Breeds 101: The Great Pyrenees

Buddy the Great Pyrenees. Photo by Wesley Coburn
Buddy the Great Pyrenees. Photo by Wesley Coburn /

The Great Pyrenees might look frightening, but they’re really a gentle and friendly breed.

The Great Pyrenees isn’t especially popular in the US, ranking only 66th out of the American Kennel Club’s 192 breeds, though it is one of the most well-known when it comes to the subgroup of Livestock Guardian Dogs.

As expected from an LGD, the breed is part of the Working Group in AKC dog shows. It is called the “Pyreneean Mountain Dog” outside of North America.

They are very large; females stand around 25-29 inches at the withers (shoulders) and can at least 85 pounds, while males stand around 27-32 inches and weigh at least a hundred pounds. Both often weigh more, though at a healthy weight you should just be able to see their ribs.

They live about 10 to 12 years, a good span for a large breed. In coloring they’re usually white or near it, though yellowish, gray, brown or black patches can occur, too.

The ideal Great Pyrenees ” conveys the distinct impression of elegance and unsurpassed beauty combined with great overall size and majesty,” according to the AKC Breed Standard, while also possessing “a keen intelligence and a kindly, while regal, expression.”

For the most part, even though they’re enormous, they’re also super gentle and patient. Their preferred method of dealing with intruders is to bark at them, not to physically attack.

On the other hand, they’re also extremely independent, forming bonds with specific members of their flock, or if their isn’t a huge herd to take care of, specific people.

Because of this, they can be stubborn and hard to train. They make excellent pets, though, if you can overlook (or afford) how much they eat.

They come from the Pyrenees Mountains of southern France and northern Spain, and were greatly popularized elsewhere by Romanticism, the early nineteenth-century artistic/intellectual movement which produced poets like Byron, Coleridge and Wordsworth, and novelists like Sir Walter Scott, Jane Austen and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The main dogs in the Santa Paws trilogy of movies are Great Pyrenees.

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