Everything You Need to Know About the Great Pyrenees Dog

Posted by TF Oren

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The Great Pyrenees, or "Pyr" for short, is the 67th most popular dog breed in America.

The Great Pyrenees dog is known by many names in various parts of the world, including Le Grande Chien des Montagnes ("The Big Dog of the Mountains"), Le Chien des Pyrenees ("The Dog of the Pyrenees"), and, more commonly, the Pyrenean Mountain Dog.

The Pyr has a long history. Remains of the breed have been found in the fossil deposits of the Bronze Age (1800-1000 B.C.). It is believed that the breed originated in Central Asia or perhaps Siberia, from a group of white flock guardian dogs, around 10,000-11,000 years ago. They later arrived in Europe with the Aryan migration.

For hundreds of years, the Great Pyrenees breed was primarily used by shepherds, most notably those who lived and worked in the Pyrenees Mountain region of southern France and northern Spain. Their double coat is notoriously weather resistant making it perfect for cold weather.

In the mid-1600s, Basque fisherman took the Pyr to Newfoundland. There, they crossed it with the black curly-coated retriever favored by English settlers. The cross produced the Landseer Newfoundland.


It was also during the 17th century, the Pyr became a favorite companion of French nobility. Not until 1824 did the royal dog breed arrive in the U.S., when General Lafayette brought two males over for his friend J.S. Skinner, author of "The Dog and the Sportsman."

In 1931, Mr. and Mrs. Francis V. Crane brought a number of Great Pyrenees over to the U.S. in an effort to launch the breed in North America. Their efforts were successful, and the Great Pyrenees received American Kennel Club (AKC) recognition in 1933.

Today, the Pyr is a beloved companion and guardian. Although most never see sheep or a show ring, they are nonetheless as loved as ever and are gaining recognition in many other fields, such as rescue and therapy, due to their intelligence and versatility.

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The head is wedge-shaped and the crown is gently rounded. Eyes are almond shaped and rich brown in color. Close-fitting eyelids have black rims. Small or medium-sized ears are V-shaped, set at eye-level, and generally carried flat and close to the head.

The union of the hair from the upper and lower halves of the face forms a line that extends from the outside corner of the eye to the base of the ear.


The neck is muscular and the backline is level. The chest is reasonably broad and the oval ribcage is well sprung, reaching elbow depth. Back and loin are broad, croup is gently sloped, and tail is set just under the level of the back.

The tail reaches down to the hock. It is carried low when the dog is at rest and can be raised and carried over the back when the dog is excited.


The double coat is water resistant. The outer layer of the coat is long, flat, and thick, coarse hair. The undercoat is dense and wooly. The coat is heavier around the neck and shoulders.

Males have a ruff or mane of this heavier hair. The coat feathers along the backs of all four legs, producing the appearance of pantaloons in the rear. The coat comes in one standard color (white) and four standard markings (badger, gray, reddish brown, and tan).

General Appearance

The Great Pyrenees is the picture of elegance and majesty. His expression is regal and intelligent. Sound of movement, he carries himself with distinction and purpose.

His size and appearance makes it clear that he was bred for a physically demanding job in harsh mountainous environments. Males stand 27”-32” at the shoulder and weigh 100+ pounds and females stand 25”-29” at the shoulder and weigh 85+ pounds.


The Great Pyrenees is a smart, strong-willed dog that is also affectionate. He is of a mellow temperament and generally very good with children and other dogs, even better with supervision.

The Great Pyrenees is a vocal dog and his independent-mindedness makes early and consistent training important. He is both companion and guardian, and prefers to intimidate intruders into leaving rather than resorting to aggression, although he will in order to protect his human flock. He needs lots of daily exercise in order to stay healthy and happy.


With a life expectancy of 10-12 years, the Great Pyrenees is relatively healthy. However, like all breeds, it is prone to certain breed-specific health concerns. For the Great Pyrenees, hip dysplasia and patellar luxation are issues to watch for.

Regular, quality veterinary care is essential, regardless of the dog’s age or state of health.

The Great Pyrenees Club of America is the official national breed club and a great source for all things Pyr.

Is there a special Pyr in your life? Show and tell us about it in the comments section!

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Everything You Need to Know About the Great Pyrenees Dog