Photo by Mike Baird

Great Pyrenees - Breed Profile:

Origin: France / Spain
Colors: White with markings
Size: Extra large
Type of Owner: Experienced
Exercise: Moderate
Grooming: Regular
Trainability: Somewhat difficult to train
Combativeness: Tends to be fairly dog aggressive
Dominance: High
Noise: Likes to bark

Physical characteristics

The Great Pyrenees is an elegant dog that reveals an unsurpassable beauty along with a great overall size and majesty. The well-balanced body is slightly longer than tall. The legs are sufficiently boned and muscled. The topline is level and the chest is fairly broad. The elegant head is in good proportion to the rest of the body. It is wedge-shaped, with a slightly rounded skull. The stop is not apparent. The pendent ears are medium size. The almond-shaped eyes are dark brown; the expression is thoughtful, intelligent, and dignified. The nose, the eye rims, and the tight-fitting lips are black. The teeth should meet in a scissor or level bite. The well-plumed tail is carried low at rest and may be carried over the back when the dog is excited.
The Great Pyrenees weighs 85 to 130 pounds. The height is 25 to 32 inches. In spite of its weight, this dog is considered "medium substance", and it is not generally described as a giant breed like, for example, the Saint Bernard.

Temperament

These dogs have been bred to herd sheep in the mountains for weeks or even months at a time, being left on their own and encouraged to make their own decisions. Everything about their character is a result of this purpose. They are courageous, calm, independent, dominant, and protective. These dogs require a firm owner who will be more dominant and stronger-minded, otherwise the dog won't obey. Moreover, it will very likely develop unwanted behaviour and become stubborn. Training can be somewhat difficult because of the same wilful and independent streak. This breed tends to be quite good with children of its own family, although it may try to protect them, even from strange kids. Be sure to socialize the dog well with people, places and noises. The Great Pyrenees is gentle and affectionate with those it loves. Devoted to family and can self-sacrifice is required. Usually good with other pets including cats.

Coat and grooming

The weather resistant coat is double. The outer hair is long, flat, thick, coarse and straight (although can be slightly wavy). The undercoat is dense, fine, and woolly. The hair is more profuse around the neck and shoulders, which is especially prominent in males. The hair on the face and ears is shorter and finer. The tail is well-plumed and the backs of the legs are well-feathered. The Great Pyrenees comes in predominantly white colour with grey, badger, reddish brown or tan markings. Regular brushing is necessary, with extra care given in shedding periods.

Health

Prone to bloat, hip dysplasia, bone cancer, and luxated patellas. Can develop skin problems in very hot weather. The lifespan is 10 to 12 years.

Other interesting facts

It is thought that the Great Pyrenees originated in Central Asia or Siberia and followed the Aryan migration into Europe. The breed derives its name from the mountain range in southwestern Europe, where it was used to guard flocks on the steep slopes.
These dogs do not reach maturity until they are about 2 years old.