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Great Pyrenees

Country/Date of Origin: France/2000 BC

This sheep guardian is one of the oldest of the pure breeds. It is known from Bronze age burial sites. It is thought to have come from the Middle East as a similar breed is depicted in ancient Babylonian art work. At night a shepherd could easily distinguish the sheep shaped, sheep colored and even sheep sized Great Pyrenees Dog from predators such as wolves and bears. And in the day, the white color lulled thieves, either human or animal, into a false sense of security. The seemingly unguarded flock was, to their great surprise, quite well guarded. The protective instincts of the Basque shepherd's dog captured the attention of French nobility and soon the white one was watching the chateaux and children of kings. It is hard to realize that the breed was not recognized by the American Kennel Club until 1933 although the first pair were brought to General George Washington by the Marquis de Lafayette. They are however, experiencing an unexpected surge in popularity due to the use of the breed for its original purpose. A rising threat to livestock by coyotes and a reluctance to use poisons has resulted in more dogs being used as guardians. The program has been quite successful.

Other Names Body Type Personality Coat Health Concerns

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Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Chien des Pyrenees

AKC Group: Working

Breed Club: Great Pyrenees Club of America

Rescue Club: Great Pyrenees Club of America Rescue

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Body Type:

  • An enormous yet elegant looking dog of imposing appearance
  • Height: 26-32 inches (at shoulder)
  • Weight: 90-125 pounds
  • The long, bushy tail is slightly curled. It is carried low and is never altered
  • The triangular ears are fairly small and hang close to the head. They are never altered
  • Double dewclaws are required on the hind fee


  • This is a watchdog but it will also willingly pull carts or carry a pack
  • Quiet with slow, deliberate movements
  • Makes friends slowly and is very wary of strangers
  • A one-family dog


  • Long, thick and coarse. The double coat is able to withstand the elements
  • Permissible colors are all white with some gray, tan or badger markings
  • Tends to shed heavily in spring and summer
  • High grooming required

Health Concerns:

  • Subject to hip dysplasia
  • Possible eyelid defects
  • Can suffer from hot spots
  • Epilepsy
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Tasty Tidbits:
  • In the spring and summer these dogs become mobile fur spreaders
  • Shedding is excessive
  • Not suggested as a breed for the first time dog owner
  • They are strong, overly protective and can be aggressive
  • Furthermore they are quite independent, a trait selectively bred for in this breed that works alone

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