Better known in North America simply as the Great Pyrenees, these large shepherd dogs were bred from mastiff stock and served to protect sheep from wolves, being equipped with fearsome spiked collars to defend themselves. Later they were used to smuggle contraband across the steep mountain paths that separated France and Spain, being fitted with special satchels for this purpose.
Origins: the Pyrenees
Coat Type/Colour: Thick, Shaggy; Generally white
Height: 28 Inch (71 cm)
Weight: 110 lb (50 kg)
Nature: Good-natured, though wary with strangers
The breed had declined sharply by the turn of the century, and could have died out, but then a breeding programme was launched in which emphasis was placed on producing dogs that were good-natured, lacking the traditional aggressive traits. This has been successfully achieved, although these dogs still show a marked reluctance to accept strangers and will prove alert guard dogs.
In a show ring, these predominantly white dogs are an impressive sight. They were first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1933, before being accepted by the British organization 11 years later. The double dew claws on the hind feet are deemed a breed characteristic and should never be removed in show dogs.