Great Pyrenees are impressive European herding dogs. Originally from the Pyrenees Mountains in Western Europe, these dogs have been appreciated for hundreds of years for their solid temperaments, exceptional guarding abilities, and gentle natures. They have been used all over the world as guardians of livestock, and they are still primarily used for this purpose today.
Great Pyrenees have been around a very long time. In fact, the first written record that mentions them dates back to a Roman author from the first century BCE; however, more detailed descriptions of Great Pyrenees date back to the 1400s. Because there was not much of a homogenous breeding program then, the breed varied a lot and was not standardized until much later in the 1800s. Until then, they were bred primarily by individuals who used them as guard dogs on farms. They slowly began making their way down the Pyrenees Mountains in the 19th century, though it is possible that some of them made it to the New World alongside Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century.
Once they left their native mountainous regions, Great Pyrenees became popular in certain aristocratic circles, including the French and Spanish aristocracy. Their brilliant white coats and imposing features made them the favorite dogs of many livestock owners in the higher echelons of society.
Great Pyrenees are not really apartment dogs. Their large size and history as working dogs make them ill-suited to city or apartment life. They will thrive in the suburbs or, even better, a rural setting where they will have plenty of space to roam and plenty of jobs to do. Great Pyrenees will excel as livestock guard dogs—they’ll take their jobs very seriously. They are wonderful with children and other animals, and they are exceptional “caretakers.”
Great Pyrenees are gentle dogs. While they will react with intensity and aggression if they feel their family or their flock is in danger, they are very good at regulating their reactions—they will only act that way if they really perceive danger. In most other instances, Great Pyrenees are mild-mannered and sweet dogs that are very loyal with their family and those they love.
The dog named Belle from Cécile Aubry's immensely popular children’s book “Belle et Sébastien” is a Great Pyrenees.
Explore some Embark dogs that share Great Pyrenees ancestry.