Great Pyrenees Dog: History of This Centuries-Old Breed

Posted by TF Oren

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.

History of Great Pyrenees Dog Breed

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.

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!

This article was originally published October 7, 2017.

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Great Pyrenees Dog: History of This Centuries-Old Breed