Pyrenean Mountain Dog (Great Pyrenees)

pyrenean mountain dog

An independent dog with the appearance of an impressive huge white ghost, that’s the Pyrenean Mountain Dog.

Do you remember the 1960s French series Belle et Sebastien? Well, if you don’t you should watch it, it’s beautiful. One of the two main characters, Belle, is the Pyrenean Mountain Dog (also known as Great Pyrenees in North America). A breed that was very little known before the series aired and that’s a bit better known since but still not very commonly found.

History of Pyrenean Mountain Dog

pyrenean mountain dog

The forefathers of the Pyrenean Mountain Dog probably came to the Pyreneans with the Romans. The breed is believed to be quite closely related to the Maremmano-Abruzzese Sheepdog of Italy and the Hungarian Kuvasz, however, the Pyrenean Dog is significantly larger.

The Pyrenean Mountain Dog has been used in the Pyrenean Mountains since the Middle Age. The breed has been documented since the 14th century as castle and livestock guardians. Later it gained some fame as a companion dog of the French nobility. The Pyrenean Mountain Dogs were also present at the court of Louis XIV.

As a livestock guard it was often used together with the much smaller Pyrenead Sheepdog. Interestingly, the Great Pyrenees was also used to smuggle contraband between France and Spain. The dogs were able to cross the mountains in places the humans weren’t able to cross, thus avoiding customs.

The first detailed description of the breed comes from 1897 and it was made by the count von Bylandt. The first breeders’ club was established ten years later and in 1923 the breed was officially registered at the French canine organization SCC (Société Centrale Canine de France). The breed standard has stayed the same since then, specifications have been made but no changes.

The American Kennel Club adopted a number of serious deviations from the French breed standard (heavy body, short snout, extremely large head) that led to severe deterioration of the breed that are unacceptable in Europe.

Appearance, Temperament and Health

Appearance of Pyrenean Mountain Dog

Height: 70–82 cm/28–32 in (dogs), 65–75 cm/26–30 in (bitches)

Weight: 55–75 kg/121–165 lb

The Pyrenean Mountain Dog belongs to the giant dog breed group. It is a tall and strong dog but not too heavy-looking or clumsy. Despite their size these dogs are very elegant, athletic and agile. The body has a rectangular form, the head shouldn’t be too large. The legs are long and muscular, hind paws have to have dewclaws, exceptionally even double or triple dewclaws.

The tail is long and thickly-coated. Eyes are amber to brown, years triangular and relatively small, framing the head. The coat is long and thick, it can even be wavy. Typical is thick mane and longer hair on the limbs and tail. As for the color, the coat can be white or white with marks in colors like grey, amber and brown.

The coat requires daily brushing and cleaning. The dewclaws have to be trimmed often as they don’t abrade naturally like the rest of the claws.

pyrenean mountain dog


The Pyrenean Mountain Dog is a very independent and intelligent breed. It is capable of basic training but it’s not in the dog’s nature to obey. They were bread to think very independently and to be able to survive without humans for days. This makes the Great Pyrenees not suitable for beginners. The owner has to always bear in mind that a Pyrenean Mountain Dog will use any possibility to escape as it loves freedom and large areas to run.

The Great Pyrenees is also calm, well-balanced and it doesn’t tend to be aggressive. It can be a loyal family dog although it’s not as dependent of its family as some other breeds.


The average life expectancy of the breed is 10-12 years.

It belongs to the healthier breeds among giants, healthy diet is of extreme importance though. Young dogs shouldn’t be forced to prolonged physical activity until their bones are fully developed.


Are you a proud owner of the Pyrenean Mountain Dog? What do you love most about this gorgeous breed?