Elegant, imposing, and majestic, the Great Pyrenees is a large dog of medium substance that is slightly longer than tall. The thick coat of the Great Pyrenees 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. The dog moves smoothly, with good reach and drive. The weather-resistant double coat consists of a dense, wooly undercoat and a long, flat, coarse outer coat, imparting great insulation from the Pyrenean cold. The expression of a Great Pyrenees dog is elegant and contemplative.
The Great Pyrenees is a very old breed that probably descended from the first flock guardian dogs, which were large white dogs that existed in Asia Minor about 10,000 b.c. When nomadic shepherds brought their sheep to the Pyrenees Mountains around 3000 b.c, their flock guarding dogs came with them, forming the basis of the Great Pyrenees breed. These dogs excelled as livestock guardians for several centuries. In medieval France, the Pyrenees became a formidable fortress guard, and bands of these imposing dogs became the pride of many large chateaus. In the late 1600s, the breed caught the eye of French nobility. 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 Great Pyrenees came to Newfoundland, where they may have played a role in the development of the Newfoundland breed. The first documented Pyrenees came to America with General 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 countryside. 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. Fortunately the breed still existed in sufficient numbers and quality in its native mountain land 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. The breed attracted great attention as well as new owners, and today the Great Pyrenees enjoys moderate popularity as a family pet. The breed has earned also a reputation as a reliable livestock guardian in service in much of the United States.
The Great Pyrenees is a capable and imposing guardian. This breed is devoted to its family and somewhat wary of strangers—human or canine. When not provoked, the breed is calm, well-mannered, and somewhat serious. While very gentle with family and children, the Great Pyrenees has an independent, somewhat stubborn, nature. Because they are wanderers, they should be kept on-leash. As a guardian dog, the Great Pyrenees is a natural barker.
The Great Pyrenees requires daily exercise to stay in shape. A moderate walk will usually suffice. This breed enjoys hiking, especially in cold weather and snow, but does not do well in hot weather. This dog’s coat will require brushing once or twice weekly, daily when shedding. Some dogs of this breed may drool at times, and can tend to be messy drinkers.