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History of the Great Pyreneen

Interesting documentation on Arte about Great Pyreneens (Only available in German or French)


The Great Pyreneen was originally bred as a shepherd dog but has established itself over the centuries as a very popular breed at the courts of the nobility because of its imposing appearance. Today, this traditional breed is still present in Europe and even worldwide.

Origin and ancestry

The ancestors of the Great Pyreneen probably descended from Central Asia. Fossil finds indicate that this breed has lived in the Pyrenees for about 4000 years, since the Bronze Age. Together with the Mastino Espanol and the Mastino Napoletano, Pyrenean Mountain Dog is a descendant of the ancient Tibetan Dog and is one of the oldest dog breeds in existence.

The Great Pyrenees take their name from the Pyrenees Mountain range between France and Spain. In its native France it is known as Le Grand Chien de Montagne. The French often call they dog Patou (males) and Pastoure (betches) what is means Shepherd and Shepherdess (from the Gallo-Roman).

In the Pyrenees – by Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899) In the Pyrenees – by Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899)

For centuries, the Great Pyrenees not only defending the flocks from wolfs and bears they also served as a guardian of the châteaux of the area.

Paul Strang described in his book “The Great Pyrenees” the lovely history, how the Great Pyrenees become the members of the French royalty. “Madame de Maintenon visited Barrèges in 1675 accompanied by the young Dauphin, son of Louis XIV. In the countryside the boy made friends with a gorgeous male Patou about eight months old. The two became inseparable and eventually Patou and the Prince returned together to live at the Louvre… From this time forward members of the nobility chose the Pyrenean above all other Breeds.”

After the French Revolution the Pyrenean retained his popularity and became, for the next century, one of the most sought after breed on the large estates of France. The Great Pyrenees were present on the first French dog show in 1863. Very few of these dogs were seen outside their country of origin before 1930. As from then on, several high-quality breeding dogs were exported to North America and England.

Today, the Great Pyrenees is present all over the world. He is used as shepherd dog, a task in which he excels. He is also very appreciated for his exceptional quality as companion and family dog.

Character and special attributes

The peasant-shepherds usually imposed rigorous standards of performance on their breeding stock. Only those dogs which met these stringent requirements were retained to produce the future generations. The white dog could easily be distinguished from wolves and weather-resistant coat was essential because the dog spent most of its life in the open. The big, strong, fearless and agile dog be able to cope with the enemy. Intelligence was required, not only to be able to act on its own initiative, but also to be able to understand and obey the shepherd`s commands. The tremendous energy reserve was called for as the dogs had to stand duty around the clock – in the hours of darkness being especially favoured by the enemy predators.

This through a centuries-old program of breeding make the Pyrenees how we know today!


The Great Pyrenean combine a great intelligence with a deep devotion to family and home, and a natural-born instinct to guard and protect. While trustworthy, affectionate, gentle and tractable, they can become, when and if the need arises, protective guardians of their family and their territory. Adult Pyrennes are enjoying quiet times with relax and sleep. They want to have they life to be consistent and predictable. This large breed is not suited to life in an apartment or for city life with a lot of noise, hedges and small gardens.

As a family dog the Pyrennes needs to be included in the family, otherwise he will become displeased or even aggressive. This breed must not be kept in a kennel. Also, they need a consistent but loving education.

Inspired by Paul Strang “Great Pyrenees