Great Pyrenees

Great Pyrenees

Welcome to our article dedicated to the majestic Great Pyrenees! If you’re a dog lover, you’ve likely heard of this breed known for its stunning appearance and gentle nature. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating history and origins of the Great Pyrenees, explore their size and appearance characteristics, discuss their life expectancy, delve into their temperament, trainability, and adaptability, and uncover their exercise requirements and energy levels. We will also touch upon their grooming needs, common health issues, and provide a list of comparable breeds. Finally, we’ll highlight some notable dogs from this incredible breed. So, let’s jump right in and discover all there is to know about the Great Pyrenees!

History and Origins of the Breed

The Great Pyrenees has a rich and fascinating history that dates back centuries. This breed originated in the Pyrenees Mountains, a range that stretches across the border of France and Spain. The exact origins of the Great Pyrenees are somewhat unclear, but it is believed that they are descendants of ancient livestock guardian dogs used by shepherds in the region.

The Great Pyrenees has a long-standing history as a working dog, primarily used to guard livestock such as sheep and cattle. Their protective nature and impressive size made them well-suited for this role. They were known to be fearless and dedicated to their duties, often patrolling the mountainous terrain and fending off predators to keep the flock safe.

Over time, the Great Pyrenees gained popularity beyond their role as working dogs and became companions to nobility and wealthy families. Their regal appearance and gentle demeanor made them sought-after pets, and they were often kept in grand estates and palaces.

In the 17th century, the breed caught the attention of the French royal court, and King Louis XIV officially declared the Great Pyrenees as the Royal Dog of France. This recognition further elevated their status and solidified their place in history.

In the 19th century, the breed faced a decline in numbers due to changes in agricultural practices and the aftermath of the French Revolution. However, dedicated breed enthusiasts worked tirelessly to preserve and revive the breed. The Great Pyrenees eventually made their way to other parts of the world, including the United States, where they gained recognition by various kennel clubs.

Today, the Great Pyrenees continues to be cherished for their loyalty, intelligence, and protective instincts. They are beloved family pets, but their working heritage is still evident in their instincts and abilities. Let’s now explore the size and appearance characteristics of this remarkable breed.

Size and Appearance Characteristics

The Great Pyrenees is a large and majestic breed, known for its impressive size and beautiful appearance. Here, we will delve into the specific size and appearance characteristics that define this remarkable breed.


  • Adult males typically stand between 27 and 32 inches (68-81 cm) at the shoulder.
  • Adult females tend to be slightly smaller, ranging from 25 to 29 inches (63-74 cm) in height.
  • The weight of a fully grown Great Pyrenees can range from 85 to 115 pounds (39-52 kg) for males and 75 to 90 pounds (34-41 kg) for females.

Body Structure:

  • The Great Pyrenees has a well-balanced and sturdy build, with a strong bone structure and muscular body.
  • They have a broad chest and a deep, wide, and slightly arched back.
  • The breed has a distinctive double coat, with a dense and weather-resistant outer coat and a thick, insulating undercoat.
  • Their tail is long, reaching down to the hocks, and is carried low at rest, but may be raised in a gentle curve when in motion.

Head and Face:

  • The head of a Great Pyrenees is large and proportionate to the body.
  • They have a moderately wide and slightly rounded skull.
  • Their muzzle is straight and tapers slightly to the nose.
  • The breed has medium-sized, almond-shaped eyes that are typically dark brown in color.
  • Their ears are medium-sized, triangular in shape, and set high on the head, hanging down close to the cheeks.

Coat and Color:

  • As mentioned earlier, the Great Pyrenees has a double coat consisting of a dense, weather-resistant outer coat and a soft, thick undercoat.
  • The outer coat is long, straight, and coarse, providing protection from the elements.
  • The undercoat is soft and woolly, providing insulation.
  • The breed’s coat comes in various shades of white or cream, sometimes with markings of gray, badger, or tan on the head and ears.
  • The coat is typically thick and abundant, especially during the colder months.

Overall Appearance:

  • The Great Pyrenees exudes elegance and grace while maintaining a powerful and commanding presence.
  • Their size, coupled with their stunning white coat, gives them a regal and majestic appearance.
  • The breed’s overall balance and proportion contribute to their noble and dignified aura.

Understanding the size and appearance characteristics of the Great Pyrenees sets the stage for appreciating their unique qualities. In the next section, we will explore their life expectancy, shedding light on their average lifespan and factors that can influence it.

Great Pyrenees

Image courtesy of Tychon Krug


Life Expectancy

The Great Pyrenees, like all dog breeds, has a certain life expectancy that can vary based on various factors. Understanding the average lifespan of the breed is important for potential owners to ensure they can provide the necessary care and commitment for their furry companion. Let’s explore the life expectancy of the Great Pyrenees and the factors that can influence it.

On average, the Great Pyrenees has a lifespan of around 10 to 12 years. However, it’s important to note that individual dogs may live longer or shorter lives depending on their genetics, overall health, and the quality of care they receive throughout their lives.

Several factors can influence the life expectancy of a Great Pyrenees:


Genetics play a significant role in determining a dog’s lifespan. Responsible breeders strive to produce healthy puppies by carefully selecting parent dogs with good health histories. Genetic conditions such as hip dysplasia, heart issues, and certain cancers can impact the lifespan of the breed. It’s essential to obtain a Great Pyrenees puppy from a reputable breeder who conducts health screenings on their breeding dogs.

Diet and Nutrition:

Proper nutrition is vital for the overall health and longevity of any dog. Feeding a high-quality, well-balanced diet that meets the nutritional needs of the Great Pyrenees is crucial. Obesity can significantly impact a dog’s lifespan and increase the risk of various health issues. Maintaining a healthy weight through proper diet and portion control is key.

Exercise and Mental Stimulation:

Regular exercise and mental stimulation are essential for the well-being of the Great Pyrenees. Engaging in physical activities helps maintain a healthy weight, promotes cardiovascular health, and prevents obesity-related conditions. Mental stimulation through training, puzzles, and interactive games helps keep their minds sharp and prevents boredom. Providing an enriched environment and plenty of opportunities for exercise can contribute to a longer and healthier life.

Veterinary Care:

Regular veterinary check-ups and preventive care are crucial for the well-being of the Great Pyrenees. Routine vaccinations, parasite prevention, dental care, and early detection of any health concerns can significantly impact their lifespan. Regular visits to the veterinarian ensure that any potential health issues are addressed promptly, increasing the chances of effective treatment and management.

Environmental Factors:

The environment in which a Great Pyrenees lives can also influence their lifespan. Harsh weather conditions, extreme temperatures, and exposure to toxins or hazards can negatively impact their health. Providing a safe and comfortable living environment, suitable for their specific needs, is important for their overall well-being and longevity.

By considering these factors and providing proper care, nutrition, exercise, and regular veterinary attention, you can help ensure that your Great Pyrenees lives a long, healthy, and fulfilling life. In the next section, we will explore the temperament of this remarkable breed, shedding light on their characteristic traits and behavior patterns.


The Great Pyrenees is renowned for its gentle and affectionate temperament. This breed is known to be calm, patient, and highly protective of their loved ones. Understanding the temperament of the Great Pyrenees is essential for potential owners to ensure a compatible match and to provide the appropriate environment and training for these magnificent dogs. Let’s explore the characteristic traits and behavior patterns that define the temperament of the Great Pyrenees.

Protective Nature:

One of the standout qualities of the Great Pyrenees is their strong protective instinct. Historically bred as livestock guardians, they have a natural inclination to protect their family and territory. This instinct makes them excellent watchdogs, as they are alert and vigilant, always ready to sound the alarm if they sense any potential threats.

Gentle and Affectionate:

Despite their protective nature, Great Pyrenees are known for their gentle and affectionate demeanor. They form deep bonds with their family members and can be incredibly devoted and loyal. They are often gentle giants, patient and tolerant, making them excellent companions for households with children and other pets.

Independent Thinkers:

Great Pyrenees have an independent streak and can be somewhat stubborn at times. They are intelligent dogs and may not always follow commands blindly. This trait requires consistent and patient training to establish boundaries and ensure good behavior. Positive reinforcement techniques, such as rewards and praise, work best with this breed.

Reserved with Strangers:

Great Pyrenees tend to be reserved and cautious around strangers. Their protective nature extends to unfamiliar people, and they can be aloof or standoffish until they feel comfortable and trust the individual. Early socialization is crucial to help them develop appropriate behaviors and manners when meeting new people.

Moderate Energy Levels:

In terms of energy levels, Great Pyrenees are generally moderate. They are not hyperactive dogs and are known for their calm and laid-back nature. However, they still require regular exercise to keep them physically and mentally stimulated. Daily walks, playtime, and mental enrichment activities are essential to prevent boredom and maintain their overall well-being.

Vocal Communication:

Great Pyrenees are known for their vocalizations. They have a distinct and deep bark that they use to communicate. This can be an advantage as it serves as a deterrent to potential intruders, but it’s important to manage their barking tendencies through proper training and socialization, especially if living in close proximity to neighbors.

Understanding the temperament of the Great Pyrenees helps potential owners gauge whether this breed is the right match for their lifestyle and expectations. With their protective nature, gentle demeanor, and independent thinking, Great Pyrenees make wonderful companions for those who appreciate their unique traits. In the next section, we will explore their trainability and adaptability, shedding light on their ability to learn and adjust to various environments and situations.

Great Pyrenees

Image courtesy of Samuel Machala 


Trainability and Adaptability

The Great Pyrenees is an intelligent breed that possesses a fair level of trainability. However, their independent nature and strong protective instincts can present some challenges during the training process. Understanding their trainability and adaptability is crucial for potential owners to develop effective training strategies and ensure a harmonious living environment. Let’s explore the trainability and adaptability of the Great Pyrenees in more detail.


Great Pyrenees are intelligent dogs that are capable of learning and performing various tasks. However, they have an independent streak and may not always be eager to please their owners. This requires a patient and consistent approach to training, focusing on positive reinforcement techniques and rewards. Harsh training methods or excessive force can be counterproductive and lead to a resistant or fearful response. Early socialization and puppy training classes are highly recommended to expose them to different people, animals, and environments.


Proper socialization is crucial for the Great Pyrenees from an early age. Exposing them to different sights, sounds, people, and animals helps them develop into well-rounded and adaptable dogs. Socialization also helps reduce their natural suspicion of strangers and promotes positive interactions with other animals. It is important to introduce them to various environments and situations gradually, ensuring they feel safe and comfortable.


Great Pyrenees are bred to be adaptable to different environments and weather conditions. Their history as livestock guardians in the mountains has made them resilient and capable of handling various terrains. However, they are better suited to moderate climates and may struggle in extremely hot or humid environments. Providing adequate shelter, fresh water, and monitoring their physical activity during extreme weather conditions is essential for their well-being.

Household Compatibility:

Great Pyrenees can adapt well to different living situations, including apartments or houses with large yards. While they are generally calm indoors, they do require regular exercise to prevent boredom and maintain their physical and mental health. The breed’s protective nature means they may not be suitable for households with frequent visitors or those looking for an overly sociable or outgoing dog. They thrive in homes where their protective instincts are valued and respected.

Obedience and Recall:

Due to their independent nature, Great Pyrenees may not have the same level of obedience as some other breeds. Recall can be a particularly challenging aspect of training since they may choose to follow their instincts rather than commands. Consistent training, positive reinforcement, and using high-value rewards can help improve their response to commands, but it’s important to understand that their guardian instincts may sometimes take precedence.

With the right training approach, consistent socialization, and understanding of their unique characteristics, the Great Pyrenees can be trained to be well-behaved and adaptable dogs. In the next section, we will explore their exercise requirements and energy levels, shedding light on the activities needed to keep them happy and healthy.

Exercise Requirements and Energy Level

Understanding the exercise requirements and energy level of the Great Pyrenees is crucial for providing them with the physical and mental stimulation they need to thrive. Despite their calm and laid-back nature, they still require regular exercise to maintain their overall health and prevent behavioral issues. Let’s explore the exercise requirements and energy level of the Great Pyrenees in more detail.

Moderate Exercise Needs:

The Great Pyrenees has a moderate exercise requirement compared to some other breeds. While they are not overly active or high-energy dogs, they still need daily exercise to keep them physically and mentally stimulated. A combination of walks, playtime, and interactive activities is recommended to meet their exercise needs. Aim for around 30 to 60 minutes of exercise each day, but always consider your individual dog’s age, health, and energy level when determining the appropriate amount.

Mental Stimulation:

In addition to physical exercise, providing mental stimulation is essential for the Great Pyrenees. This breed is intelligent and requires mental challenges to prevent boredom and destructive behaviors. Engage them with puzzle toys, interactive games, obedience training, and other mentally stimulating activities. This not only keeps them entertained but also helps strengthen the bond between you and your furry companion.

Supervised Outdoor Time:

Great Pyrenees have a strong instinct to guard and protect their territory. It’s important to provide them with supervised outdoor time in a secure and fenced area. This gives them the opportunity to explore, sniff, and fulfill their natural instincts while ensuring their safety. Keep in mind that they may exhibit territorial behaviors, so proper training and supervision are necessary when introducing them to new environments or encountering unfamiliar people or animals.

Exercise Considerations:

While the Great Pyrenees requires exercise, it’s important to be mindful of their physical limitations. They are a large breed that is prone to joint and hip issues, so high-impact activities like excessive jumping or running on hard surfaces should be avoided, especially during their growing stages. Instead, opt for low-impact exercises like swimming or gentle hikes to protect their joints and prevent any unnecessary strain.

Adjusting Exercise Levels:

The exercise needs of the Great Pyrenees may vary depending on their age, health, and individual energy levels. Puppies, for example, have bursts of energy and require shorter, more frequent exercise sessions throughout the day. As they mature, their exercise routine can gradually be adjusted to longer walks or more engaging activities. Senior Great Pyrenees may have reduced energy levels and may require shorter and more relaxed exercise sessions.

Understanding the exercise requirements and energy level of the Great Pyrenees allows you to provide them with the appropriate amount and type of physical and mental stimulation they need. In the next section, we will explore the grooming requirements of this breed, shedding light on their coat care and maintenance.

Great Pyrenees

Image courtesy of manfredrichter 


Grooming Requirements

The Great Pyrenees has a beautiful double coat that requires regular grooming to keep it healthy and looking its best. Their dense and weather-resistant coat provides insulation and protection, but it also requires proper care to prevent matting and maintain overall coat health. Let’s explore the grooming requirements of the Great Pyrenees in more detail.

Coat Care:

The Great Pyrenees has a thick double coat consisting of a dense outer coat and a soft undercoat. Regular brushing is essential to prevent matting, remove loose hair, and maintain the coat’s natural oils. Aim to brush your Great Pyrenees at least two to three times a week, or even more during shedding seasons. A slicker brush or a wide-toothed comb can be used to gently remove tangles and keep the coat in good condition.

Seasonal Shedding:

Like many double-coated breeds, the Great Pyrenees undergoes seasonal shedding. They have a significant shedding period usually occurring in the spring and fall, when they “blow” their coat. During this time, more frequent brushing is necessary to manage the shedding and remove loose hair. Regular brushing can help minimize the amount of hair that ends up on furniture and clothing.


Great Pyrenees do not require frequent baths, as their double coat naturally repels dirt and debris. However, occasional baths are necessary to keep their coat clean and free of odor. Use a gentle dog shampoo and ensure thorough rinsing to prevent any residue from irritating their skin. It’s important to note that excessive bathing can strip the coat of its natural oils, leading to dryness and skin issues.

Ear Cleaning:

Regular ear cleaning is important for the Great Pyrenees to prevent ear infections and maintain good ear health. Check their ears regularly for any signs of redness, discharge, or foul odor. Use a veterinarian-recommended ear cleaning solution and gently wipe the outer ear with a soft cloth or cotton ball. Avoid inserting anything into the ear canal to prevent injury.

Nail Care:

Routine nail care is essential for the Great Pyrenees to prevent overgrowth and discomfort. Trim their nails regularly, taking care not to cut too close to the quick, which can cause bleeding and pain. If you are unsure about nail trimming, consult a professional groomer or veterinarian for guidance.

Dental Hygiene:

Maintaining proper dental hygiene is important for the overall health of the Great Pyrenees. Regular brushing with a dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste can help prevent dental issues such as tartar buildup and gum disease. Additionally, providing dental chews or treats designed to promote oral health can help keep their teeth clean and breath fresh.

By following a consistent grooming routine, including brushing, occasional bathing, ear cleaning, nail care, and dental hygiene, you can keep your Great Pyrenees looking and feeling their best. In the final section, we will explore common health issues associated with the breed and discuss ways to keep your Great Pyrenees in optimal health.

Health Issues

While the Great Pyrenees is generally a healthy breed, like all dogs, they can be prone to certain health issues. Understanding the common health issues associated with the Great Pyrenees can help you provide the necessary care and take preventative measures to keep your furry companion in optimal health. Let’s explore some of the health issues commonly seen in the Great Pyrenees.

Hip Dysplasia:

Hip dysplasia is a common orthopedic condition in large dog breeds, including the Great Pyrenees. It is characterized by an abnormal formation of the hip joint, leading to joint instability and eventual arthritis. Regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and proper nutrition can help reduce the risk of hip dysplasia. Responsible breeders conduct hip evaluations on their breeding dogs to minimize the occurrence of this condition.

Elbow Dysplasia:

Similar to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia is an orthopedic condition that affects the elbow joint. It can cause lameness, pain, and arthritis. Elbow dysplasia is also a hereditary condition, and responsible breeding practices can help reduce its prevalence. Regular veterinary check-ups and early intervention are crucial for managing this condition.


Osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, is seen more frequently in large and giant dog breeds, including the Great Pyrenees. It commonly affects the long bones and can be aggressive. Early detection and prompt treatment are essential for managing this condition. If you notice any signs of lameness, swelling, or persistent pain, consult with your veterinarian for further evaluation.


Bloat, also known as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that can affect deep-chested breeds like the Great Pyrenees. It occurs when the stomach fills with gas and twists on itself. Bloat requires immediate veterinary attention. Feeding smaller, frequent meals, avoiding strenuous exercise after meals, and using elevated feeding bowls can help reduce the risk of this condition.


Hypothyroidism is a hormonal disorder that occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. It can lead to various symptoms such as weight gain, lethargy, and skin issues. Regular thyroid screenings and proper medical management can help keep the condition under control.

Eye Issues:

The Great Pyrenees can be prone to certain eye conditions, including progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), cataracts, and entropion. Regular eye examinations by a veterinary ophthalmologist can help identify and manage any eye issues that may arise.

Other Considerations:

Great Pyrenees are also sensitive to anesthesia and certain medications. It’s important to inform your veterinarian about their breed-specific sensitivities before any procedures or treatments.

While these are some of the health issues commonly seen in the Great Pyrenees, it’s important to remember that not all dogs will be affected by these conditions. Regular veterinary check-ups, a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and providing proper exercise and care can help minimize the risk of these health issues and ensure a long, happy, and healthy life for your Great Pyrenees.

In the final section, we will explore some breeds that are comparable to the Great Pyrenees, allowing you to make informed decisions if you are considering other breeds as well.


Great Pyrenees

Image courtesy of bakos82


Comparable Breeds

If you are considering the Great Pyrenees as a potential companion but want to explore other breeds that share similar characteristics, there are several comparable breeds worth considering. While each breed has its unique traits and qualities, these breeds are known for their size, protective nature, and gentle demeanor. Let’s take a look at some breeds comparable to the Great Pyrenees:

1. Bernese Mountain Dog:

The Bernese Mountain Dog is a large and sturdy breed that shares the Great Pyrenees’ gentle and affectionate nature. They are known for their loyalty and make excellent family companions. Like the Great Pyrenees, they are also working dogs that were historically used as farm and draft dogs. Bernese Mountain Dogs require regular exercise and proper grooming to keep their coat in good condition.

2. Anatolian Shepherd:

The Anatolian Shepherd is a large and powerful breed with strong protective instincts, similar to the Great Pyrenees. They are known for their loyalty and dedication to their families and are excellent livestock guardian dogs. Anatolian Shepherds require an experienced owner who can provide firm but fair training and socialization. They have a short, dense coat that is relatively low-maintenance.

3. Kuvasz:

The Kuvasz is another large breed with a protective nature and gentle temperament. They are known for their loyalty and make excellent family guardians. Kuvasz dogs require early socialization, consistent training, and regular exercise to channel their energy in a positive way. They have a dense, double coat that requires regular brushing to keep it healthy and free from matting.

4. Newfoundland:

The Newfoundland is a gentle giant breed that shares the Great Pyrenees’ calm and patient nature. They are known for their love of water and are excellent swimmers. Newfoundlands are great with children and make wonderful family pets. They have a thick, water-resistant coat that requires regular grooming to prevent matting and to keep their skin healthy.

5. Saint Bernard:

The Saint Bernard is a well-known breed that is similar to the Great Pyrenees in size and temperament. They are famous for their gentle and patient nature and are excellent family companions. Saint Bernards have a thick, dense coat that requires regular grooming to keep it clean and tangle-free. They are also prone to drooling, so be prepared for some slobber!

Remember, each breed has its unique characteristics and specific care requirements. Researching and understanding the traits, exercise needs, and grooming requirements of these comparable breeds will help you make an informed decision when choosing the perfect companion for your family and lifestyle.

In conclusion, the Great Pyrenees is a majestic and gentle breed with a rich history and unique qualities. Their size, protective nature, and affectionate temperament make them beloved family pets and loyal companions. By providing them with the proper care, socialization, and training, you can ensure a happy and fulfilling life for your Great Pyrenees.

Notable Dogs from This Breed

Throughout history, there have been several notable Great Pyrenees dogs that have left their pawprints on the world. These remarkable dogs have showcased the breed’s unique qualities and made a lasting impact. Let’s explore some of the notable Great Pyrenees dogs that have captured the hearts of people around the globe.

1. Charlemagne:

Charlemagne, also known as “Charlie,” was a Great Pyrenees who gained international fame for his incredible search and rescue work during the 9/11 attacks in New York City. This heroic dog tirelessly searched through the rubble, providing comfort and support to the rescue teams. Charlie’s dedication and bravery earned him numerous accolades and recognition for his invaluable service.

2. Monty:

Monty, a Great Pyrenees from the UK, gained fame as a therapy dog and social media sensation. He visited hospitals, care homes, and schools, bringing joy and comfort to those in need. Monty’s gentle and loving nature touched the hearts of many, and his online presence inspired countless individuals to consider the positive impact that dogs can have on people’s lives.

3. Mademoiselle:

Mademoiselle, often referred to as “Madame,” holds a special place in Great Pyrenees history. She was one of the first Great Pyrenees to be recognized as a top show dog, winning multiple prestigious titles and championships. Madame’s beauty, grace, and representation of the breed’s standard helped elevate the Great Pyrenees in the world of dog shows.

4. Lafcadio:

Lafcadio, also known as “Laf,” was a Great Pyrenees who made headlines as a therapy dog for children with autism. His calm and patient demeanor provided a sense of comfort and security to children during therapy sessions. Lafcadio’s work showcased the breed’s gentle and empathetic nature, highlighting the positive impact that dogs can have on individuals with special needs.

5. Duke:

Duke, a Great Pyrenees from the United States, gained attention for his role as a livestock guardian. Duke demonstrated the breed’s natural instinct to protect and care for livestock. His unwavering dedication and loyalty earned him respect among farmers and ranchers, highlighting the Great Pyrenees’ long-standing history as a working dog.

These notable Great Pyrenees dogs exemplify the breed’s remarkable qualities, whether it be their bravery, therapy work, showmanship, or working abilities. They have left indelible marks in their respective fields, showcasing the versatility and impact that Great Pyrenees can have on the lives of humans and animals alike.

In Conclusion, the Great Pyrenees is a breed with a rich history, gentle temperament, and unique characteristics. Whether they are working as search and rescue dogs, providing therapy and support, or showcasing their beauty in the show ring, Great Pyrenees dogs continue to leave lasting impressions and touch the lives of many. Their contributions remind us of the incredible bond between humans and dogs and the significant role that these magnificent creatures play in our world.

The Great Pyrenees breed originated in the Pyrenees Mountains, a range that stretches across the border of France and Spain. The exact origins of the Great Pyrenees are somewhat unclear, but it is believed that they are descendants of ancient livestock guardian dogs used by shepherds in the region.

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