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The Gentle Great Pyrenees Guardian
In the charmingly named town of Best, located in the southern part of the Netherlands, a Great Pyrenees dog began what would be a long but interesting journey in the breed’s development in Europe and in the United States. This puppy would leave Best for its new home in the US, and it would take almost 20 years for the breed to be re-established in Best, thanks to what may have been a descendent of that puppy.
The couple who took this Great Pyrenees dog from the Netherlands to the US was Mr. and Mrs. Francis V. Crane. They had begun what would become the well-known Basquaerie Kennels in Needham, Massachusetts in 1931. Their kennels played a major part in the establishment of the Great Pyrenees in the US. The puppy they purchased in Best, in 1937, became a part of that famous kennel. By 1955, another Great Pyrenees from that kennel had returned to Best to rebuild the breed in the Netherlands after it was decimated during World War II.
Prior to World War II, Great Pyrenees dogs were found in a number of countries in and around Spain and France. This is because the Pyrenees mountains, which form a natural border between France and Spain, were where the breed first flourished. Although ancestors of the breed may date back to the Bronze Age and may have come from Siberia or Central Asia, the general breed of dog known as the Great Pyrenees has existed in some form in Europe for almost a thousand years.
They were already being praised as guard dogs in the 1400s, and by 1675, they became the chosen companion of the son of the great Louis XIV of France. Yet even as they became favorites of the nobility, they remained favorites of the shepherds and farmers of the mountains. After all, their original purpose was to guard and protect livestock, particularly sheep.
Tending the Flock
Although originally bred to look after a shepherd’s sheep, the Great Pyrenees, or Pyr, also makes a good general guard dog. They stay on high alert and notice even the smallest changes in an environment. When they sense something is wrong or there’s the possibility of an intruder, their loud, distinctive booming bark is triggered. Along with their size – males can reach up to 120 pounds – their protective nature makes them excellent security dogs in contemporary culture.
Yet despite their large size and history as guard dogs, the Great Pyrenees is frequently described as being gentle with both children and small animals. In essence, children, particularly those belonging to the Pyr’s family, become part of the flock whose safety must be protected. As a result, the Great Pyrenees makes a good family pet, especially for a family with a lot of space.
Because the breed is used to roaming the mountains, caring for livestock, the Pyr still likes to roam its territory, looking for anything out of place. However, its exercise requirements are not as high as many other breeds. Moderate exercise is usually enough, and during warmer weather, the Great Pyrenees is more than happy to take things easy.
Although independent and somewhat stubborn at times, the Great Pyrenees is ultimately an affectionate and gentle dog who just wants to make sure his family is safe and sound. With his beautiful full white coat and broad, friendly face, it’s no wonder people are willing to go out of their way to ensure the longevity of this ancient breed.
- The Great Pyrenees has a thick, white, double coat that is weather resistant. Its coat is thicker around the neck and shoulders to protect this more vulnerable area from wolf attack.
- Belle, in the novel Belle et Sebastien by Cecile Aubry, is a Great Pyrenees.
- Many of the dogs illustrated in Japanese manga and anime are based on the Great Pyrenees.
- A Great Pyrenees regularly appears in the TV show King of Queens.
- A Great Pyrenees is the leading character in the Disney film titled Santa Buddies.
- Bee Gees member, Barry Gibb, had a Great Pyrenees by the name of Barney, who appeared in one of the band’s television movies and a video.