Great Pyrenees – Dog Breed Information and Guide

The Great Pyrenees is a large breed of dog which originated in the mountainous regions of France. The coat can be solid white, fawn, grey or totally black with markings on its face and ears. They have very long hair but are not usually considered thick-coated dogs; they have a highly dense undercoat.

The breed was originally bred to guard livestock, primarily sheep in mountainous regions of southern Europe, where it has been used for centuries. As its name implies, the Pyrenees Mountains are located on the border between France and Spain. The Great Pyrenees is also known by other names such as the Royal Dog of France, the Marengo Lion Dog, and the Pyrenean Mountain Dog.


Great Pyrenees Quick Facts

  • The Great Pyrenees is a breed of large livestock guardian dog known for its strong protective instincts
  • They are intelligent, independent and wary of strangers
  • They grow to be between 27-32 inches tall and weigh 110-150 pounds on average
  • A typical lifespan for this breed is 10 to 12 years, but they can live as long as 15 years with good care
  • They have a double coat that should be brushed at least once per week to keep it healthy and shiny
  • Their coat color can range from white to brown or grey with black spots, which may provide camouflage in the mountains where they originated

Origins of the Great Pyrenees

The Great Pyrenees, also known as Chien de Montagne des Pyrénées, is a large dog breed that originated in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain.

They were bred to be livestock guardians, meaning they protect their flocks from predators like wolves and bears. In centuries past, this included being chained up near herds of sheep or cows to act as an early warning system for wolves and other dangers.

The breed gets its name from the mountains where they were historically found, but it is not clear how this came about. “Pyrenees” may refer to a tribe of people inhabiting that area during Roman times or Pirenne, an ancient Latin city on the cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in northern Spain.

Breeders have since developed the Great Pyrenees to be a more companionable dog and it is now used as an all-purpose farm dog because of its ability to guard flocks with low supervision, carrying heavy loads over rough terrain, retrieving animals that wander off, driving cattle or other livestock from one place to another, and even herding other animals.

Characteristics and personality of the Great Pyrenees

The Great Pyrenees is an intelligent breed with a gentle demeanor that makes them an excellent family dog and watchdog for livestock, providing they get enough exercise to avoid boredom. They need lots of attention but are not high energy, so interaction time should be limited at most to 30 minutes per day. Due to their size, the Great Pyrenees will need a large yard to play in and someone who is home all day.

The Great Pyrenees has lots of personality packed into that big body. They are usually good with other dogs, friendly towards strangers, patient with children and make excellent companions for the elderly or infirm. The one downside to this breed is that they need lots of exercise, and if you don’t give it to them, they will find something else to do.

Great Pyrenees Health Overview

The Great Pyrenees dog breed is susceptible to a variety of health problems. Some issues, like hip dysplasia and epilepsy, are relatively common in larger breeds.

Due to the large size of this breed, some other diseases may also manifest themselves differently than they would for smaller dogs. For example, many people will report that their Pyrenees dog has something called “hot spots”, a symptom of allergies.

This breed also seems more likely to suffer from chronic heart disease than other breeds do, so it’s important to be careful and monitor your Great Pyrenees for any unusual symptoms.

The most common health problems found in the Great Pyrenees dog breed are as follows:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Epilepsy
  • Allergies (hot spots)
  • Heart disease. ​This is the most common health problem of all Great Pyrenees dogs and must be monitored at all times. The first symptom may seem like chronic arthritis, but it can quickly progress to cardiac arrest.

Great Pyrenees: Dietary Requirements

The Great Pyrenees is a large, white dog that has been bred for centuries to guard livestock against predators. As such, this breed requires a high-quality diet with the right balance of protein and essential amino acids like taurine and L-carnitine. This can be achieved in dry food by using whole meats, animal parts, or a meat meal. Great Pyrenees also require food containing fat at the appropriate level for their calorie intake to maintain proper weight and health.

In addition to the dietary requirements outlined above, there are some other things you should know about this breed before choosing its diet:

  • The Great Pyrenees is a very active breed that needs a high-quality diet to maintain weight and muscle mass.
  • Great Pyrenees can be prone to hip dysplasia, so they need more omega fatty acids in the diet than other breeds (about twice as much) in order for their joints to remain lubricated.
  • This dog’s skin is thick and rich with oils that provide a protective coating. This means the Great Pyrenees will need to ingest twice as many omega-fatty acids as other breeds for their skin’s natural moisturizing properties to stay strong.
  • The Great Pyrenees is also prone to bloat, so it needs a higher level of fat (more than 30 per cent) than other breeds to avoid a bloated stomach.
  • This breed’s coat is naturally oily, so the diet must be balanced with omega fatty acids that will help restore this natural oiliness and prevent dryness.
  • The Great Pyrenees needs an average of about 25% protein daily for optimum muscle mass maintenance.
  • The Great Pyrenees is a large breed that consumes more calories than most. They need to have their caloric intake monitored or become overweight, leading to diabetes and other health issues such as heart disease, joint problems, etc.
  • It’s vital for the dog owner to know what supplements are needed for the breed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Do Great Pyrenees shed a lot?

Answer: Great Pyrenees are not “extreme” shedders, but they do shed continuously. One might say that their undercoat sheds year-round, at least partially replacing its top coat of fur. This is because the Great Pyrenees has a double-layered coat to protect it against the cold winters of Europe, and it will change between both layers as needed depending on temperature.

To counter this extreme shedding issue, we recommend brushing your Great Pyrenees daily to help cut down on loose hairs and try infrequently bathing for less frequent shedding cycles.


Question: How long do Great Pyrenees live?

Answer: The average lifespan of a Great Pyrenees ranges from 10 to 12 years.


Question: What is the average size of a Great Pyrenees?

Answer: The height varies between males at 22-23″ and 25-26″ in females. The average weight for a full-grown male is between 115 and 135 pounds, and the average weight for a full-grown female is about 85 to 125 pounds.


Question: Are Great Pyrenees hard to train?

Answer: Yes, Great Pyrenees are hard to train. If well socialized and trained from a puppy stage, they can be an excellent dog for a family with children. But a Great Pyrenees without training is unpredictable and can be dangerous to the owner, other dogs in the household or people coming to visit.

Top Dog

Top Dog

Editor and Co-Founder of Collar & Harness. There's little he doesn't know about dogs. TopDog loves agility but is far too unfit to keep up. Offers advice and articles on dog harnesses, collars, travel, food and temperament. Has featured articles in Huffington Post, The Guardian, BuzzFeed and others. Is woeful at speaking foreign languages.

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