Great Pyrenees Guide

Working Dog Breeds

Elegant, imposing and majestic, the Great Pyrenees is a large dog of medium substance that is slightly longer than tall. Its thick coat gives the impression of heavier bone and stature. This breed was developed to guard flocks on steep mountain slopes and so must combine strength with agility. It moves smoothly, with good reach and drive. Its weather-resistant double coat consists of a dense, wooly undercoat and a long, flat, coarse outer coat, imparting great insulation from the Pyrenean cold. Its expression is elegant and contemplative.

The Great Pyrenees is a capable and imposing guardian, devoted to its family and somewhat wary of strangers — human or canine. When not provoked, it is calm, well-mannered and somewhat serious. It is very gentle with its family and children. It has an independent, somewhat stubborn, nature and may try to dominate a less secure owner. Some are not good off leash and may wander away. The Great Pyrenees tends to bark a lot.

AKC RANKING 52

FAMILY livestock Dog, flockguard

AREA OF ORIGIN France/Spain

DATE OF ORIGIN ancient times

ORIGINAL FUNCTION sheep guardian

TODAY'S FUNCTION companion

AVERAGE SIZE OF MALE Height: 27-32 Weight: 115

AVERAGE SIZE OF FEMALE Height: 25-29 Weight: 85-90

OTHER NAME Pyrenean mountain dog, chien des Pyrenees, chien de montagne des Pyrenees

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Energy level Low energy

Exercise needs Medium

Playfullness Not very playful

Affection level Moderately affectionate

Friendliness toward other dogs Shy

Friendliness toward other pets Friendly

Friendliness toward strangers Shy

Ease of training Easy to train

Watchdog ability High

Protection ability Very protective

Grooming needs Moderate maintenance

Cold tolerance High tolerance

Heat tolerance Low tolerance

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The Great Pyrenees needs daily exercise to stay in shape, though its needs are not excessive. A moderate walk will usually suffice. It enjoys hiking, especially in cold weather and snow. It does not do well in hot weather. This breed can live outdoors in temperate to cold weather, although it enjoys being with its family indoors. Its coat needs brushing once or twice weekly, daily when shedding. It may drool at times, and it tends to be a messy drinker.
• Major concerns: CHD, patellar luxation
• Minor concerns: entropion, OCD, skin problems, osteosarcoma
• Occasionally seen: ChD, gastric torsion, otitis externa, panosteitis
• Suggested tests: hip, knee, (eye)
• Life span: 10 – 12 years
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Also known as the Pyrenean mountain dog, the Great Pyrenees is a very old breed, probably descending from the Tibetan mastiff. It may have come to Europe with the Aryans from Central Asia, as well as with Phoenician sea traders. They settled in the Spanish Pyrenees and in various mountain valleys in Europe. It was used from the earliest times to guard flocks. A painting of the times shows a pair of these guards, each wearing a spiked iron collar to protect its throat from animal or human adversaries. In medieval France, the Pyrenees became a formidable fortress guard, and eventually a band of these imposing dogs was the pride of many large chateaus. In the late 1600s, the breed caught the eye of the French nobility, and for a brief time they were in great demand in the court of Louis XIV. In fact, in 1675 the Great Pyrenees was decreed the "Royal Dog of France" by Louis XIV. Around the same time the Great Pyrenees came to Newfoundland, where it may have played a role in the development of the Newfoundland breed, but it did not itself continue as a pure breed. The first documented Pyrenees came to America with Gen. Lafayette in 1824. By the 1900s, the breed had disappeared from French court life, and the remaining dogs were those found still working in the isolated Basque countryside. Many of the poorer puppies were sold to tourists who brought them back to England and other countries. These dogs bore little resemblance to the magnificent Pyrenees that had once been so admired, however. Interest in the breed declined in England, but fortunately the breed still existed in sufficient numbers and quality in its native mountain land so that later fanciers were able to obtain good breeding stock. These dogs served as the foundation of the modern Pyrenees. Serious importation of the breed to America occurred in the 1930s, and by 1933 the Great Pyrenees received AKC recognition. It attracted great attention as well as new owners; today the Great Pyrenees enjoys moderate popularity.
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