The Pyrenean mountain dog breed is a large, gentle and very loving dog that is thought to be descended from some of the most ancient breeds of all, and they have a long known history in their home region of the French alps. Looking slightly like a large, white-coated golden retriever, the Pyrenean mountain dog is nonetheless very distinctive to those in the know, and their owners often despair of the number of times that they have to explain to new comers that their dog is not in fact a golden retriever variant!
If you are considering buying a Pyrenean mountain dog, already own one or are simply fascinated by this larger than life and very gentle breed, in this article we will share some fascinating facts and information about the long and noble history of the breed. Read on to learn more.
For most of today’s dog breeds, it is rare to be able to trace their origins back for more than a few hundred years-but the Pyrenean mountain dog’s history can be traced back for over four millennia! The earliest known history of the Pyrenean mountain dog was in their working role with shepherds in the Pyrenean mountains, on the border between Spain and France.
Fossils have been found in this region of dogs that can be traced right through to today’s modern breed-fossils dated from between 1800-1000 BC!
When the Pyrenean mountain dog works in their traditional roles, they protect and guard livestock in their mountainous home region, alerting their shepherds to the presence of predators and seeing them off. Predators are most likely to approach at night while the herd or flock is asleep, and the shepherd too-but the Pyrenean mountain dog is virtually nocturnal, and patrols their flock throughout the night, taking time to snooze in the day when their handler is on duty!
The Pyrenean mountain dog bred may have spent most of its life working with peasant farmers, but even royalty have fallen for their undeniable appeals! During the Renaissance years, royals and nobility of the French court began to show an interest in the breed, which were ultimately declared as the royal dogs of France by King Louis XIV.
The Pyrenean mountain dog was not just popular with the nobility in their home country either-they have won hearts and minds virtually everywhere they have lived! Queen Victoria was a notable dog lover who as a result, received many dogs as gifts from other leaders, and a Pyrenean mountain dog became a popular member of her extended pack!
The breed was exported to the USA as far back as 1824, when Marquis de Lafayette imported a pair of the dogs into America as a gift for a friend, beginning the origins of the breed in the USA.
The large, intelligent and versatile Pyrenean mountain dog is very versatile and willing to please, which means that they can turn their paws to a huge variety of working roles. Their strength and easy going natures saw them used as pack dogs to haul heavy artillery over the Pyrenean mountains between France and Spain, saving significant time and effort that would otherwise have been required to find an alternate route.
However, like many dog breeds-particularly those that originated from countries that were severely affected by World War 2 like France was-the Pyrenean mountain dog nearly died out entirely as a result of the war. During the war, food and resources in France were very scarce, and only farmers and others that worked the land really had access to enough food for themselves, never mind dogs.
This meant that the breed’s numbers dropped dramatically during and immediately after the war, almost dying out entirely until concerted efforts were made to revive the breed. However, because the dogs were so essential to farming the Pyrenean region and could perform so many important working roles, they were not as badly affected as many other breeds.
The Pyrenean mountain dog is one of the oldest known extant dog breeds, and it is thought that they originated from an even older breed of Asian shepherd dog. They were also vital to the continued survival of the St. Bernard dog breed, whose ongoing viability was threatened by outbreaks of distemper in their home country of Switzerland during the 1870’s, greatly reducing their numbers.
The Pyrenean mountain dog breed was crossed controlled breeding exercises with the St. Bernard, strengthening their numbers and ensuring that the breed remains viable today!
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