A breed of dog associated with standing guard faithfully with its shepherd, the Great Pyrenees is one of the oldest breeds of dog known to man.
With its majestic, impressive appearance and incredible intelligence, eyesight and ability to sniff out the first hint of trouble, the Great Pyrenees is a breed to behold. A hard-working dog that can tough it out in the harshest of conditions, it is a dog beloved for its independent nature and ability to make quick decisions when trouble arises.
Physical CharacteristicsWhen people first see a Great Pyrenees, they are impressed by its thick white coat. As weather resistant a coat as any dog could have, it allows the dog to do its job of guarding the flock or farm very well no matter the weather conditions. While most Great Pyrenees are all white, some may have various markings of gray, tan or badger. The dense double-coat of the breed forms a mane around the neck and shoulders, particularly with the males. This happens as they mature, helping those guarding farms or flocks to ward off potential wolf or coyote attacks.
While the hair on its body is long and dense, their faces possess hair that is much finer in texture and much shorter as well. Sporting dark brown eyes and a tail resembling a plume, the Great Pyrenees has a look all its own. A unique physical characteristic of this breed is the double dew claws on each hind leg, giving it added strength and stability when needed.
TemperamentA very affectionate and gentle dog, it is known to be great with children of all ages. Yet, it is also a very territorial dog, and when it senses its territory has been invaded it springs into action. Attentive and loyal while on guard duty, it is a fearless dog that will do everything possible to protect its owners and other animals.
These dogs do, however, have a stubborn streak and may be hard to train at times. Sometimes slow to learn or obey new commands, this is a dog that will not stand out in obedience school. Nevertheless, it will rarely if ever turn on its owner and will be good with strangers if their owner seems comfortable with them. They bark only when they sense it is needed, and are somewhat nocturnal dogs that may bark too much at night for a family's liking. If that is the case, obedience training will be needed to change the behavior.
Care & GroomingBecause these dogs have such long, thick coats good grooming is essential to keep them looking their best. Most dogs need only be brushed once or twice a week to maintain their appearance, and baths can be done once every month or two depending upon the activity level of the dog and how much time they spend outside. They have a tendency to drool when they get excited or when they exercise, so owners may need to clean around their mouths or under their chin to make sure that area stays clean and free from the risk of infection due to any dirt buildup.
Bred to enjoy cold weather and snow, they thrive in areas where cold weather rules. Those who live in warm weather areas tend to get lazy about their exercise, so it's important their owners make sure to take them walking or give them activities on a farm to keep them moving. Like many bigger breeds of dogs, these are also prone to certain health issues. Cancer, hip dysplasia and spinal muscular atrophy are the most serious issues to be concerned about. However, when compared to other breeds the Great Pyrenees is considered one of the healthier larger dogs of its kind.
HistoryBelieved to have originated in Central Asia or Siberia, the fossilized remains of these dogs have been found in deposits dating to the Bronze Age, which occurred between 1800-1000 B.C., demonstrating the long and varied history of the breed. Besides being thought of as the lone dog guarding the flock high on a mountaintop, these dogs are also associated with French nobility and royalty due to their appearance and loyalty. Very popular in France and Spain in the 17th-century, the breed was loved by the Grand Dauphin, leading to its place in the royal palaces of European kings and queens.
It's recognized the first pair of these dogs were brought to the United States in 1824 by General Lafayette as a gift to his friend J.S. Skinner. The AKC officially recognized the breed in 1933, and it's been a very popular breed ever since.