Great Pyrenees.jpg
Breed Group Group 9: Large Guardian Pastoral/Mountain Dogs
Sub-group 9-A: 9-A Large Mountain/Pastoral Dogs Shepherding Type
Origin Country France
Weight Males: 100-0 pounds. Females: 85-0 pounds.
Height Males: 27-32 inches. Females: 25-30 inches.
Other Name(s) Chien de Montagne des Pyrenees, Pyr, Pyrenean Mountain Dog
Breed Type Pure
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Great Pyrenees

Breed Group Group 9: Large Guardian Pastoral/Mountain Dogs
Sub-group 9-A: 9-A Large Mountain/Pastoral Dogs Shepherding Type
Origin Country France
Weight Males: 100-0 pounds. Females: 85-0 pounds.
Height Males: 27-32 inches. Females: 25-30 inches.
Other Name(s) Chien de Montagne des Pyrenees, Pyr, Pyrenean Mountain Dog
Breed Type Pure
click here for FULL BREED STANDARD

Origins

High in the Pyrenees Mountains, where a natural border exists between France and Spain, humans have lived and raised livestock for thousands of years. During that time, large white dogs—such as the Great Pyrenees—were used to guard the livestock from thieves and natural predators, such as Pyrenean brown bears. It is believed that these dogs and other large mountain flock guardian breeds, such as the Akbash, Kuvasz, Komondor, and Maremma, descended from large Asian dogs that were originally used to guard the horses, sheep, and goats of nomads.

When the nomadic bands moved from Central Asia to the West, they brought many of their large dogs along and traded some of them with the locals. In their never-ending search for greener pastures, the nomads eventually made their way to the Pyrenees Mountains, where they once again left a number of their prized dogs with the people of the area. There, the dogs worked alongside the local herdsmen for thousands of years, and the populations remained mostly isolated from outside genetic influence.

Eventually, French dignitaries found the dogs. The dignitaries admired them for their size, strength, beauty, and protective nature. They were employed to guard the sprawling chateaus and castles of France, eventually acquiring the title of “Royal Dog of France” from Dauphin Louis XIV. In 1897, the first breed description was produced in a book written by Count de Bylandt. The breed was still heavily utilized in the Pyrenees to protect the flocks from predators through the 1800s, at which point most of the large predators of the mountains were nearly wiped out.

From the early 1900s through World War I, the breed reached a critical decline. Thanks in part to some dedicated enthusiasts who went to great lengths to preserve the breed, many of France’s best dogs were exported to safer locales for preservation prior to the outbreak of World War II. In 1832, the first Great Pyrenees, or Pyr, left his paw prints in American soil. From that point on, enthusiasts engaged in vigorous conservation efforts to save the breed. Today, the Great Pyrenees is thriving as one of the most well-known and widely spread flock-guardian breeds. Not only are they still utilized for their original purpose of keeping flocks safe, but they also accompany mankind in many other disciplines as well, such as obedience trials, search and rescue, and therapy work, and they are an impressive favorite in the show ring.

Breed Characteristics

Head: Mesaticephalic skull-type, moderate in size, shaped like a blunt wedge, tapering from the broad topskull to the muzzle. The topskull is broad, with the length being equal to that of the width (measured across the top in front of the ears). In profile and from the front, the topskull appears slightly rounded, or it may appear almost flat. The brows are somewhat developed. The occiput and sagittal crest are pronounced. A very slight median furrow, or ridge, between the eyes at the stop may be present. The head should appear neither heavy, like that of a mastiff, nor foxy and light. It is always in proportion to the rest of the body. The head is clean-cut and without excess skin or wrinkle.
Eyes: Moderate in size, oval to almond to diamond in shape, and medium to dark brown in color. The eye rims are well-fitted and well-pigmented. The eyes are never bulging. There should be sufficient bone in the surrounding orbital sockets to protect the eyes. In specimens with agouti or sable color on the head, the hair at the outer corners of the eyes meets and forms the distinctive look of “eye liner” that extends from the outer corner of the eye and back toward the cheeks. Any signs of entropion or ectropion are incorrect for this breed.
Ears: Small to medium in size, set rather low on the skull at eye level when in repose. Ears may be slightly raised when the dog is excited or alert. They are triangular, V-shaped, with rounded tips. The inner edge of the ears lies close to the head. The ears are never long, fly-away, or overly large.
Muzzle: The muzzle is a strongly developed feature. It is of a moderate length, equal to the topskull, although profuse coat on the head and topskull can make the topskull appear longer. The plane, or bridge of the muzzle, is straight. It is broad, full, and deep. It blends, or tapers slightly, toward the nose to form a blunt wedge shape. Upper and lower jaws are of equal length, strong and well-developed, never appearing snipy or weak.
Nose: The nose is well-pigmented and black (preferred), however, a faded snow nose is permissible. Self-colored noses are found in non-standard color varieties. The nostrils are well-opened.
Neck: Moderate length to allow for proud head carriage and powerfully muscled with a slight arch. The neck tapers smoothly from the deeper and broader body toward the head. Overall, the neck is clean-cut and without excess skin, throatiness, or dewlap; however, a minimal amount of loose skin at the throat should not be penalized.
Chest: Deep and broad, but never wider than deep. The brisket extends to the point of the elbows. The forechest is well-developed but not prominent.
Body: Solid, of good substance and depth throughout. The body is never racy or excessively heavy. Width at forequarters is approximately equal to the width at the hindquarters.
Feet: Oval to round and compact, with well-arched toes and tough pads.
Tail: Set low on the croup, just below the level of the topline. It is thick at the base and tapering toward the tip. Carried in accordance with the dog’s mood and energy level, usually slightly above the level of the topline to a neutral position, but never tucked. Tail is of a medium to long length, with the tip of the last vertebrae extending to the hock joints when held down. The tail may be straight, gently curved, “arroundera” (a wheel), saber-shaped, or sickle-shaped. It may have a “shepherd’s crook” at the end. There is no preference in carriage.
Movement: The Pyr moves with surprising grace, agility, efficiency, and energy. Powerful, yet graceful, the characteristics of healthy structure are evident: when moving away, the forelegs and rear pasterns should remain parallel to one another. When viewing movement from the front, the forelegs should remain parallel, with elbows and paws moving neither moving in nor out. From the rear, the back pads should be visible when the rear legs are extended. As speed increases, the forelimbs and hind limbs will converge to the center line of gravity. From the side, the topline should remain firm and level. Good reach of movement in the front allows the forepaw to extend out in a line with the nose. The width between the forefeet when extended should be approximately equal to the width between the hind feet when extended, indicating balance, good reach, and good drive. Dogs that exhibit any sign of breathing or locomotive difficulty shall be disqualified from the show ring.
Temperament: This flock guardian is bred to exude a calm and assuring demeanor so as not to frighten the flocks they are employed to protect. They are observant and discerning, capable of quickly telling herd from predator, friend from foe. They are developed to strongly bond with their flocks and families at a young age. Due to the intensity with which they bond, socialization should be employed on individuals that will accompany their families outside of the property; otherwise, they may become overly protective homebodies. They typically behave as gentle giants unless a threat is identified. They are intelligent and willing students, so long as what they are being taught is interesting to them. Otherwise, they may become easily bored or come up with a better idea of their own. Being a dog with guarding instincts, they demand a certain amount of autonomy, but they are always happy to accompany those that they love. Mature individuals may show an indifference or aloofness toward strangers, which should not be penalized. Any unprovoked aggressive or fearful behavior toward people is incorrect for this breed.
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Breed Standard

BREED GROUP 9: Large Guardian Pastoral/Mountain Dogs

Proportions: Somewhat rectangular with length of the body, measured from the point of the forechest to the point of the rump, being just slightly greater than the height at the withers. The ideal body-height-to-length ratio is between 5:4 and 10:9. The body is well put together, with sturdy substance and medium bone. The coat gives the appearance of a dog of great substance and mass; however, when hands are placed in the coat, it becomes evident that the dog is less substantial. The bone is solid, giving strength to the frame, and the dog is powerfully muscled throughout. Males should appear masculine, being more substantial in size and mass, while females should appear more feminine and slightly less substantial. Neither should lack overall type. Preference should be placed over soundness and quality, as opposed to sheer size alone. A lesser-sized specimen can be given preference if all of the elements of quality and soundness are present.

Head

General Appearance: Mesaticephalic skull-type, moderate in size, shaped like a blunt wedge, tapering from the broad topskull to the muzzle. The topskull is broad, with the length being equal to that of the width (measured across the top in front of the ears). In profile and from the front, the topskull appears slightly rounded, or it may appear almost flat. The brows are somewhat developed. The occiput and sagittal crest are pronounced. A very slight median furrow, or ridge, between the eyes at the stop may be present. The head should appear neither heavy, like that of a mastiff, nor foxy and light. It is always in proportion to the rest of the body. The head is clean-cut and without excess skin or wrinkle.
Expression: Regal, noble, self-composed, watchful, and reflective.
Stop: The stop may range from a gentle slope to being moderately defined. It should never appear overly abrupt.
Skull: The ideal muzzle-to-skull ratio is 1:1, with the topskull being equal to the muzzle.
The ideal muzzle-to-skull axis is parallel, or may be just slightly convergent.
Muzzle: The muzzle is a strongly developed feature. It is of a moderate length, equal to the topskull, although profuse coat on the head and topskull can make the topskull appear longer. The plane, or bridge of the muzzle, is straight. It is broad, full, and deep. It blends, or tapers slightly, toward the nose to form a blunt wedge shape. Upper and lower jaws are of equal length, strong and well-developed, never appearing snipy or weak.
Lips or Flews: Lips fit rather well over the teeth and just covers the lower jaw. They should never appear loose, droopy, or pendulous. They are well-pigmented.
Nose: The nose is well-pigmented and black (preferred), however, a faded snow nose is permissible. Self-colored noses are found in non-standard color varieties. The nostrils are well-opened.
Cheeks: The cheeks can range from smoothly muscled to slightly padded. Below the eyes are well-filled and never completely chiseled.
Dentition and Bite: Forty-two strong, clean, and white teeth. Bite may be level, scissor, or reverse-scissor. Contact must be made between the top and bottom incisors. Missing or broken teeth as a result of routine work is not to be penalized.
Eyes: Moderate in size, oval to almond to diamond in shape, and medium to dark brown in color. The eye rims are well-fitted and well-pigmented. The eyes are never bulging. There should be sufficient bone in the surrounding orbital sockets to protect the eyes. In specimens with agouti or sable color on the head, the hair at the outer corners of the eyes meets and forms the distinctive look of “eye liner” that extends from the outer corner of the eye and back toward the cheeks. Any signs of entropion or ectropion are incorrect for this breed.
Ears: Small to medium in size, set rather low on the skull at eye level when in repose. Ears may be slightly raised when the dog is excited or alert. They are triangular, V-shaped, with rounded tips. The inner edge of the ears lies close to the head. The ears are never long, fly-away, or overly large.

Body and Tail

General Description: Solid, of good substance and depth throughout. The body is never racy or excessively heavy. Width at forequarters is approximately equal to the width at the hindquarters.
Neck: Moderate length to allow for proud head carriage and powerfully muscled with a slight arch. The neck tapers smoothly from the deeper and broader body toward the head. Overall, the neck is clean-cut and without excess skin, throatiness, or dewlap; however, a minimal amount of loose skin at the throat should not be penalized.
Chest: Deep and broad, but never wider than deep. The brisket extends to the point of the elbows. The forechest is well-developed but not prominent.
Topline: Level from slightly prominent withers to croup. The back is broad, strongly muscled, and straight, yet supple. The loin is taut, flat and level. The back is never swayed or roached.
Croup: Broad, and gently sloped.
Underline: Slight tuck up present or the underline may run parallel to the topline. The underline is taut and firm, without any indication of sagging or excess weight.
Ribs: Long, well-sprung, well-laid-back, oval-shaped, never barrel-chested or slab-sided.
Tail: Set low on the croup, just below the level of the topline. It is thick at the base and tapering toward the tip. Carried in accordance with the dog’s mood and energy level, usually slightly above the level of the topline to a neutral position, but never tucked. Tail is of a medium to long length, with the tip of the last vertebrae extending to the hock joints when held down. The tail may be straight, gently curved, “arroundera” (a wheel), saber-shaped, or sickle-shaped. It may have a “shepherd’s crook” at the end. There is no preference in carriage.

Forequarters and Hindquarters

Forequarters: Forequarters are always in balance with the hindquarters. Forequarters are well-angulated with well-laid-back shoulder blades. Shoulder blades are approximately equal in length to the upper arm and forearm.
Elbows: Elbows are close to the body. The point of the elbows is approximately half the dog’s height at the withers.
Forelegs: Frontal View: Straight, of good muscle, solid bone, and parallel to one another.
Side View: The forelimbs appear straight with strong pasterns.
NOTE: Each foreleg should carry either a single or double dewclaw.
Pasterns: Never weak or broken.
Hindquarters: Upper thigh and lower thigh are equal in length, strong, sturdy, of solid bone, and well-muscled.
Rear View: When viewed from the rear, the rear pasterns are parallel to one another.
Side View: Good angulation will allow the rear toes to align with the point of the rump or within one to two paw-lengths behind the point of the rump, with the rear pasterns remaining perpendicular to the ground and parallel to one another.
NOTE: Each hind leg should carry well-formed double dewclaws. Absence of these dewclaws is a disqualification.
Stifle Joint: Well-angulated with a good bend to well-let-down rear pasterns.
Angulations: Angulation of hindquarters is always in balance with angulation of forequarters.
Feet: Oval to round and compact, with well-arched toes and tough pads.

Coat

Skin: Well-fitted, yet supple. The skin should never obstruct the outline of the dog.
Coat Type: The Great Pyrenees comes in two coat varieties; the smooth coat and the long coat.
Standard rough-coat variety: Well furnished with a dense, flat, long, supple, weather-proof outer coat, especially on shoulders and back. Hair on the face, ears, topskull, and front of the legs is shorter. Longer on neck, rump, and tail forming crest, frill, thick, fine, woolly trousers, and plumed tail, all of which may have slight wave. Thick undercoat.
Flat-coat variety: Sparser coats are sometimes found in the breed and are more suited for life in hot or humid climates. The coat is medium in length, lies flatter and closer to the body than the standard coat. Longer hair can be found on the neck, forming a slight ruff and mane, as well as on the backs of the legs and the underside of the tail, forming fringing.
Coat Color or Pattern: CKC recognizes two color varieties of the Great Pyrenees breed: the standard color and nonstandard color variety.
Standard coat color variety: Solid white or predominantly white with the following marking color and patterns are permissible: various shades of tan and red, including red, reddish brown, orange (arrouye), yellow, cream, biscuit, gray, badger (blaireau), wolf, sable, and agouti. Markings are restricted to only the head and are required on both ears, head (full mask permissible), base of the tail and the tail itself, spots or patches on the body. Colored markings should not exceed 1/3rd of the total coat.
Nonstandard coat color variety: More than 1/3rd of the body marked with any standard color or pattern.

Movement

The Pyr moves with surprising grace, agility, efficiency, and energy. Powerful, yet graceful, the characteristics of healthy structure are evident: when moving away, the forelegs and rear pasterns should remain parallel to one another. When viewing movement from the front, the forelegs should remain parallel, with elbows and paws moving neither moving in nor out. From the rear, the back pads should be visible when the rear legs are extended. As speed increases, the forelimbs and hind limbs will converge to the center line of gravity. From the side, the topline should remain firm and level. Good reach of movement in the front allows the forepaw to extend out in a line with the nose. The width between the forefeet when extended should be approximately equal to the width between the hind feet when extended, indicating balance, good reach, and good drive. Dogs that exhibit any sign of breathing or locomotive difficulty shall be disqualified from the show ring.

Temperament

This flock guardian is bred to exude a calm and assuring demeanor so as not to frighten the flocks they are employed to protect. They are observant and discerning, capable of quickly telling herd from predator, friend from foe. They are developed to strongly bond with their flocks and families at a young age. Due to the intensity with which they bond, socialization should be employed on individuals that will accompany their families outside of the property; otherwise, they may become overly protective homebodies. They typically behave as gentle giants unless a threat is identified. They are intelligent and willing students, so long as what they are being taught is interesting to them. Otherwise, they may become easily bored or come up with a better idea of their own. Being a dog with guarding instincts, they demand a certain amount of autonomy, but they are always happy to accompany those that they love. Mature individuals may show an indifference or aloofness toward strangers, which should not be penalized. Any unprovoked aggressive or fearful behavior toward people is incorrect for this breed.

Faults

All dogs should be in proper healthy condition, free from disease or defect. Any departure from this description is considered a fault. Unless altered, all male dogs should have two fully descended testicles.