed Standard
  2. ^ a b c "Great Pyrenees". Retrieved 20 January 2020.
  3. ^ a b FCI breed standard
  4. ^ Durr, Mark. Dog's Best Friend: Annals of the Dog-Human Relationship - 2004 Page 161.
  5. ^ a b "Great Pyrenees Club of America: Livestock Guardian Dog". Great Pyrenees Club of America. 2010-01-10. Archived from the original on 2006-02-09. Retrieved 2012-03-17.
  6. ^ "AKC Dog Registration Statistics". American Kennel Club. Archived from the original on 2015-02-07. Retrieved 2012-03-17.
  7. ^ "Great Pyrenees Club of America's 2006 Health Survey Results" (PDF).
  8. ^ "American Kennel Club Profile". Retrieved 2012-03-17.
  9. ^ "A description of the breed". Retrieved 2012-03-17.
  10. ^ a b c d Coile, D. Caroline (2005). Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds, second edition. Barron's. ISBN 0764157000.
  11. ^ Club, American Kennel. "Great Pyrenees Health & Care Information". Retrieved 2016-09-16.
  12. ^ "Early History of the breed". Retrieved 2012-03-17.
  13. ^ Online book Libro de los secretos de agricultura, casa de campo y pastoril written by Fray Miguel Agustín. 1622
  14. ^ "Great Pyrenees Connection-Great Pyrenees Colors". Retrieved 2012-03-17.
  15. ^ Pyrenean Institute of the Great Pyrenees website
  17. ^ "El Perro de Montaña de Los Pirineos" website of the Club of the Great Pyrenees in Spain
  18. ^ "Mucuchies Information and Pictures",
  19. ^ Junehall, Petra Breed Standard: Leonberger, 08-tryck, 2005.
  20. ^ "About The Sea Dog Brewing Company".
  21. ^ "Duke The Dog Elected Mayor In Cormorant, Minn".
  22. ^ "This Dog Was Elected The Mayor Of A Small Town In Minnesota". BuzzFeed.
  23. ^ Duke the dog. Mayor of Cormorant MN. YouTube. 16 August 2014.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]